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Building a strong Mind in Kalymnos

Earlier this year I took the online Strong Minds course run by Hazel Findlay and Angus Kyle. This was a 6 week online course that focused on climbing mindset and how to develop a strong mindset in climbing to manage fear of falling, fear of failure or social fears around climbing.

It was brilliant !! and I began to change my mindset around my climbing and, importantly for me, to begin to find ways to feel more comfortable with falling. I am aware that for me, my fear of falling has been a huge limiting factor to my climbing and, possibly more importantly, really interfered in the enjoyment I was getting from climbing.

So on the back of this I decided to go on the sport climbing retreat that Hazel runs in Kalymnos. I have just returned and feel that my experiences were so valuable, that I would share them with you.

We were an international group of 12 people of all different climbing abilities, but all there to prioritise our sport climbing learning over sending routes. I actually initially found this hard to do, as there are so many routes I wanted to climb! But as Hazel pointed out, why pay to come and then just carry on doing what you do every day at the crag….

Good point.

Our retreat group with Hazel and Angus

Each day started with theory covering Stress in climbing, finding the correct challenge level in climbing as well as how to fall safely and how to carry out fall practice. We also covered fear of failure and tools we can use as climbers to manage our fear, to keep our stress responses down.

Day two, we started fall practice and spent all day falling, learning how to fall well, assessing where it is safe to fall as well as finding the right level of stress for our fall practice.

Preparing to fall

Over the next few days we began to integrate more learning and falling into our sport climbing. Each day we were coached individually by Angus and Hazel and were very much supported by the whole group. Our focus was on having a learning mindset and building new habits in our climbing

It was actually exhausting and even though I did less climbing on the trip, I did a whole lot more learning and falling which I found mentally challenging.

Putting my new mindset to practice

My takeaways from this trip-

1.Acceptance and self awareness of where you are at in YOUR climbing is the only way you can find the right challenge level for you. This challenge level is where you make progress, so you have to find it first.

2.Set your climbing intention for the day. What is your aim? Take responsibility for your climbing experiences. Approach each day with an open mindset.

3.Falling is a skill, catching a fall is a skill. Falling is part of climbing if you have got your challenge level right, so you must be able to do it safely to avoid injury.

4. Going forward for me; dedicated weekly fall practice and making the commitment to fall 6 x each time I climb is how I will push my climbing because for me the aspect that holds me back the most is my fear of falling. I can be super strong and have strong fingers, but if my mind is not strong enough I will not even attempt the moves.

Hazel in action

Not everyone is limited by their fear of falling, but I think that all of us can develop stronger minds and gain more enjoyment from our climbing. I have been climbing for a long time, but for me that is a long time of ingrained habits that have been reinforcing my fear of falling.

I can now begin to build up my new habits and climbing experiences to reinforce how falling does not have not be scary. I am super psyched to do this so that on the Kalymnos trip in October I can push my climbing and try hard whilst managing my stress around falling in a positive way.

If anyone is interested in Hazel Findlay’s coaching and would like to be part of a fear of falling workshop later in the year, then please drop me a message. I can not recommend her enough.

Helen x

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