When you take action, you need to act without interference from your thinking mind. If you allow your mind to think, it will find devious ways to seek comfort. It will question your plan, or your ability to do the moves. This is a manifestation of your mind seeking escape instead of dealing with the stress.
Many of my students insist at first that you need to think in order to climb. This misconception probably stems from their habitual mixing of thinking and doing skill sets. Consider a skill you already do without thinking: driving a car or riding a bicycle. You can do these skills without consciously thinking. When you go around a curve, you don’t need to think about how much to turn the car’s steering wheel or lean the bicycle. Your mind is simply observant, taking in the information and allowing your body to respond appropriately.
Climbing is no different. Your body knows how to move and you need to trust its knowledge. Your body wants to be in balance. You don’t stand in an unbalance position, nor do you walk in an unbalanced way. Balance is something your body is attentive to without your thinking mind having to direct it. Paying attention to how your body directs you while climbing will create efficient movement.
Your mind, however, will interfere with this process by looking for comfortable short-term solutions. For example, it will look for holds to grab instead of footholds to stand on. Your mind feels more comfortable and in control when grabbing with hands than when trusting feet. Notice this interference and shift attention back to trusting your body.

Climbing on Defective Sonar, Laurel Knob, North Carolina

When you take action, you need to act without interference from your thinking mind. If you allow your mind to think, it will find devious ways to seek comfort. It will question your plan, or your ability to do the moves. This is a manifestation of your mind seeking escape instead of dealing with the stress.

Many of my students insist at first that you need to think in order to climb. This misconception probably stems from their habitual mixing of thinking and doing skill sets. Consider a skill you already do without thinking: driving a car or riding a bicycle. You can do these skills without consciously thinking. When you go around a curve, you don’t need to think about how much to turn the car’s steering wheel or lean the bicycle. Your mind is simply observant, taking in the information and allowing your body to respond appropriately.

Climbing is no different. Your body knows how to move and you need to trust its knowledge. Your body wants to be in balance. You don’t stand in an unbalance position, nor do you walk in an unbalanced way. Balance is something your body is attentive to without your thinking mind having to direct it. Paying attention to how your body directs you while climbing will create efficient movement.

Your mind, however, will interfere with this process by looking for comfortable short-term solutions. For example, it will look for holds to grab instead of footholds to stand on. Your mind feels more comfortable and in control when grabbing with hands than when trusting feet. Notice this interference and shift attention back to trusting your body.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. John A Murray

    Great Article Arno. Thought provoking as always.

    I agree with 90%, but wonder if climbing doesn’t go further than the “intuitive” skills associated with bike-riding etc. There are undoubtedly times when flow stops in order to seek out a handhold or a way to make progress. We might, for instance, elect to drop-knee from a small hold on an adjacent wall not immediately noticed on arrival at a stance, or work through a sequence mentally before committing.

    It is the case that while moving, our body auto-corrects, but even then not all climbing moves are intuitive (hence the need to red-point).
    What do you think?

    Thanks again for the excellent work.

    Kind regards
    John

    1. Arno

      Hi John,
      Splitting apart climbing into “stopping and thinking with the mind” AND “moving and doing with the body” is kinda like looking at a complex problem like planet rotation. Issac Newton improved our understanding of gravitational forces (and many other things like optics) by simplifying the problem and looking at an ideal situation. Such as, make the sun a point and the planet a point revolving around it. In reality there are many more things going on, like forces from other planets in the system also exerting forces. But, by isolating the problem to its ideal, Newton could see exactly what occurred. Then, he would bridge what he learned to the natural world.

      That’s a little of what I’ve done with splitting climbing. There are many times where we can be 100% on stopping and thinking AND other times when we can be 100% on moving and doing. But, there are those 10% times when it will mix. I think the goal is to separate as much as possible and then be open to the natural situation on any particular climb.
      Thanks for sharing your comments.
      Arno

  2. John A Murray

    Thanks Arno, that helps a lot. Its a good analogy.
    John

  3. Jeremy Devine

    This was well put Arno. I think I trust my body comfortably cruising on routes well in my ability range, but have trouble with this on harder climbs. When you don’t have a chance to rest and assess the next sequence, and instead are forced to pull hard moves one after another, I get distracted. I lose my cool and can end up in a panic. I’m finding the more verticle feet I log the more comfortable I feel, just like in your driving example. This is a mental practice, but I think it comes with lots of experience.

    -Jeremy

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