I recently received an email from someone who read The Rock Warrior’s Way book. He said he took my suggestion about practicing falling to heart. He went to his local climbing gym, got above a bolt, gathered his nerve, and finally took a fall. He said he was tense before and during the fall but afterwards felt more comfortable.
This approach may diminish fear, but isn’t aligned with learning. The climber was focused on avoiding his stress with falling. Did he really learn? He didn’t convert stress into comfort. He was tense during the skill he was “practicing.” When you take on too much stress and focus on getting it over with, your body will contract in a protective way. This habituates your body to react and contract, making it difficult to respond to falling in an alert and relaxed way. The gym climber would need to unlearn his habit of contracting before he could learn to respond to falling in a relaxed way.
There are four elements that help you understand how your body is processing stress: how you breathe (B), where your eyes (E) look, how relaxed (R) you are, and the posture (P) of your body, using it appropriately for the task. I use the acronym BERP as a reminder for these four elements. When you are stressed, especially over stressed, you will tend to hold your breath, have tunnel vision, tense up, and create a concave, protective posture.
You know you’ve integrated stress when you can breathe without holding your breath, look at the current task, stay relaxed, and maintain proper posture, doing what you need with your body for the task. The BERP elements indicate when you can add additional stress. If you can BERP properly, then you are ready for additional stress.
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Hmmm, I love this stuff. Just when I get over occupied with lifes stuff, You “Arno,” come out of left field! “Learning from stress?” I can up my anxiety level by just thinking about certain climbs. I guess this type of energy loss is one of those power sinks you speeks of. 🙂
G’day Robbie, How are you going mate? I guess it would be a power sink, since you’d be sinking attention into something that isn’t helpful. Simply redirect attention to breathing while thinking of “certain climbs” and you’ll begin processing your attention away from the sink and toward the stove. That’ll fire you up…
Hey Arno, thats a great metaphor. I used to teach Job Seeking skills at Kangan Institute. One of my lectures was on interveriew preparation. “The fight or flight syndrome!” And. Yes, breathing exercises!!! So good. Its a shame I haven’t married this too my climbing to date. Thanks mate. 🙂
I try to do this practice on top rope with any new climber by having them take a small fall near the start of a route after some confidence has been established that the rope and gear/belay will hold and lower them.
Good to see the elements re-iterated.