Anne contacted me last month to address her fear of falling. She wanted to arrange a training session to overcome her fear. She told me she would practice some falls prior to coming so she could progress faster in our session. I warned her not to practice because she didn’t yet know the correct way to practice falling. Practicing incorrectly will ingrain poor falling patterns and heighten fears that make progress even slower.
We all want to achieve our goals as quickly as possible. Our natural comfort-based motivation causes us to think of shortcuts that can lead us quickly toward those achievements. However, shortcuts can hinder the learning process. If we move too quickly, then we’ll miss important information that’s necessary for learning. It’ll take us longer if we move too fast. Going slowly ends up being faster.
Doing anything requires us to integrate with the medium we’re engaging. We pay close attention to the specific qualities of what we’re doing and approach it accordingly. If we do our hang-board training too fast, then we won’t integrate into the medium of the hang-board effectively. We’ll engage with the hang-board without paying attention to the quality of our hangs and could cause an injury, slowing our progress. If we climb too fast, then we won’t integrate into the medium of the rock well. We’ll engage the rock without paying attention to efficient movement and may waste energy, requiring more time to succeed on our projects. If we do our falling practice too fast, then we won’t integrate into the medium of the fall. We’ll engage the fall without paying attention to our breath, body relaxation, and falling posture, and could ingrain poor falling form, heightening fears that make diminishing them take longer. Slowing down allows us to pay attention to how we’re integrating into the hang-board, the rock, and the fall.
I started slowly with Anne, having her do short toprope falls, about one meter in length. I had her focus her attention on how she did the short fall. She focused on exhaling throughout the fall, looking down into the fall zone, and assuming proper falling posture until she did them all correctly. Then I progressed her slowly into longer falls: two meters, three meters, etc. After fifteen minutes of practice, we took a break to discuss the whole process. We discussed why it was important to go slowly and pay attention to the quality of how she practiced. Our discussion revealed her motivation. In the past, she was motivated to practice falling to get it over with. Falling, to her, meant falling on lead, so she’d get above her bolt, gather her courage, and force herself to fall. This method didn’t help diminish her fear. It hadn’t occurred to her that she could begin more slowly by falling on toprope where she wasn’t as afraid. The Warrior’s Way method focuses on being present for the fall. Shifting her motivation from “getting it over with” to “being present” diminished her fear, allowed her to learn, and she progressed faster.
Next, she began taking lead falls, starting with her waist at the same height as the highest clipped lead bolt. This created a two meter fall, given the cushioned catch she received from her belayer. Slowly, she progressed one step higher as she became comfortable until she was taking four meter lead falls. After one hour of practice, she had greatly diminished her fear of falling. This slow approach allowed her to progress faster. We went slow to go fast.
Climbing is a microcosm of life. How we’re motivated to deal with our fears, engage stress, and practice reveals how we live our lives. Do we live our lives to get them over with? If so, some awareness of that tendency could be instructive for shifting our motivation. We’ll enjoy our lives—our fears, our stressors, and our practice—if we’re present for them. All that’s necessary is becoming conscious of how we’re motivated and shifting our motivation. Life may progress more slowly with this realignment, but it’ll ultimately be faster in achieving a life well lived.