Transitions make a bridge between what you think with your mind in preparation and what you do with your body in action, at the same time creating a definitive break between thinking and doing. Once you’ve gathered the necessary information to see the risk as clearly as possible, you need to make a decision that breaks with the preparation process, and shifts you into action, where you will use different skills and focus attention differently.
Transition involves three parts: letting go of the old, a pause in the neutral zone, and embracing the new. Begin by taking time to think and gather information, then let go of that process. At some point, too much thinking becomes stalling.
Next, enter the neutral zone. You’ve let go of the old but haven’t yet embraced the new. Break from your analytical thinking mode and feel for appropriateness, using your mind’s intuitive intelligence. If you feel that the risk is appropriate, then take a deep breath, and exhale strongly while shaking your face. Blink your eyes a few times. This gets rid of any grimace and tunnel vision and heightens your overall state of awareness. Doing a few breaths this way creates physical and psychological signals that help transition you for the upcoming effort, heightening your state of arousal. This begins the shift of attention from thinking to doing.
Don’t rush yourself when you’re at a decision point. Your mind may want to hurry up and engage because you feel you’re running out of strength, or you don’t want to feel the stress for a second longer than necessary. Your intention, however, is to fully engage the risk, not to avoid stress or reach the top. If you rush the transition process, you won’t learn and you may take risks that injure you. Discipline yourself to go through your preparation process.
Conversely, don’t stall by over-thinking. Take just enough time to gather the information you need and then let go of preparation. Identify whether you are entering a yes-fall or a no-fall zone. This determines how you will engage.
Finally, embrace the new by engaging in actual climbing. Step out of the neutral zone and enter action. The mind stops thinking and the body starts doing.

Wy_2010 151-w900-h700Transitions make a bridge between what you think with your mind in preparation and what you do with your body in action, at the same time creating a definitive break between thinking and doing. Once you’ve gathered the necessary information to see the risk as clearly as possible, you need to make a decision that breaks with the preparation process, and shifts you into action, where you will use different skills and focus attention differently.

Transition involves three parts: letting go of the old, a pause in the neutral zone, and embracing the new. Begin by taking time to think and gather information, then let go of that process. At some point, too much thinking becomes stalling.

Next, enter the neutral zone. You’ve let go of the old but haven’t yet embraced the new. Break from your analytical thinking mode and feel for appropriateness, using your mind’s intuitive intelligence. If you feel that the risk is appropriate, then take a deep breath, and exhale strongly while shaking your face. Blink your eyes a few times. This gets rid of any grimace and tunnel vision and heightens your overall state of awareness. Doing a few breaths this way creates physical and psychological signals that help transition you for the upcoming effort, heightening your state of arousal. This begins the shift of attention from thinking to doing.

Don’t rush yourself when you’re at a decision point. Your mind may want to hurry up and engage because you feel you’re running out of strength, or you don’t want to feel the stress for a second longer than necessary. Your intention, however, is to fully engage the risk, not to avoid stress or reach the top. If you rush the transition process, you won’t learn and you may take risks that injure you. Discipline yourself to go through your preparation process.

Conversely, don’t stall by over-thinking. Take just enough time to gather the information you need and then let go of preparation. Identify whether you are entering a yes-fall or a no-fall zone. This determines how you will engage.

Finally, embrace the new by engaging in actual climbing. Step out of the neutral zone and enter action. The mind stops thinking and the body starts doing.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. An excellent technique. Anything that can move me from intent to action is very valuable. It is too easy to step back and “leave it” then regret it on the ground. One day I’ll get to a seminar Arno. It would help me so much to get a little of this customised.
    Thanks again
    John

    1. Doing these “transition exhales” to break free from thinking and being stopped has been really effective in the clinics. Students seem to really benefit from them. Thanks John. Arno

  2. Well, Arno, once again you strike me when I needed the most. This certainly applies to my climbing as well as my health. I once read on a cup of tea: “if you want to learn something read about it, if you want to know something practice it and if you want to master something teach it”. I’m now teaching climbing at a rock gym summer camp and reading your book. I’m putting in practice your lessons and it works really well, except that I don’t allow time for my own climbing. I think I’m stalling like you suggest! I have too much information but I can’t seem to put it on the wall myself. After reading this article I have decided to put an hour everyday before camp to practice my own teachings (yours and other people in reality). We’ll see how it goes. Thank you again!
    Yani

    1. If an hour is too much time, then at least do half an hour. Do a little each day rather than carving out a big chunk of time only one day a week. Hang in there. Arno

  3. Great advice Arno! I first read The Rock Warrior’s Way a few years ago, and it opened my eyes – before long I was climbing grades that I had previously assumed were reserved for the “real” climbers. But I’ve found that without taking care to maintain one’s thought process, the ego’s influence can creep back in. A few days ago, I was having trouble committing on a route that I had assumed I had plenty of strength to do. I remembered doing it one or two seasons ago, and figured that by now it would be no problem. But after having to hang early on after fumbling a pumpy sequence, I lost all motivation. I just wanted to get this route over with, but after making it about halfway, the crux was now directly overhead. I’d make a couple small moves that put my feet right around my last bolt and my body hanging awkwardly from a sidepull crimp. I could see a bigger looking ledge (the likely clipping hold) that would require a dynamic move to reach, but I was afraid that as soon as I went for it, I would slip off my crimp and fall. So I would go up, test the insecure crimp, become discouraged, and downclimb to hang, wasting energy on each go. I was getting tired of this ordeal, and as I was trying to relax and focus, I found myself shaking my face around while exhaling forcefully. I wasn’t sure why I was doing it – I normally don’t – but it seemed that with each time, I became calmer, and treated the move with more curiosity than anxiety. On my second go using the face-shake, I finally went for it. The fear of slipping off the crimp gave way to the desire to see what would happen if I didn’t. I finished the route cleanly, and on the hike out, I kept thinking about the “reset” process. I was overthinking, overstressing the route. Who knew that you could literally shake out those thoughts!

    1. Thanks for sharing that example for the transition process Vladimir. I discovered it by observing what I did prior to cruxes. I too didn’t know why I did it, but found that when I intentionally did it when leaving rest stances in the future, it helped a lot. Arno

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