How can I stay psyched? I bore easily and have been climbing in the same area for 10 years. Since I'm a new dad I can't road trip often.
—Eric Patrick | Austin, TX
Forgive me, but at first I threw this question out of court. Surely it is a coach's task to help people who are psyched. If you can't be bothered to get to the crag or the wall, then it's one less person taking up my parking space or greasing the holds. But as I clicked delete and moved onto the next question I found myself feeling guilty. I am permanently psyched for climbing, but it doesn't mean that others are as fortunate. Perhaps it is part of a coach's job to examine motivation and attempt to pass it on.
So what drives me forward at times when my training is going backwards? It is blissfully simple, really. I can't think of anything better or more meaningful in life than climbing, I simply can't! If I surrender and hit the couch I feel like a loser, but worse, bored. To me, it is incomprehensible that you could feel bored while climbing, and if this is the case then you need to do as follows:
Set some goals. Write them down. Training without goals is like coffee without caffeine—pointless. Your goals should be long term and crag-related, such as sending your first 5.12a next season, and also short and mid-term and training related, such as performing 10 laps on a 5.11c with 10 minutes rest. Or cranking four V5s in one session.
Vary your sessions. A bit of training structure adds spice and direction. For example, for endurance, rather than doing single routes, try going up, down climb, then go back up. Or do double sets, where you lower off and then climb again straight away. Or, better still, try using the bouldering wall for circuits (long, easy boulder problems that are sustained with no rests or cruxes). Use an interval structure to guide you (e.g.: a 20 move problem x 10 repetitions with 8 minutes rest, or 30 moves x 8 with 10 minutes rest or 40 moves x 6 with 12 minutes rest). For power, try some system or finger boarding, and/or bar exercises and floor exercises for body tension. Don't forget to stretch on the mats while resting between attempts. This way you will always have something to focus on rather than staring around and thinking, What next?
Vary your climbing. I appreciate that your local cliff won't change, but contrive some challenges for yourself. Can you redpoint all the routes in one sector in a day? How many pitches can you complete? How long can you stay on the rock? Eliminates can be useful as they effectively create new problems. Can you do the classic V3 at your home bouldering area without the biggest hold? Long term you need road trips. I realize also that this is tough if you have children or an all-consuming job, but even if you only have a week or two away a year, train for this break. For those less affected by outside pressures who still find it tough to get psyched, the key is to switch styles from sport, to trad, to bouldering and perhaps even ice. If you're stagnating, try something new.
Neil Gresham is one of Britain's best-known all-round climbers. His website is: www.climbingmasterclass.com.