Lack Of Focus Brings Few Rewards

Five trips. Boulder, Colorado. Red Rocks, Nevada. Himalayas, Nepal. Banff, Canada. Joshua Tree National Park, California.

On my way back from San Frnacisco, I counted them up. Five climbing trips. And likely a sixth to British Columbia, Canada, before the year is out. Six trips just to go climbing in 2010. Ice, rock, alpine. And that’s just the big stuff out of state.

But the problem is, I sucked at climbing on pretty much every single trip. Really. I’m not some 5.14/WI8/Everest type of climbing belittling my abilities. I’m a decent climber when I’m focused but on these trips I wasn’t at the peak (har har) of my game.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not, in the least, complaining about any of the trips. They were all encompassingly awesome, without a doubt. The people I met, the scenery, the camaraderie around the campfire. The photography opportunities, the laughs and the challenge was all top notch.

My last trip, climbingly speaking, sucked. I flailed, I floundered, I failed. I won’t even state the grade of climbs I couldn’t lead or complete because my normally solid ego fears the opportunity for ridicule. Let’s just say, I can do better.

Which has me thinking; why did I put in so much effort to go on these trips, and so much cash, but not focus on making sure I was in top shape? While my technique could use some help, what stopped me a most often was physical ability. Not being able to hold on to the rock or the tools. It’s something that can be worked on before a trip, but the focus was not there.

So I sit on the train now, on my way home, with a possible trip planned next month to hit some ice in a foreign land (yeah, Canada). After that, the climbing calendar is pretty open, with a number of possibles (Mt. Rainier, The Gunks, more ice in WA, Leavenworth rock, etc…) but nothing is solid. Even when something is solid, like the Himalayas, I find I have trouble focusing on the goal in order to make training a priority, thus making the trip more satisfying in the climbing realm.

I can make a number of excuses, but I really despise doing that. Make your situation better of shut up, is one of my mottos. Quit yer bitchin’, would be another.

With that in mind, and realizing that a climbing gym is a real expense (both getting there and using it) that needs to balanced with family time, what advice do you have as a climber, or other sports athlete, for keeping training in focus when there isn’t a clear goal in mind?

And if you are a climber, what advice would you have for me to train at home when I can only get to a climbing gym maybe four times in a month?

Thank you kindly, in advance, for your help in making sure I flounder less.

9 Replies to “Lack Of Focus Brings Few Rewards”

  1. Tiffany

    You hit it on the nail – i’m in the same boat.

    I don’t own one yet, but i hear those hangboards are pretty nifty and helpful. It seems nearly everyone within our Twitter climbing group has one. Maybe start reading books to help get inspired? After each of our tweetups, I’m inspired to hunker down, focus, read and train. Of course. that’s what you are saying here. Anyway, books to purchase – Self Coached Climber, The Rock Warriors Way (may have the title wrong) and How To Climb Crack (or some variation thereof). 🙂 It should be a good winter for some reading.

  2. Laurel

    I’m probably the wrong one to ask — I may not be focused but I make up for it by being obsessed.

    But anyway, I try to lower expectations for climbing hard when traveling and climbing. It would be great if I could climb hard fun stuff on trips but I haven’t been able to make that happen yet. I guess it’s more enjoyable to give up and climb easy fun stuff.

    I second Tiffany’s recommendation for Rock Warrior’s Way (same author also has a new book, Espresso Lessons, which is more do-this-and-do-that and less philosophical). You can borrow my copies if the library doesn’t have them.

  3. Elizabeth

    Thanks for putting those questions out there. I struggle, too, with trying to figure out the best ways to train with what I have. I’m considering getting a hangboard for home, putting it up in a doorway somewhere, and then finding someone to show me how to use it. 🙂

    Have you considered turning your living room into a bouldering cave? Just screw some holds up on the walls. I’m sure your family would be fine with it.


  4. Eileen

    I don’t train heavily, as I tend to let my outdoor climbing be my workout. Like you, I’m not a member of any climbing gym but I do go on occasion (bad weather, friends in town, special reduced fees days, etc).

    Lately I have been trying to get a climbing focused at-home-workout in during the week, it’s comprised of exercises mentioned in various climbing books like those mentioned above but adding in Advanced Rockclimbing into the list. My mini workout involves free weight exercises, pilates/yoga type exercises, rock hold hanging knee ups, etc).

    A friend of mine told me he had a training conversation with some long time climbers in Yosemite who said the single most important exercise was doing crunches.

    Another guy (actually the guy at Gunsmoke I was talking to on Sunday who I later learned has First Ascents in the Needles amongst other places) mentioned how he liked training on slackline, but in particular on thick chain as a “slack line”.

    I do think you could get by concentrating on core strength (abs) and balance, so the advice above I think is pretty sound.

  5. Luke

    To improve you need to set aside time every week to work out.

    Your body will respond to workouts and get stronger but it is essential to do them at consistent intervals. Once you can complete a workout then mix it up so you don’t plateau.

    Targeting your weaknesses is a good way to see the improvement. Can you do V2 but not 5.10. You need more endurance. Vice versa for Power.

    A Hangboard is great if you use it, as are crunches, pushups if you do them. Choose an activity and stick to it and you will see improvement.

    + 1 for the Self Coached Climber


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