Tuesday, 24 March 2015

A Note on Nervousness

What I've learnt about Controlling Nervousness during Competitions 

No matter how many climbing competitions I go in (whether it be a World Cup, Nationals, States or even just a local social comp) I have to admit that I get nervous at every single one. It’s not a bad thing… in fact, I believe nerves are an incredibly important part of our competition preparation and mindset. As we all know however, if misunderstood and left untrained, nervousness can be detrimental to our performance.
I’ve read a few books, studied a little about it at university and even chatted to a sports psychologist about the best way to deal with nerves and performance anxiety. It’s all well and good to recognize what causes it and why it’s good or bad, but the only way to properly learn how to deal with your own personal stress and nervousness is from experience. Learning to understand how your body reacts to stress/pressure, when do you perform at your best, and what was difference in your mental state that made you perform so well?

Open A Females just before finals at Tasmania Lead State Titles 2015. Cameron Johns Photography

Why am I Nervous?
I believe it all comes down to pressure. We all have our own reasons for being nervous, thus putting pressure on ourselves to do well. For me, it is a very personal battle. I have a habit of putting enormous amounts of pressure and expectations on myself despite the level of competition. It means I always try my hardest, but it also means that if I don’t remember to control my nerves, I can easily fall victim to performance anxiety.

The Fine Line
As I said before, I think it is important to be a little nervous and put this pressure on ourselves. It keeps us in check, it pushes and motivates us to try harder, but if not handled correctly it can easily shake us off the wall. It is a very fine line between being under-excited and over-excited for the competition. It’s that tricky middle ground we’re looking for if we want to achieve optimal performance. How we achieve this optimal state is different for everyone, and something personal I learn more about with each competition I go in.

But When Am I Ready?
Part of why it’s so difficult to find this optimal middle ground is because there’s obviously no personal gauge telling you when you’ve reached it. How do I know when I’m in the best mental state to climb the wall? Do I need to relax more… or am I not excited enough? I ask myself these questions at every competition. The best way to know is to think back to your mindset throughout past experiences. When have you performed really well in a high-pressure environment and things just seemed to come naturally?
Despite the amount of pressure and expectations I put on myself… from what I’ve learnt so far, I perform best when I try to let this pressure go for a moment. By the time I’m at the comp and ready to climb, the pressure and amount of psych I need to push myself for the climb will always be there, whether I think about it or not. My best and most natural performances have come from when I focus on relaxing a little, having fun, thinking back to all the training I’ve done and just letting all that hard training and preparation show something for itself.

The Zone
The circumstances are different at every competition and rarely do they run just as we’ve planned or visioned. Sometimes you’ll be waiting all day to finally climb and by that stage you’re motivation is incredibly low. Sometimes it’ll be colder than you’re used to and it’s difficult to warm up. Maybe your competitors won’t stop mentioning that sausage you ate for lunch and how much it’ll weigh you down. Maybe you’re flight was delayed and your hotel was terrible and you had an awful night’s sleep, or you came down with a cold that morning and you feel on the edge of death! 
Whatever the unexpected circumstance, if you want to perform optimally it is important to stop for a second and find your zone, rather than letting it throw out your mental game. Don’t let the unexpected circumstance make you fall off the wall before you’ve even begun climbing! Instead, see them as challenges which give you more motivation to reach the top. This type of thinking, for whatever reason has been one of the most effective ways at getting me in the best zone to climb. I want to be able to perform my best, even when I’m at my worst… What greater challenge is there?

Preparing for my final's route at Tasmania Lead State Titles 2015. Cameron Johns Photography

Friday, 20 March 2015

TAS Lead State Titles 2015

First comp of the year! I was so excited to fly down to Tassie for the weekend. It had been so long since I had competed at Rockit Climbing Centre in Hobart and I was also really excited to get a taste of some outdoor Tassie climbing after the comp as well. Unfortunately not many interstate climbers could make it down for the weekend, but I was excited to see a few of my old buddies there and I also got to meet a bunch of new people too.
Cameron Johns Photography. Preparing for the climb
Saturday (comp day) was a very long day. I arrived very early to help set up, watch the youth categories compete, hang out with a few old friends, and meet some of the other local Tassie climbers. All the routes on the comp walls looked really cool and very technical, I couldn’t wait to try them out. I also couldn’t help wishing I was still young enough to compete in the youth categories as well… that way I would get to climb some of their cool routes! Open A registration wasn’t until around 2pm so I was well and truly itching to climb by the time it got around to us.

During the first qualifier climb however, I felt quite shaky. I rushed it and managed to get flash pumped in the roof and fell off a few moves before the top. I could possibly blame it on not being warm enough… but I think I was feeling a little jittery and not quite in the right mental state. I was more focused on wanting to top the climb and have it over and done with as opposed to focusing on what I needed to do to get there. I guess it’s a very easy thing to do on your first comp climb of the year, but something I should probably have prepared myself a little more for mentally. 
Open A females Qualifier 1 climb
The second qualifier climb looked like so much fun and I felt like I could top it before I’d even got on the wall. An orange streak of crimpy, slopey and funky holds snaked its way up the super long, steep wall with very technical, sequencey sections… I couldn’t wait. As I climbed this route, I felt far more relaxed, natural and confident on the wall and I managed to top it! The climb was really enjoyable and put me in a good mindset leading up to finals that night.

Qualifyer 2 mid climb. Cameron Johns Photography

Happy thumbs up after topping my second qualifier climb. Cameron Johns Photography
When finals came around, I was out third. I was disappointed to not have done so well in the first qualifier, but incredibly happy to not have to wait as long in isolation because of it. The Open A females finals climb was such a cool route, but very tricky to visualise. It was like a whole lot of technical boulder problems linked in to one long, green, pumpy confusing climb. Going over the route during our visualisation time, I had a lot of; “well…I’ll have to figure it out when I get there” moments, but it all seemed fairly straight forward once we finally got to climb it.

Heading into the steep wall on the Open A Finals Route. Cameron Johns Photography
Before the first draw, there was a very balancy section with two tiny crimp underclings on the vertical wall which I think everyone felt very close to falling off on. The climb then traversed into the left steep wall which had three large slopey pinches, a sketchy heel hook and a big strengthy lock off move (just to make sure you were getting pumped).The route then went straight up into a terrible slopey ball in the roof which you had to press up into before heading out through the overhang and finishing just over the lip.
The awkward reach back through the roof of the Open A Finals Route. Cameron Johns Photography

Just before the roof, I remember being super pumped and slightly confused by a terrible distractor hold out to my left which I thankfully decided to ignore. I was so tired but managed to get my feet up high and used every muscle I had to press up into it. Surprised, I had actually managed it and was wedged up in the corner between the hold and the wall, awkwardly trying to look behind me for my next hold and how to get to it. I was so exhausted at this stage, that I thought I had no hope in actually doing the next move… so my best bet was to at least try and grip the next hold. I reached back awkwardly to find an in-cut jug, but if I didn’t control my swing I would be flung off the wall. With every ounce of strength I grabbed the hold and tried to control my swing, almost forgetting about the rest of the climb ahead. To my surprise I actually held and matched it and was hanging with my feet dangling in the air, desperate for another footer when I remembered one on the wall behind me. I quickly swung my foot over just in time to keep me on the wall. I was only two holds away from clipping the anchor and was pleading my arms to last a little longer. Thankfully the last hold was fairly positive and I was finally able to clip the last draw. I had topped! What a battle!
Finally secured that footer on the Open A Finals Route. Cameron Johns Photography

Topping out with the final hold on the Open A Finals Route. on the Open A Finals Route. Cameron Johns Photography
It was really cool watching the other Open Finalists that night. The girls were climbing really strong but didn’t manage to make it past the mean green ball in the overhang. The Open A Male route was super funky and balancy and made a great show for the spectators. After presentations we all went home for some much deserved rest.

I spent the next two days climbing outdoors with Roxy Perry and a few of her climbing friends from the Rockit gym. Sunday, we spent the afternoon climbing at a really awesome little hidden treasure called Sandfly, which had some beautiful and really fun routes.
Me at Sandfly crag, Tasmania
Monday night I had to fly back home to Brisbane… but we spent part of the morning climbing at the beautiful Mt Wellington Organ Pipes which was absolutely amazing! I flashed my first climb there which was called “After Midnight”; a mega-classic, 50m, one pitch, stunning 24. We had perfect weather and the absolutely amazing views and exposure made it a really awesome way to round up my little Tassie trip.
Me abseiling back down "After Midnight" at the Organ Pipes, Tasmania
I would like to send a huge thank you to Flight Centre Active Travel, Pinnacle Sports and ICP. I am so grateful for their ongoing support this year and I am so excited to have this opportunity to share my adventures, journey and dreams with them beside me. You guys are amazing :-)