Climbing background and mental plateau

First a little bit of background.

I started climbing when I was 9 years old. Although I competed in regional and national competitions (lead-climbing) in France when I was a teenager, I went out of the competitions around 16 and gave up climbing for about three years between 2009 and 2012 because of studies, study-related travels and a shoulder injury.

In 2012 I slowly went back to climbing as a simple hobby. Today I focus almost exclusively on bouldering for several personal reasons: I find it more convival, funnier and more convenient to fit in my time-schedule (I can climb alone). Last but not least the indoor bouldering problems are easier to memorise than longer routes in case I have issues with the colour of the holds. Yep, I’m colourblind, but sadly enough I don’t qualify as a disabled athlete so I won’t be able to compete in the upcoming Olympics, in which climbing will be featured for the first time! RIP my career as a pro climber, and kudos

In 2017 I arrived in Stockholm and discovered a wonderful climbing gym via Eric Karlsson’s Youtube Bouldering channel (probably the best Youtube channel about bouldering at the moment). As a newcomer in a foreign country, I was excited to be able to continue this hobby and meet new fellow rock-climbers. Between January 2017 and June 2018, I climbed on average twice a week, with various level of dedication.

During that period I made some decent progress. My max-level used to be 7a+/7b (quotation used in Klättercentret, the leading climbing-gym franchise in Stockholm, which are said to be quite overrated. But it’s still useful for measuring individual progress). In early 2018 I had for objective to complete my first 7c. This actually happened sooner than expected, right in January. Since then I managed to complete about ten 7c, most of them during the past weeks.

I could definitely see some progress but there was two issues. First, this progress mostly came from a brute-force approach, without much thinking about how or why I was improving. Second, I was becoming more and more pessimistic regarding my ability to keep making progress, for several reasons:

  • The 7c+ grade seemed way beyond my reach.
  • I was feeling that I was progressing mainly due to an increase of power, which has always be my main strength. But power on its own is not enough (although there is no such thing as too much power!).
  • I believed that only ‘professionals’ or full-time climber could climb harder.
  • I was realising that I would have to start training at the gym, and I didn’t like the idea.
  • I was depressed (ok, this might as well be the main reason).

A few weeks down the road, I found answers to all those issues and I realise that what happened is that I had hit a mental plateau.

The answer to go beyond this plateau came when I started to invest time and genuine attention in coaching my friends at a beginner/intermediate level. With the performance of my friends in mind, I started talking to other people and doing some research about training and how to become better at climbing. In the end I discovered ideas that not only made me a better coach, but also improved my own climbing skills, as well as my general attitude towards life.

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