By Ashleigh Kazor

This year has not been what I expected or hoped for.  I did not achieve my goals. I have been dealing with an aggravating wrist injury for over a year now, and I was not able to train or compete at the level I had become accustomed to. It has been disappointing to say the least, to see my friends training hard and competing well and not be able to participate fully. This year was not a complete loss, however. I was given the opportunity to work with Arno Ilgner and The Warrior’s Way on the mental side of things and it has truly changed my life.  I may never be able to get back to climbing and competing at my former level (hopefully I can!), but the lessons the Warrior’s Way has taught me will stay with me, climbing or not.

I’m not going to lie…many of the things Arno asked me to do were incredibly difficult for me. I’m not typically a very meditative, introspective type of person. Maybe it’s my young age, or maybe it’s just my personality, but it was hard for me to analyze and express my inner thoughts, fears, motivations, frustrations, etc. (Thank you Arno for your patience!) Arno pushed me to think differently and to challenge myself with things that are uncomfortable. Here are the main things I will take away from going through this process.

  1. Change frustration to curiosity. This year was “frustrating” to say the least. Not being able to do what I love at the level I want to perform at was hard, but we all deal with frustration in training, competitions, or life in general. The Warrior’s Way has taught me to shift my thinking from focusing on what didn’t go right, to focusing on what I learned from that experience and how can I improve. It’s not as easy as it sounds and this one is still a work in progress! When something doesn’t go well, it’s easy to fall into the trap of frustration, anger, and disappointment, but shifting to focusing on what I learned leads to improvement and more positive outcomes.
  2. Leaning into the stress. This was a big one for me. I tend to want to avoid or rush through things that are difficult or stressful. Climbing is stressful both physically and mentally, but I’ve learned it’s during those stressful moments that I grow the most. Learning to relax into the stress helps me be more present in exactly what’s happening at that moment. Shifting my thoughts from “I have to…” to “I choose to…” or “I want to…” is a small change that makes a big difference. I find I approach difficult drills and exercises differently when I say, “I want to do this because it’s going to make me better” versus “I have to do this because my coach said so”.
  3. Dealing with expectations. This was a huge change and one I think I will always struggle with. It’s hard to just climb for yourself when so many people have put in time, effort, and money to get me to where I am. I don’t want to let my coaches down who have put in hours of research, gym time, analyzing videos, etc. I don’t want to let my parents down who have given up so much to support my passion. I have to realize that they support me no matter what and they are here on this journey with me because they want to be.
  4. Changing how I set goals. Yes, I can have the goal to make finals at nationals, but I also need process goals – goals that are achievable no matter how others climb or place in a comp or what style route is set. I need to set individual goals like, “At this comp I want to focus on staying relaxed and slowing my breathing and heart rate at rest points.” Process goals will help me move towards my overall placement goals but are more in my control.

Throughout this trying year of injury and setback, Arno and the Warrior’s Way training has helped me focus on what I can control and not what my limitations are. While many of the things Arno asked of me were difficult, I feel like I grew and learned some valuable lessons that will help me achieve my goals in life and hopefully, when I’m back on the wall, climbing!

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