POSITIVE SELF-TALK IN CLIMBING

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Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post about positive self-talks and the different techniques. In case you haven't read it yet, follow this link

Have you already used this technique? How did it go? What worked well, what didn't?

Self-talks in climbing obviously don't work in every situation. When you are for example moving fast or doing powerful moves while e.g. bouldering, it will be hard to additionally concentrate on positive talks – most possibly, it would rather irritate and prevent you from concentrating on the actual movements. However, when moving a bit slower, such as e.g. on slabs or often when route climbing, this strategy can be well used to keep on going. Positive self-talks in slabs could e.g. be "My foot/ it stays on", "I got this", "Push, push, push". I have a friend who is brilliant at slab climbing. She often tells herself (sometimes even loudly) "it stays on" – and well, it seems to work, she crushes about 90% of all slabs she tries (that's at least my statistic of when I'm climbing with her). In route climbing, you can use self-talks in specific situations such as in moments of fear. You can tell yourself "I can do this." "One more move. And one more. And one more.", "Move on. Come on", "Yes, I can" or something similar. By focussing your thoughts in a positive direction, you stop thinking about the potential of falling or the fear associated with it. In fact, it is scientifically proven that this strategy helps for dealing with the fear of falling. Another situation when the strategy can be successfully applied is in moments of hesitation or when you get pumped. Pushing yourself through a sequence with positive self-talk by e.g. focussing on one move after the other one can lead you to climb a few moves/ holds further than you'd have expected.

In which general situations can self-talks be applied?

To sum it up, in sport psychology there are four situations differentiated when self-talk can be well-applied: to increase motivation, to build up self-confidence, after mistakes and to decrease tension. What is meant by this? If we come across negative thoughts, such as "I can't do this, I'm so tired", "I'm so bad at this, why am I here?", "I'm afraid", "Why do I have to make this mistake now?" "How stupid am I to make this mistake?", etc. we can categorise them in the mentioned four areas: motivation, self-confidence, mistakes, tension. As we learnt in the blog post "The Power of Self Talks", we always need opposing thoughts to not let the negative impact our actions. Here are some examples for positive self-talk:

  • Self talk to increase motivation: e.g. "Come on", "Keep on going", "I'm so psyched".
  • Self talk to build up self-confidence: e.g. "I can do this.", "Just do it the same way you did it in training", "trust your abilities", "remember, you have done this before", "I'm good at this, otherwise I wouldn't be here",
  • Self talk after mistakes: e.g. "Next time, I will do better", "Normally I can do this", "I focus on my next try", "Every route/ boulder is a new chance".
  • Self talk to decrease tension: e.g. "Stay calm", "Relax", "Concentrate", "Breathe", "Don't worry"

In which of the four areas do you have the most negative thoughts? Where can you improve the most?

Here's by the way an interview with Louis Parkinson, filmed at the Youth Climbing Symposium last November, where he talks about his mantras: "I can do this. I will do this now. Relax." Have fun watching!