Sometimes you yell and curse as you kick the wall—furious with yourself for falling again on a move that you know you can execute.
Days like this will happen.
Even on days you feel rested. It’ll happen on days you that you took your vitamins, ate your Wheaties, and went to bed early instead of drinking beer around the campfire. You will hike into the crag, stoked to climb, only to get shut down on your warm-up.
So, what is one supposed to do on those high-gravity days?
When you’re having a bad day, taking yourself off the sharp end can remove some of the pressure. Without having to worry about the whip, you can work through cruxes and try alternate beta.
Moreover, sometimes simply toproping a route at your upper limits can rebuild confidence in your physical abilities and help compensate for moments where your mental game feels weak.
Step aside, take a few deep breaths and reevaluate your goals for the day. You’re already at the crag, so make the most of it. Try climbing a couple of routes that are a few grades easier. Allow yourself time to warm up your muscles and get your head on straight. Do beta-burns on your project, where you break it up into smaller sequences. Work these moves (and the transitions) so you can really dial it down for the send.
Turn your redpoint day into a project day. If it’s your project day, turn it into a pitch day. Release your expectations and just climb to enjoy the company of your friends and being out in nature.
3. Have a snack break
Drink some water, eat a protein bar, and rest for about half an hour. It can be hard to stay properly hydrated and up to speed on nutrition when you have been hiking, belaying, and flailing for hours. The sugar boost might be the kick you need to climb better.
4. Mix things up
It’s crucial to avoid burnout. Taking a break from your preferred style of climbing can refresh your mind and help you become a more well-rounded climber.
If you always go sport climbing, dust off the rack and go plug some gear. This can sharpen your mental game and help you build skill sets in a different style of climbing. Or, go bouldering, so you can build power and enjoy a change in scenery.
Alternatively, practice some yoga to improve your flexibility and simply meditate and give yourself a break from climbing altogether.
5. Celebrate the small victories
When you head to the crag with a specific number of pitches or a certain send in mind, your day can quickly derail if you don’t meet that goal. Do your best to let go of expectations.
Set goals and aspirations, but don’t be rigid in your plan to achieve them. Get excited about the mini-victories, such as making it up the brutal approach with no breaks, resting and shaking out without calling for a take, or linking together moves that usually give you trouble.
Appreciating the little wins throughout the day can keep your spirits high, even if you are flailing. Release your expectations so you can have fun!
6. Stay psyched and have fun
Above all, stay psyched and positive! Enjoy being in beautiful places with your friends and appreciate the process and struggle that comes with climbing. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be fun!
Remember that there’s more to climbing than getting to the top. It’s easy to get frustrated with ourselves between the waves of try hard, but you can’t always be in a sending phase. Embrace the ebb and flow, give and take, and for goodness sake—loosen up and enjoy yourself!
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