With the advent of social media virtually encompassing almost every aspect of our daily lives, it is easy to feel self-doubt. Every time I mindlessly scroll through Instagram, bored at work, for the 47th time that day, I see images of other climbers living out their dreams whether on El Cap or in the Himalayas. These images inspire me, while simultaneously spike my envy at how these people (most of whom I don’t personally know) live out their lives. I wish I could just quit my job and travel across the USA and climb all I wanted… I dream. Or, I’m sick of always climbing indoors at the gym. Alas, my grasp on reality strengthens as I realize that I am just experiencing a case of the “grass is always greener” syndrome. Aka, not realizing that the situation I am in is not necessarily better than those I see depicted on social media. I, like many 9-5ers have it pretty good. I still get to climb 4 days a week at a climbing gym that I love, and have the opportunity to bank most of my PTO to go towards climbing trips. I just need to focus on myself, my goals, and get to it.
That brings me to the most important element of keeping up motivation for climbing- having a goal, especially a specific goal. I’ll preface this with many climbers are content with going to the gym regularly and climbing outside occasionally with virtually no goals for themselves besides “get stronger,” and that is completely fine. However, I find it is easy to get complacent in that approach. It is easy to fall of the bandwagon this way, especially as disruptions to your weekly schedule may arise as they do. Without a specific goal in mind for your climbing, it becomes easier and more justifiable to put other objectives in front it which may inhibit any progress.
It is important, as I mentioned, to be specific with your goal(s) for climbing. Goals can be the biggest motivator for improvement, and training goals in particular are easily measurable. If you are motivated to climb harder outdoors, it helps to pick a specific route and focus at least a portion your weekly climbing time at the gym towards achieving that goal.
One my current climbing goals is a 5.11b at a crag about 2.5 hours away from Richmond, called “Barnacle Bill.” At this point, I’ve completed at least 9 or 10 5.11s outdoors, my best attempts involving 1 fall (so no redpoints at this moment in time). However, I believe Barnacle Bill to be both a realistic and inspiring goal to work towards for the following reasons:
1) It forces me to address a glaring weakness of mine. This route is reachy. As someone of short statute (5’2), big moves have always been intimidating for me. This route involves quite a few big, committing moves, however, all are well-protected and are big moves to good holds with comfortable clipping stances. Thus, I can work this type of moment without any mental fear of falling or finger injuries.
2) After 2 attempts on the route, I can work all of the moves bolt-to-bolt. Most of the time, this is a good indicator that a route could be sent in a relatively short period of time. I know the moves; I just have to connect them together.
3) It’s only 2.5 hours away, meaning it is somewhat easily accessible to project on a day in a given weekend to work on.
4) Its well protected, as I mentioned before. When projecting (and falling a lot), it helps to pick a route that you know you won’t potentially hurt yourself on. Barnacle Bill is also slightly overhung so the falls are not particularly risky.
5) Lastly, think about what about the route inspires you? Personally, I wanted to climb Barnacle Bill as it had an amazing view of the valley and river beneath it. I actually was able to top out and chill on top of the route for a few minutes to take it all in. Besides that, the climbing itself was fluid and fun.
Likewise, my current intentions for climbing in the gym are somewhat geared towards sending this particular route (for example, I’m bouldering at least 1x a week to help me with generating power for the big moves). Throughout this process towards working for a specific climbing achievement, I’m learning a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. That in itself, is incredibly inspiring.
Some other tips for staying inspired in general:
- For female climbers in particular, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Women Who Dare or High Infatuation. These books were hard to put down and got me so excited to climb more. It is especially empowering for me to read books about other female climbers and their plethora of accomplishments. It just gets me so excited 🙂 Other inspiring reads include The Push and Why We Climb.
- Work towards finding out your weaknesses in climbing (this can be done by talking to other climbers and having them watch you climb), and train them every time you go to the gym. One of the most overlooked weaknesses in climbing is mental game on the sharp end, which is a highly critical factor in climbing performance outdoors. My current strategy for tackling this weakness head-on is leading every time I climb ropes at the gym, as well as being strategic with the routes I choose to climb outdoors. For example, I’m choosing to be conservative with my progress with trad climbing as I get more and more comfortable leading outdoors. I can challenge myself more on sport climbs, but also tend to gravitate to overhung routes that are well-bolted with safe fall zones.
- Start developing your own community of supportive climbing partners. Find climbers that are similarly minded as you are with your goals. Climbing gyms are the best place for this, especially the bouldering cave which tends to be pretty social. There have also been a surge of climbing festivals across the US in the past couple years, which are good resources to meet other like-minded climbers as well.
- Lastly, climb outside as much as you can. I have a mantra….always say yes when someone asks you to climb outside. Even just a social day outside can help reinforce why you love climbing and get you psyched to get outdoors more regularly. Also no matter how hard you climb on plastic, climbing outside is also the usually the best way to get better at…climbing outside. And lets be honest, the mountains are the biggest motivators to go get out there.