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Head games: Mind control – the ultimate skill by IVAN LISICIA
Mind control – the ultimate skill
Do you ever feel that time stretches during certain crux sections? Sometimes you need to slow the rhythm down so you can execute everything precisely, just right. Seconds can seem like minutes for those few moves, but it isn´t a good thing. The more time you have, the more likely you’ll start thinking (too much) and eventually mess up.
I have this lovely project that’s been fooling me around for years. Although the climbing style is athletic, there are two incredibly technical sections pretty high up, and this is where my head feels like it could explode. Holds are small, body positions are weird, feet are non existing and placing them is nearly as hard as grabbing the next hold. To climb either of these sections I have to be accurate, light, strong, agressive, tender, uncompromised, extraordinary, blessed with cool temps and dry north wind, free of lactic acid despite the previous 30-40 moves and, above all, positive and optimistic although I’ve been getting my ass kicked here for seasons. Sounds like an impossible task? Well, let’s just call it tough.
In general, I don´t suffer from negative thoughts while climbing. If I am in regular fight mode, my mind is empty. I just switch autopilot on, get into the flow and try the best I can. But in these two sections, I admit losing my focus pretty often. I would have the strange feeling of time slowing and of there being an uncomfortable silence which you’re desperately trying to fill, like being on a first date and not knowing what to say. Trying to move through the crux with so many thoughts buzzing around my head was impossible.
I knew I had to find my focus and self confidence again, so I experimented with different mental approaches. At first and instinctively, I just wanted to shout something as loud as I could. In the past, this had been an effective way of lowering the pressure and getting a short confidence boost, but this time it didn’t match the climbing style. It would be like playing chess and screaming – not the best combo, right? Then I tried counting and guess what? It worked.
I know it sounds strange, but silent counting (1,2,3…) on every single move helped me to get my focus back. In fact, the principle is pretty simple: if I can’t switch off and climb on autopilot, then I literally force my mind to concentrate on something as irrelevant as counting rather than latch onto something and mess with my focus again. Now I can’t imagine attempting these two sections without switching to counting. Although I am still fighting for an FA, I have taken a small but very important step forwards.
One of my heroes from my early climbing days, Ivica Franceshi Frenki, once said: ”Smile before you enter the crux.“ At first I didn´t understand why, but now it is crystal clear. Suggestive thoughts, inner talking, meditation and other tehniques are effective tools for successful mind control. Try different stuff. Smile and talk to yourself up there. Find what works the best for you, because one thing is sure – excellence in any activity, including climbing, is impossible if you can’t enter a deep, inner state of awareness, free from any thoughts and expectations. It’s not an easy place to reach, but once there, nothing is impossible.