At The Heart Of The Matter: Repeat It To Feel It

I have been frustrated with my climbing abilities this past year. It has been one of my most active years to get on real rock and yet, no big improvement. I voiced some of this dismay in a recent post and received some great advice on training, which I thought was a big part of my lacking. And it still is.

I also took the other advice from those comments, the ones telling me to read The Self Coached Climber, and in skimming through the book I drew a conclusion on my current state of frustration. The pre-thought that came into my head, as I read common sense instructions on balance and body mechanics, was, “Why is photography so easy for me, but climbing isn’t?”

This was followed by the light-bulb thought itself: I understand the dynamics of what the book is telling me, but I have to think about them too much when I’m on the rock. It’s that thinking that gets in the way of doing well and enjoying a climb. The difference between rock climbing and photography for me is I feel photography, I have to think about rock climbing.

This holds true for a number of aspects of my life. Hiking, easy to feel. I can be packed and ready in 30 minutes. Driving and road trips, again, super easy, I’ve been on dozens of long trips and I know what to do. Cooking a grilled cheese sandwich to perfection? I think you know the answer to that one.

The common thread through all the things I do well is sheer repetition. I’ve been doing all those things for 20+ years and while I have been climbing for 17 years, it has been an on again, off again relationship. Like any relationship that lacks depth, it struggles and isn’t always fun, but I know in my heart I want to climb and explore mountains. That’s where the frustration comes in.

Knowing you want to do something and being good at it are two items only divided by time and repetition. Thinking I should be a better climber than I am doesn’t work. Thinking I am a better chef than I am has the same results. Bowling, horseback riding, jai alai, the stock market. It seems so obvious, now. Except jai alai, that sport still confuses me.

My heart is in the mountains and the ocean. I love those places and want to spend my time in both. Accepting that I don’t feel truly at home on rock, because I haven’t put in the hard effort to learn, is the first step to feeling more at ease with the sport.

Feeling it is at the heart of any endeavor. The deeper the feeling, the better the results.

I’m glad to know the feel I have with photography can be built up in my rock climbing life as well, and it will take time. That should help take some of the sting out of the growth curve, I hope.

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