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Climbing Mental Training

This document is being initially written with heavy inspiration from the Mental Training chapter of Eric Horst's book Training for Climbing.

The goal is perfect economy of movmeent.

Excellence in climbing comes only to those with knowledge of the fundamentals and a desire to make them habit. Training for Climbing, pp. 69

Pre-climb Ritual

  • Warm-up
  • Visualize the route
    • d.v. if not sent or speculating alternative routes
    • a.v. if programming
  • Bring energy/emotion levels into the IV quadrant
  • Smile
  • Climb

Strategies and Frameworks for Learning

  • Proprioception: internal sense of body position and movement in space
    • "How does it feel when I do it the right way vs. the wrong way?"
    • Write down these observations, aim to notice the more subtle cues.


The techniques below are described in detail in Horst's training book. Progressive Relaxation Sequence should be performed off the wall in order to practice relaxation. Differential Relaxation and the ANSWER sequence can be performed on the wall once mastered.

  • Progressive Relaxation Sequence
  • Differential Relaxation
  • ANSWER sequence


  • Singular Focus Drill
    • Climb a couple grades below max and choose a part of the body to completely focus on during the climb


Visualize yourself doing some short activity in the third person. Then again in first person. Notice as many details as possible and attempt to make the movie as clear as possible in your head.

Emotional State

Horst describes Emotional and Energy Quadrants that allow us to quantify how we are feeling at any given time. Good athletes can identify where they are emotionally (at any time, or upon drastic change) and where the ideal is for their current activity.

Strategies for adjusting mental state

  • Supplant negative thoughts with positive ones
  • Use your body (relax using techniques mentioned above, roll shoulders, smile)
  • Review past successes in order to prepare your mental state for a climb

Notes on Self Image

Before starting any climb, make sure you have no thoughts or expectations about the outcome of the climb. Accept falls and remove any thoughts about them from your mind. Climbing is about the process of getting up the rock and a fall is simply feedback.

The thought of falling invades our mind before or during a climb because of our self image, perceived both by internally (fear of failure) and externally (embarrassment).

On the former, the only people who may see a fall and think that you are a weak climber are those who do not know you. Your friends and climbing buddies know your skill level as a climber, and when surrounded with the right people will only see a fall as an opportunity to give feedback and encouragement.

What I struggle with most is with my own perceived self image. I find myself both before starting a climb and in the middle of a climb stressing about whether or not I should be able to send the route. If I fall I often spiral into negative thoughts about myself as a climber. One should completely disconnect with the outcome or summit of a climb and focus solely on the process.

Climbing is about the journey, not the summit. Vow to love the process of climbing and all it entails, whether it is a perfect send or a painful struggle.

Eric Horst, Training for Climbing pg. 35