In 2019, I took my kids to a birthday party at a local climbing gym. Watching the kids have so much fun climbing up the wall, I wanted to try it. So I rented some shoes and a harness and gave it a go. I instantly loved it and have been climbing ever since.
I played a fair number of sports at school growing up. But climbing has been the only sport that I have found to be both mentally and physically challenging – as well as such fun. It feels like I'm solving a puzzle with my body. Each time you climb a boulder or a lead route, there is the physical excitement and challenge of pulling yourself up the wall, along with the mental challenge of figuring out the best way to move up the wall in the most efficient fashion.
As I've done more and more climbing, I've started to focus on better training, along with trying to push the grades when lead climbing. With this has come quite a bit of frustration when I didn't feel like I was improving and I was not able to complete more difficult climbs. With my lead climbing I was finding the harder climbs more and more intimidating. Fear of falling was becoming a bigger obstacle for me, along with a fear of failure if I couldn't complete a route I attempted.
I had been following Hazel Findlay on the gram for a while and saw that she had created a new climbing course called Strong Mind Climbing. The course's main focus was on building a stronger mind and a better mental approach to climbing.
I tried out the free course, which contains a few snippets from the main course and it was really good. It immediately helped me change my perspective on a few aspects of my climbing. So I signed up for the main course in May and recently completed it.
Key Takeaways from Strong Mind Climbing
The Strong Mind Climbing (SMC) course is a real deep dive into the different mental aspects of climbing. There are 6 main chapters and each has videos that cover different aspects of our mental approach to climbing. Three of the topics in the course that really stood out and made a huge difference for me are:
Taking responsibility for your own climbing
This sounds obvious once you have heard it, but taking responsibility for your own climbing experience can make a big difference. This can be as simple as taking all the climbing gear you need for a climb at the crag, to deciding where and which routes you want to climb.
Fear of falling
This is a huge topic and I found it really fascinating. I didn't know about the concept of ingraining fear and how that can impact your climbing. To remedy this I've been putting the fear of falling training into practice. So far I've found this to be really helpful. I'm a lot more comfortable taking falls in the climbing gym. I'm still not very comfortable taking falls outdoors, but I'm working on it.
Fear of failing
This was brilliant. With climbing it is very easy to get swept up in the idea of always climbing harder routes and smashing your way to the top on every climb. This section flips that all around and looks at how we measure success and what is success. This was my favorite section, because it can also be applied to everything we take on in our lives, beyond just climbing.
My approach to completing the course
As I've mentioned, this course is very comprehensive. It is also a lot of work. There are lots of videos and there is homework to do. It really was worth it, but for someone with a day job and kids, it does require intention and dedication to get through.
SMC took me about 8 weeks to complete. I did that by setting aside 15 - 20 minutes every morning. Then on Saturday when I took my kids to karate, I had an hour to sit and watch the video and take notes.
Broad application to life
Finally, a lot of what is taught in the course translates to everything else in life. There is a video or two on this but it's worth highlighting. Having the right mindset at work, taking responsibility for your own progress in your career, or setting the right measure of success for any challenge in your life can make a huge difference.
Being able to detect how your body is reacting to your kids dragging mud through the house or breaking yet another nice thing in the house is important. For me, It lets me take a step back, and get my feelings in control before reacting. I won't lie, I definitely have not mastered this yet but I would like to believe I'm getting a little better.
Overall this course was excellent. For any climber interested in understanding themselves, their mind, and becoming a more well-rounded climber (and human), this course is well worth it.