For those who don’t know Oliver - he is the main instigator behind Three Wise Monkeys Climbing up here in Fort William and I, amongst other things am married to him; this tends to lead to me hearing (often in long car journeys between naps) quite a few business and entrepreneurial audio books. Some I find interesting, others are drier…
Only to be attempted with people you are currently already living with!
This kind of links to the previous non-dominant hand usage blog post - found here - but I’ve been wondering for a while, after going to a workshop run by Udo Neumann (one of the climbing world's most highly respected and sought after Biomechanics, Skill Acquisition, & Motor Control Experts - if you’ve not heard of him you should have a look at his stuff here) a few years ago. Udo Neumann talked quite a lot about practising movements that challenge your brain, like for example using your left hand on the right side of your body and vice versa or coordinating the movement of your right arm and left leg or vice versa.
Whilst I think it would be awesome if everyone did have a positive body image and was happy with their performances in the relevant areas I know this is a very personal thing so can’t be forced - I do think being positive and encouraging towards everyone irrespective of their outward appearance is the right, and nice, thing to do but I do want to talk a bit about the effect that this might have on people as well...I appreciate that this is likely to be quite controversial but it is something that I feel is worth mentioning - maybe because it’s something that is close to my heart but with that in mind I will do my best to keep perspective.
Conveniently - thinking about motivation today mine is certainly being tested - the sun is shining, it’s a beautiful day and I mostly just want to sit outside against the south facing wall of my house and bask...however I also know, somewhere deep down, that this routine I have built for myself during the lockdown, up at 6am Monday - Friday, still only having fancy weekend breakfasts at the weekends, zoom calls at specific times etc. is probably the main thing that is keeping me going, anxiety levels are fluctuating but the thought that someone, somewhere might be finding what I’m musing about useful and/or interesting is enough to keep me going at the moment. (hey, if that’s not true, let me know in the comments and I’ll just spend some time researching puppies).
In a previous article I mentioned my somewhat intimidating flatmate from a few years back in Edinburgh with her theory of: ‘it doesn’t matter what you do but you should definitely do something’.
Most of what you achieve, in life as in climbing, starts in your head - bluntly, often if you don’t believe that you can do something then you probably won’t. Not knowing if something is possible is a much better place to start from, at least then trying will be a learning experience rather than reinforcing something you already knew. So first, a cautionary tale.
"I find my nemesis when I know something is 'possible' or maybe 'won't be too bad'.
When we were last in Fontainebleau I had a project that I’d carried forward from the previous trip. Whilst I hadn’t trained specifically for the problem (I mean, who trains for overhanging fridge-hugs?) I knew I was likely to be fitter and stronger than 18 months ago, so my project, that I was trying to pretend wasn’t really a project, probably wouldn’t be too bad. I even let myself start thinking that maybe it’d go in just a couple of sessions. Just waltzing up it would be nice. Long story short, I avoided it for a week or so in case I wasn’t as good as I’d hoped.
In the end, my project took a few sessions, with a few meltdowns about just not being ‘good enough’ thrown in for good measure."
Maybe if I hadn’t let my imagination run away with me I would have been willing to jump on it sooner, there would have been fewer meltdowns and we wouldn’t have been there at 4.30pm on the last day of our trip brushing chalk into it because I’d peeled off the penultimate move 2 days earlier and then it had rained.
It was worth it. I was good enough, I just needed to be more willing to engage with the process and be less goal oriented. It’s funny, I project for the process but always desperately want the outcome as soon as possible, largely to validate my own feelings of self worth - those feelings rely on me matching the mental picture I have of myself, which is something that I, inadvertently, visualise.
I’m pretty sure that I can’t be the only climber out there that sometimes struggles to remember what, exactly, I did to make that essential bit of progress on my latest project.
Having paid for some much needed and very useful coaching, I was given some tools to help me deal with this inability to remember what I was doing whilst climbing - unfortunately they were entirely based upon being able to access the climbing wall to improve. The light bulb moment for me came in the form or a coaching session with the homework being to climb an easy problem, come down, tell someone who was watching exactly what I had done and if I couldn’t remember climb it again and try again - this gave speedy improvements, although like everything not practising does mean that you start to lose the ability.
As climbers I think it’s fairly accepted that an amount of coordination is pretty handy - being able to put your hand or foot where you want it without too much mental effort makes the act of climbing much easier. Food for thought...do you tend to flag more often than is strictly necessary? This can be a habit but it’s possible that it’s also to do with the fact that, mentally, it is easier to organise and concentrate on 3 limbs rather than all 4 - meaning that the flagging leg is just kinda stuck out there (not always the case but) often not actually doing anything useful. Standing on 2 feet, or at least engaging both legs fully should, physically, make the move easier. On this note: how do you cope when you need to move 2 limbs at once, or 3 or all 4 of your limbs? It can get pretty complicated, especially when you add dynamic movement and hand/footholds that you can’t see.