Sunday, March 2, 2014


Ever feel like your actual climbing performance isn't matching your potential climbing potential? Yeah, we all have felt that way. Most climbers try to close this gap by training more, buying new ("better") equipment, or other similar efforts. There's nothing wrong with doing these things, but you are probably completely overlooking a more basic problem that doesn't require anything other than some mental effort.

The Power of Your Mind

Everyone has heard sayings like "negative thoughts lead to negative actions," or "the body can't go where the mind hasn't already been." And every climber knows that it is very easy to let negative thoughts get the best of you while on a hard or scary route. But not many climbers seem to do anything about it. I think this is because (obviously) stopping your thoughts isn't possible, but yet there isn't much info out there about how to not fall into the trap of negative thinking, especially in climbing. Two psychological concepts provide a simple way to not let negativity determine your climbing performance.

Self Talk

For our purposes, "self talk" is basically the conversation you have with yourself, the "words" that go through your mind when you are doing or thinking about something. It is more than just our thoughts, it is literally the inner dialogue you have with yourself. Sometimes, self talk is actually said out loud (talking to yourself). In climbing, examples of self talk often include statements like "wow that hold is small," or "I'm getting pretty pumped," or "oh man that routes looks pretty hard." There is nothing at all wrong with self talk, but the problem is that usually it is negative. Negative self talk easily leads to negative performance, sometimes even convincing yourself you can't do a route before you even get on it.


We cannot simply turn off our self talk. It is an automatic response to a situation. But, we can work on "reframing" the self talk to ideally something positive, or at least not negative. Reframing is a technique to change how we understand or interpret a situation. Instead of saying to yourself "I'm feeling pretty tired today, I don't know about this," you could say "This is going to be a good challenge for me today," or "This is going to be good training for me to work on pushing through when I'm tired." Importantly, reframing self talk has to be reasonable and accurate. You cannot trick yourself. For example, instead of saying "that hold feels tiny" you can't say "that hold feels huge" because you know it isn't true. But you can say "I know that hold is small so I need to move off of it fast so I can get to a better hold."

Reframing Your Self Talk

When working on this, at first you will probably catch yourself saying something negative and then having to reframe it to something not negative. Eventually though, the goal is that all of your self talk (and yes, even outside of climbing) will become non-negative - maybe even positive! - and you won't have to reframe any of it.

For many climbers, a huge amount of your actual performance (not potential performance) is directly related to your emotional and mental state. Focusing on your self talk can really help keep your actual performance at the level of your potential performance. To start reframing, first just be thinking about your self talk and notice when it is negative. Actively work on immediately reframing it to a positive, or at least neutral, statement. With some dedication soon you will find yourself having non-negative self talk without thinking about it!

P.S. Here is a link to another blog post that offers related, inspiring advice: Shut Up and Get It Done

Sunday, December 9, 2012


If you spend any time at all paying attention to climbing media, no doubt you've heard all about the latest projects the pro-bro climbers are working on. Sure this can be inspiring, but for most of us reading about the cruxes of 5.14 routes (or now 5.15!) is so far removed from our climbing it goes right over our heads. But the rest of us should have project routes too, even if our "projs" are 5.10s! There are many benefits of projecting routes, most importantly making you a better overall climber.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


In this post I want to offer some thoughts on what I think a proper lead belay is. I'm going to assume you already know how to lead belay, so this is not meant to be basic instruction. But just because you can lead belay doesn't mean that you can't improve, or even that you are doing it properly. Think about it: how many times have you been in the gym or at a crag and have seen some pretty sketchy belaying? Well, all those people "know how" to belay, but yet they aren't doing it correctly. Is there a chance you may not be doing everything as best as you can?

Monday, September 3, 2012


Probably most everyone reading this knows that when climbing outside you need to hang your draws while you are leading. This is one aspect where gym and outdoor climbing really differ. Despite this big difference it seems not many people spend time thinking about how to do it best, or even if there is a correct way to do it. As it turns out, how you hang your draws may actually make a difference in how safe your climb is. The other morning I made a quick video to demonstrate this. So, watch the video below to see how something as seemingly basic actually requires a bit of thought. As always, please click "Comments" below and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Friday, August 10, 2012


I suspect there are two common types of climbers that use hangboards: elite climbers that use them correctly, and average climbers who use them incorrectly. Obviously, these elite climbers see tremendous gains from hangboarding, while these average climbers do not. This probably explains why the internet is rife with arguments over hangboarding's effectiveness, potential for injury, and so on. But average climbers certainly can benefit from hangboards if the training is done appropriately. So, if you are generally familiar with and are thinking about starting a hangboard workout, here are some thoughts on a correct approach to hangboarding that will benefit average climbers:

Monday, July 23, 2012


I've known about ClimbTech for a few years now as the "Perma Draw" company. If you've ever climbed at any steep crag around the country then you've no doubt seen the Permas hanging. Their quality and reputation could not be any higher. Nonetheless, when Chris Vinson (ClimbTech's marketing and sales manager) told me about their new line of quickdraws I was skeptical. I mean, how could ClimbTech possibly compete against the quality and reputation of Petzl or Black Diamond, or against the price of Omega Pacific? What were they going to do, reinvent the wheel? Despite my hesitation, Chris sent me a some samples and asked me to give them a try. What I found is that the ClimbTech draws are just as good if not better, and priced similarly if not lower, than their competition.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


"How Can I Get Better at Climbing?"
Since the point of this blog is to share realistic information to normal, every-day climbers, I thought I would start things off by addressing probably the most frequently asked question I get around the gym: how can I get better at climbing? My answer is always more general than specific, and is based on the following three principles:

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