Motivation and Psyche
- Tuesday 9th June 2020
By Gareth Parry
Climbing is not generally thought of as being a team sport, even when I competed as a member of Team GB I still competed as an individual. The purpose of Team GB though was to act as a support team for the individual team members meaning that each team member’s result was a combined effort. Most climbers don’t climb alone especially when climbing outside, as a boulderer you need a spotter, as a route climber you need a belayer. These people are your personal support team and the role they play is often more important than you might think. Try to climb with people who are motivational and keen for you to succeed, climbing with someone who isn’t interested in your climbing may have more of a negative effect on you than you realise.
Sometimes it's nice to have a regular climbing partner, my girlfriend has been my almost full-time belayer for many years which is great but that can result in you becoming stuck in a rut. For instance, if your partner can’t climb you might not bother yourself. Try to make new friends and climb with other people so you always have someone to climb with.
It can take a lot of effort to get myself down to the wall for instance and make new climbing friends with whom to go climbing. I have times like this, especially as I don’t live in the UK most of the time, and when I come back here I can struggle to find someone to climb with. And I know an awful lot of climbers! So even if you find it difficult to make friends or aren’t that sociable I still highly recommend getting down to the wall and get chatting (about climbing obviously). I’m glad I have because I have an extended circle of people to climb with, inspire me and motivate me as well as to hold my ropes or give me a spot.
Okay, so the worst thing in life to affect our climbing is the fact that we have to work and that takes up climbing time. People may think that as a pro-climber I have one of the best jobs ever, it's true that there are worse jobs in the world but I still have the same problem as everyone else in that I have to find time to climb. The job I do involves long days of route-setting or coaching and long travel times between walls, I spend a huge amount of time on the road and sleep most nights in my van. Although I love the job I do, there is definitely something to be said for the 9 to 5 with a local commute and paid holidays and sick pay.
For instance, on one occasion when I travelled to Ireland to route set for the Irish Nationals it was a great motivation in itself. Meeting up with Ireland's climbing star, Ricky Bell, was a fantastic experience. His infectious keenness definitely rubbed off on me and I felt like a child with a new toy. Not only was I really enjoying the setting but I managed to find the energy to get out on the rock too. A few sessions at The Scalp meant a tick of the classic Mean Machine (Font 7c) and lunchtime visits during setting days to Poltrane left me with a Font 8a flash of the amazing Leviathan and a new boulder called Diagonal Alley. I don’t really think it was down to my fitness and strength at the moment but more down to the fun I was having. I was just psyched to get out and climb. So it is possible to always find time to fit climbing in, even if you can’t make it fit to a perfect training plan any climbing is better than none.
Many times I’ve been to a climbing wall and seen posters up for climbing clubs and I wonder just how popular they are. I think they are a brilliant idea for many of the reasons I’ve already talked about so I thought I would mention them just in case you, like me, have seen the posters and wondered but never been. The sessions are often tailored towards a certain grade of climber or maybe women only, so it’s a great way to meet like-minded climbers of a similar ability to yourself.
When I first started climbing, mountaineering clubs were extremely popular and I was a member of Bury Mountaineering Club. The other club members were seasoned climbers (often with their own cars) who at the time were climbing much better and harder than myself. Being in the club meant that I was able to travel to interesting destinations, Lundy Island was a real adventure and to go climbing there when I was 16 was amazing. So if you don’t have many people to climb with or are new to the sport then I highly recommend going along to any of these clubs, they are always full of keen and inspirational people.
One thing I find unusual about climbing compared to other sports is how few people have regular weekly coaching sessions. Maybe it is because climbing is a sport where you can just buy the gear and go off outside without having to hire out facilities. Take tennis, for example, you don’t just buy a racket and hire a court, I’m sure, because you know you would look like a bit of a muppet bashing a ball about and not knowing what you are doing. You would book coaching sessions and learn how to play properly. Or horse-riding – if you want to learn to ride you have lessons every week, once you can ride you might buy a horse but the vast majority of people still keep up with regular lessons.
The reason people do this is that they want to improve and they know that it will be nearly impossible to teach themselves. So I wonder why this isn’t so much the case in climbing? Well if you read these columns it is surely because you want to improve so if you do then why not book yourself some coaching sessions?
Professional climbing coaches such as the likes of myself, Neil Gresham, Adrian Berry, Dave MacLeod and Steve McClure are amongst the most psyched climbers you’ll ever meet; being around any of these people on a regular basis will most definitely motivate and inspire you to up your game.
Many climbers say they are not competitive. I hear it again and again. Everyone is competitive in some way, shape or form. Maybe it is to climb harder or run faster, have a shiny new car, a bigger dog, the latest iPhone; competitiveness can come in many guises. A climbing competition, if you choose to do the right one, can be a fantastic experience. Some of the smaller and lower-key events I always tend to be more uncomfortable whereas the larger events seem to generate a bigger and better atmosphere.
There is no doubt that competitions in this country are on the increase. There are more comps than ever and competitor numbers are on the increase. Blokfest alone has seen an impressive increase in numbers year on year. The Reading event, for instance, had doubled in numbers from 150 to over 300 per weekend within a year, not bad for a series and it keeps on growing. I always find that the bigger events are more fun, more people you know, more people to meet, more friendly faces and more stories to share. You witness some inspirational performances not just from the top performers but from everybody. These events can even bring the quietest and most negative people out of their shell and sometimes they even go on to win.
So don’t hold back, get out there to meet new people and climb with new people. The wider the variety of experiences you can bring to your climbing the easier it will be to improve. Let those around you inspire you and the hard work will not seem so hard any more and more like just having fun.