That saying appears everywhere and while it is super cliché there is something to be learned from this. There are so many seemingly uncontrollable factors at play when you’re climbing. There is one thing that you can control that has a profound effect on your physical and mental status, your breathing.
Breathing is an autonomic bodily function, meaning you just do it without having to think about it. But, the most important thing to be aware of when climbing is your breath.
So the question is, how do you keep calm, cool and collected when climbing? I think you already know the answer…breathe deliberately. Do the following exercise and see if it makes a difference to your mental and physical state:
Choose a route that is easy for you to climb without exerting too much effort. You will climb this route two times.
Lap #1. Set an intention to be aware of your breath. Notice if you’re holding it, breathing evenly, rapidly/slowly, deep/shallow.
Lap #2. Breathe Intentionally. Climb the route a second time, this time making a conscious effort to breathe the whole way from top to bottom.
Compare the two. Did you feel more relaxed and focused on the second lap? Did you feel less scared?
When you’re stressed, most people have tendency to hold their breath. This elevates your heart rate which causes you to breathe more shallowly and rapidly. This in turn makes the mind anxious, so you lose focus and get tunnel vision. Your climbing performance suffers as a result.
Be more aware and set an intention to breathe, ask your belayer to remind you, breathe evenly and deeply and you’ll feel much more focused, relaxed and less anxious when climbing.
If you want to learn more about this technique and many others to help improve your climbing performance, sign up for the Red River Gorge, Red Rock and Rifle clinics. We will share lots more of our secrets of success.
Written by: Chicks co-owner and guide, Elaina Arenz.