Physical and Mental Prep for Competition Climbing

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Dan and I received this a few days ago:

I’m really keen to improve my routine in isolation for major competitions. I have tried a

number if different things but have failed to settle on a plan that works consistently.

Something I can rely on. I take a while to properly warm up. That much I now know! But I

need to find a routine that has me walking out to the advanced isolation and then the

route primed and ready to give my best performance right on cue. The question really

seems to be how do I get fired up just enough and warmed up just enough right before

leaving the isolation? Any ideas and advice would be a huge help!” -M

I think anyone who has spent time in isolation can empathize with the concerns raised above. I recall the second Spring Stone competition held on the east coast in 1989. I spent the entire first day of the competition in isolation with no chance to climb. At the end of the day I went to a friend’s house for a sleepless night. At the start of day two, I reported back to isolation for more waiting. Finally, well into the second day I got my chance on the qualifier route. My result was good, I placed 3rd in the qualifier. So then it was back into isolation for the finals. In the finals the order was determined by how well we did in the qualifier, so I went third from last. By the time I got to climb on the finals route I didn’t care any more, my thoughts had turned to the anniversary dinner I was going to miss with my girlfriend that night because the competition was taking so darn long! As you can imagine I didn’t do well in the finals. All in all I spent about 20 hours in isolation for only a few minutes of climbing!

My walk down memory lane aside,  the inquiry above has a few components.  We know that M  is savvy enough to have used a plan and observed its inconsistent results, also note that he understands there is a range of arousal levels and that he has a target he would like to achieve in terms of arousal and general readiness to climb.  This says to me that M is an experienced and sophisticated competition climber.

We call the kind of plan M is talking about a Personal Performance Plan. A step by step guide made by an individual athlete that moves him from the pre-performance, to the warm-up, to the actual performance. At each step in the plan there are specific activities and thoughts and levels of arousal that the athlete seeks to achieve.

The first step in creating a personal performance plan is to realize that both success and failure are created. neither is an accident. We can see how they are created by evaluating our most successful and unsuccessful past performances. See our performance evaluation worksheet in the worksheets section of this website. Don’t be thrown off by the fact that it says Redpoint at the top it can be used for any kind of performance.

So the first thing that M should do is to use the performance evaluation work sheets to see if he can figure out why his previous plan gave inconsistent results, and what the differences between his best and worst competition performances were.  After that he can move on to creating a new plan, or making some alterations to his previous plan.

I’m going to add a follow up to this post. I’m going to see if I can find one of my old evaluations and performance plans and post them as an example of how the process works. Finally, I will also address the issue of the proper level of arousal; a topic that we address in Redpoint and that is of great importance in competition climbing.


One Response to “Physical and Mental Prep for Competition Climbing”

  1. williamNo Gravatar says:

    The key to warming up properly is to develop the plan ahead of time in the gym. You need to do this and simulate the time and breaks between climbs for competition. The hard part is that isolation does not have the same warm up walls you have in a gym. In fact, it might have very little terrain in which to warm up. Therefore, you have to devise an off the wall warm up plan that sufficiently warms your core and legs while relying on the wall for finger and arm warm ups. You really need two warm up routines, one for a warm up area with good terrain and one with limited wall area warm up.

    If you are prepared for both and practice both in the gym and then run simulated competition problems, you will be well prepared.

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