When I first started climbing a few years ago it actually came pretty easily. I had always been active and eager to try new activities, so I was excited for this new challenge. I loved it right away- I felt natural on the wall, and quickly moved through a few grades on top rope. Things were great, I was flagging and smearing and locking off and loving every minute of it. Within a few months I was flashing 5.10- pretty regularly, ready to take on any 5.10 with the same expectations. But it didn’t happen- it felt really hard all of a sudden! The holds felt super small, the beta was more technical, and I was pumped out. I was frustrated. Besides that, I was watching the other climbers and friends at the gym who seemed to flow through route after route, and it made me feel that I wasn’t doing well at all.
My stoke was gone! That glorious feeling that makes your hands sweat, even when you aren’t even at the gym! I didn’t want to be on the wall anymore.
I took a step back and thought about what was bugging me so much- compared to them maybe I wasn’t as good, but what does that mean anyway? Most athletic endeavours came easy to me and I expected to be able to move through each grade consistently, which if you think about it, meant that I should have been climbing about a 5.18+ after 5 years into it! So, once I shook that out of my head I realized I had some pretty unrealistic expectations!
I decided instead to consciously set goals. Realistic goals. I try to pick out a hard route that makes me think “Hey- I could do that!” and keep trying to get to the top as long as it’s up. Maybe there’s a route I think I can do but it ends up being a lot harder than it looks- and that’s ok, too. I realize that to reach some of these goals it may take longer than I want, but the more I practice and train and learn, the closer I get. Some are big, like lead climbing goals, and some are small, like pull up goals.
Before I was not managing my expectations well, and as a result I felt self-pressure and missed out on the confidence that allowed me to progress in my earlier days. Making a conscious effort to set realistic goals has made a huge difference in my trips to the gym. Talking to other climbers has also helped- realizing that this is a lifelong activity, not a race to the top. There’s so much to learn that I’ll always be able to improve- just one great thing in the long list of great things about this sport!
So, now my ego is in check, my confidence is back and I am feeling stronger than ever! And let’s just be frank- this is supposed to be for FUN!! Crazy thing is it has trickled into other things as well, and I try hard not to put that same pressure on work, family and life in general (that stuff is supposed to be fun, too!).
Me super stoked after finally flashing a 5.10+. This photo was from May 2014, and I’m still happily and humbly working on 5.11- climbs! Just try to keep me off the wall now….