Mental Resiliency and Power Words for Rock Climbing

Mental Resiliency and Power Words for Rock Climbing

Posted by Maya Matthews on 2021 Apr 2nd

What are power words?

Power words are what you say to yourself and to others while climbing, that motivates, supports and encourages.

What do you say to yourself?

Follow me along with this mini exercise here:

When You’re Stuck

First, I want you to think about what you might say in your head when you get stuck while climbing. Imagine you are halfway up a climb and you are totally confused about where to go next, the move doesn't make sense, it seems impossible and you’re totally stumped!

Many of the climbers who I’ve taught often think something along the lines of “Well...this sucks”, “This is scary!”. “You’re already this far, do you really wanna climb this part again”, "My hands are getting sore", “How on earth do I do this?”.

When You’re Scared

Next, think about some of the things you say to yourself when you’re scared on a climb. The next move looks terrifying, you’re on a highball problem or miles above your clip, and you feel your feet slipping.

This might look like “omg this is terrifying”, “This will be so embarrassing if I fall here”, “Don’t be a wimp, suck it up!”, “How do I get down?”, "I don't wanna keep going!”, "My finger really hurts and my forearms are gonna explode!".

When You Complete a Climb

Finally, think about what goes through your mind after you complete a climb. You’ve just reached the top of the climb you either flashed, or have been working on for a while, what do you think? The common things I hear from others are “That was super sloppy”, “Shit I forgot that clip!”, “I don't think I did that the right way”, “People are looking at me, did I do something wrong?”, "That hold was really sharp, it tore my skin off, I'll never be able to climb again".

Some of these statements may, or may not, sound like you. You may not even have an internal dialogue as you climb, thats totally fine! Often, we are very hard on ourselves as we climb and can be quite critical of our performance. Next time, take note of the words or feelings that you experience during a climb and see if you are already great at supporting yourself, or if you are prone to beating yourself up and being hard on yourself. 

What do you say to your friends?

Photo credit: Jessica Lin at Holy Boulders @heyjaylink

Now, we’re gonna do that similar exercise again, but this time think of what you might say to a friend as they are making their way through their climb.

When They’re Stuck

You’re friend looks stressed out, they’ve stopped halfway up the wall and you can see them looking around for the next move, but they don't know where to do. Maybe you can see them contemplating giving up or getting frustrated. What do you say?

All around the climbing gym you hear words of encouragement, things like “you got this!”, “you’ve got a foothold to the right”, “you can take a break and rest hear if you want, I’ve got you on belay.”

When They’re Scared

Now, you can see your friend is freaked, breathing hard, sweating, and is super stressed out. They look like they wanna bail but you know they can push a little harder. What do you say to them? Friends often give each other further encouragement in these stressful times such as “You’re almost there!”, “Take a deep breath”, “I’ve got you! (on belay, or as a spotter)”.

When They Complete a Climb

Finally, your friend made it through their climb and they come down off the wall! What do you tell them? All around the climbing gym, spectators often erupt into cheers when a friend finishes their climb, lots of fist bumps and “Nice job, that was sick” can be heard. We are so stoked for our friend that they finally completed the climb and we aren't afraid to give them credit and praise for their hard work. 

Diving deeper into power words

You can see how hard we may be on ourselves and how critical we can be about our climbing abilities. But then we would never say these things to our friends! The words you use in your own head can often be harsh and non supportive compared to the positive encouragement you give your friends!

The next step to thinking about how words can be used to better support you, is to think about what words in particular motivate and empower you. 

After doing this exercise with several of the women I teach, we came up with a few words that really help support them as their climb. Words such as Bravery, Strength, Endure, Perseverance, Resilience and “Just keep swimming” (Finding Nemo for the win!) were the words that help support them through life and especially during their climbing. 

What words in particular motivate and empower you? Do any of the ones I’ve mentioned jive with you, or is there a word or phrase that you can think of that really gets you stoked to keep going?

Once you’ve found you word/phrase, try to use it as often as you can in your self talk while climbing. When you get stuck, when you’re scared, when you fall, when you slip, and even when you absolutely crush it! Use this word to help boost yourself up and work towards being your own biggest cheerleader! You’ve got this!