Here is One Weird Tip Discovered By a Teacher to Send More Rigs!
Quick question. How often do you repeat boulder problems? If you are anything like me, your answer hovers somewhere around never. Why waste precious energy on repeats when there are so many fresh projects waiting to get plucked? It isn’t like repeating that problem is going to allow you to upgrade to a hotter girlfriend like sending that shiny new red with orange tape crimpfest on the 45 will. However, just because repeats won’t help you score chicks, doesn’t mean the won’t help your climbing, and I am going to make the argument that become a repeat master might just be on the most underutilized training tools in all of climbing.
Why don’t climbers repeat problems more often? I might be projecting my own insecurities as an egotist here, but I am going to go ahead and call it like I see it. Climbers don’t repeat problems because they scared. Well, scared might not be the right word, frozen with terror seems more appropriate. By revisiting an accomplished project, climbers are stripping away all of the security that comes with a send. At least that is how I feel. The second I step up to the plate, I open myself up to the possibility that the send was just a fluke. The safest and most comfortable course of action is to leave the box ticked and move onto something else, but every time you give in to fear, your comfort zone shrinks. I am encouraging you to step out of your comfort zone and attack the specter of fear head on.
Opening yourself up to failure may be difficult at first, but you have two factors working strongly in your favor. The first is that no one but you cares whether or not you succeed or fail. If you try and fail, it isn’t like all of your friends or going to retroactively take away any respect they had granted you for the previous send. Chances are, there was not any given to begin with. The second is that repeating problems is easier than you think. You know that problem you sent last weak where every move was an act of will and desperation? I bet if you got on it today, you would float it. Truly knowing you can send is more valuable than any amount of technique or strength. Trust me, the risk to your ego is smaller than you think.
If your life circumstances force you to spend more time than you like indoors this scenario should seem familiar to you. The gym is reset with new problems and everything is wonderful. You quickly tick off a slew of problems and begin pushing up your grade. This continues for a couple of weeks, but then you hit the slump. Where did all of the problems go? You sent everything within your ability level, and everything else seems way outside your range. Now, you do the only thing you can. You put all of your effort into sending the one problem that seems a bit easier than the rest. After a week or two, you send and repeat the process. Progress right? Maybe.
The issue with this approach is you are not necessarily getting better at climbing. Rather, you are adapting your body to do that one problem. While this may result in an infinitesimal bump in your overall climbing ability, it is nothing like the gains you saw a few weeks ago when you had a huge variety of fresh problems at your disposal. The good news is that all of those problems are still there and have a ton left to teach you. The odds of you having climbed all of them with sufficient finesse are painfully low. If you divide your time between focusing on complete perfection on completed climbs and projecting that next level, your repertoire of climbing movement will explode. This is especially crucial if you are a route climber, where success or failure almost always hinges on the ability to execute every move perfectly. It should be noted that this advice applies equally to climbers with convenient access to outdoor climbing, but outdoor climbers tend to have a greater variety of available routes and tend not to have this issue to the same extent.
The greatest opportunity presented to the avid repeater is the chance to truly fine tune and stress proof climbing movement. I know when I am going for a route at my limit, I don’t have a whole ton of spare concentration lying around. This is why almost all training gurus recommend working on technique on easy climbs. However, if you take this advice to heart, at some point you will not have much, if anything, left to learn from the easy stuff. If it wasn’t simple, it wouldn’t be easy! While climbers tend to repeat easy climbs as warmups, they seldom repeat moderate problems and almost never repeat hard ones. This is a shame because that attention you couldn’t spare on your initial send is often easy to come by on subsequent attempts. Each time you repeat a problem, you have bit more spare attention, which means repeating hard problems and repeating them often is one of the greatest technique drills never invented. All you have to do is pay attention and last week’s desperate could become part of next week’s warmup.
What is the best way to integrate repeats into your climbing? The obvious answer is to include them in your warmup. Most climbers, myself included, tend to skimp on the warmup. Including progressively harder repeats into the warmup may be just the structure needed to turn warming up from a dreaded chore to an exciting opportunity for improvement. Another way, which I am really psyched on, is to have the occasional “V Points” day where you try and accumulate a set number of V points. To start off, take your consistent onsight grade and multiply by 20. Therefore, if you onsight V5, you will be shooting for 100 V points. Make sure to do problems multiple times and focus on executing each problem perfectly By the end, you will feel absolutely wrecked, but you will have hopefully learned more about movement than you normally do in a month. Opening yourself up to failure on completed climbs may bruise the ego a bit at first, but if you start to look at climbs as opportunities for learning rather than trophies to be locked in a shelf, I know you will see big improvements and send some great rigs.