My climbing is suffering – to get better

As I wrote about in my last blog post, I am taking a climbing movement class at the City Rock gym in Colorado Springs. The first class had us focusing on precise and careful footwork, which was not new to me, although it made me revisit this important part of training for climbing. The second and third classes had us focus on finding and utilizing the Rose move in order to find effective rests and use the momentum in our hips to move more efficiently. While it is hard to describe, the Rose move involves dropping a knee while twisting your body and driving your hip into the wall, such that your weight is largely hanging on the arm that is farther from the wall. So, a right facing Rose move would have your right hand on a hold above your head such that your arm is straight. Your right foot would have its toe pointed to the right, while your left leg would be in a drop knee. The theory is that in this position, you can get most of your weight hanging on your skeleton and really engage your legs. In addition, this position enables efficient dynamic movement, really utilizing your legs.

I have to say that I have found this difficult to put into action. It did not take me very long to understand and find the rose position, but it is taking me a while to learn to be able to move out of this position and not have my feet pop off as I rotate them. From my early training as a trad climber I have developed the habit of careful foot placements, where the objective is to NOT have them move. So, this technique is challenging for me to learn. I have been playing with it in the gym and even experimented outdoors this weekend while climbing at Shelf Road. I have been able to feel how this technique allows me to really take advantage of momentum as I move to new positions, but I still have issues with my feet sometimes popping off holds as I rotate. I find that I really have to be very conscious of not only my foot positions on holds, but how much force I use to push with them.

I’m happy to experiment with learning this new technique, since I have been told by climbing partners and some coaches that my climbing would improve if I could move more fluidly and take advantage of momentum more. I am also rehabilitating my elbow from a case of tendonitis, so this is a great opportunity to focus on my technique. I have to say that it is disheartening when a foot pops when working on this technique in situations where I would never have a foot pop. But, as Jeff Elison and I discuss in our upcoming book Vertical Mind, you need to be able to put your ego aside in order to make big improvements in your climbing. Our egos hold us back. The best environment for learning is one where the objective is not goal attainment, but skill mastery. Most climbers spend little time doing pure skill development because they enjoy the act of climbing so much. Technique development is analogous to learning your times tables. Repetition is key and can sometimes feel monotonous. The trick is to try and make it fun and Jeff and I provide some ideas on how to do this in Vertical Mind.

Do you have times in your training that are totally devoted to skill mastery and devoid of goal attainment? If not, you may want to consider it. It is the quickest and most effective way to modify your habits. In future blog posts I will report out whether this technique helps my climbing or not.

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