Book reports: not the most interesting post I’ve attempted. However, I believe climbing literature is a hidden gem most climbers overlook. I’ve only read a couple of climbing books in my day, but I’ve loved every single one. Recently added to my list is The Rock Warrior’s Way: Mental Training for Climbers by Arno Ilgner. While physical strength is definitely important in climbing, it’s no surprise that our minds do not always receive the same treatment as our bodies.
A friend of mine (thanks Matt!) suggested this book because I had mentioned my frustration with my mental performance. I was doing competitions weekend after weekend and still finding it tough to get myself out of my own head. I’m ashamed to admit it’s almost always my mentality holding me back from succeeding, even in the moment when I know the barrier I’ve hit is mental not physical. Google is great, but I really needed some expert advice.
Arno Ilgner does fantastic work simplifying and dissecting what it really means to be mentally tough. Using actual psychological research, he breaks his work down into 7 chapters with well thought out and easy to understand explanations. Each chapter builds upon the previous chapter to ensure that you have established the basic ground work for more advanced practices. I appreciate this; instead of jumping anywhere you want in the book, he has basically made the decision for you to move progressively through the chapters. You start simple, and then move on to the advanced stuff. Not only do I feel more aware of my mental state when I climb, I also understand why I behave that way.
As mentioned, the 7 chapters really function as 7 processes which is how he describes them in the book. Without getting into too much detail about them, here’s an overview of each chapter:
More importantly, he doesn’t just tell you what you should do, he actually tells you how to achieve it. For example, in his “Accepting Responsibility” chapter where he talks about resisting the urge to blame external factors when in a stressful or difficult situation, he suggests the exercise of “Describing Objectively“. This exercise requires you to look at a climb and describe it without using subjective terms like good, bad, pumpy, reachy, easy, etc. Ultimately, you and your belayer or climbing partner would have a similar description for the route. You want to see the route clearly, without your ego clouding your performance. For example, describing a section of a route as “pumpy” will give you an excuse to feel pumped because it is the route’s fault for being pumpy, not yours. Your success will ultimately come down to whether or not you can push past this obstacle and take full responsibility over your abilities.
If you are looking for valid information about training or climbing in general, I highly suggest climbing literature. With anything, sometimes ideas clash or become outdated, but regardless can be an important tool in your climbing journey! Most of the time you’ll learn things you didn’t even know you needed to know. Actually, this happens most of the time.
It goes without saying that I would highly recommend this book to anyone struggling with or interested in the mental component of climbing. Whether you’re scared to take lead falls, can’t commit to big moves, or constantly feel down about your climbing performance, this book could be the revelation you need. Seriously, this book is packed with useful information and ideas. It’s also an excellent resource to have on hand when you come across a new mental barrier on your climbing journey.
On an unrelated note, I have some fun projects planned for the next few weeks that I know you’re going to love! I’m going to dabble in vlogging as well so stay tuned for that. If you have any climbing books you’d like to recommend, I’d love to hear about them!
I hope you’re all having a fantastic week!
Climb on xx