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Breaking Performance Plateaus – Part #3

 This is the third in a three-part series on how to break through a performance plateau.

If you climb long enough, you will eventually find your progress slow or stop. Here’s the third step to breaking through this ceiling and opening up a whole new level of performance.

Milagrosa Canyon, AZ (McCallister photo)

3.    Elevate your mental game.

 Less tangible than physical capacity and technical prowess, mental skills are what separate the best from the rest. Sure, climbers like Chris Sharma and Daniel Woods are ridiculously strong—but so are countless other climbers who can’t come close to matching their 5.15 and V15 sends. Extraordinary mental focus and the ability to compress all awareness into the moment, multiples what physical and technical skills these guys bring to the climb. Your quest to break barriers and succeed at the lofty grades ultimately comes down to training your brain. Here are a few tips to get you started (check out my book, Maximum Climbing, for an extended study of mental training).

  • Seize control of your inner dialogue. Direct positive, productive self-talk and create mental imagery that will enhance your confidence and help preprogram your ascent. Supplant negative self-talk and imagery with positive statements and images.
  • Narrow your thoughts to the present moment. Focus completely on the move at hand and detach yourself from thoughts of possible outcomes. Learn to use meditation to quiet your mind and reduce cognitive chaos.
  • Get to know your fears and learn to manage them. Take action to mitigate the risks associated with your legitimate fears, but learn to quickly identify and dismiss imaginary fears. Challenge the fear of falling by taking practice falls (when safe).
  • Use mental rehearsal to aid in deciphering route sequences, developing climbing strategy, and risk management planning. Engage in vivid visualization and positive self-talk to program your mind for a success.
  • Develop hanging-on power. Progressively subject yourself to greater and greater challenges that safely stretch your mental and physical limits. When pushed to your limit, strive to hang on for one more move, one more pitch, or in training, one more repetition. Each time you do this, you become a better, more mentally strong climber.