By: Jens Larssen  | Date: 2009-03-11  | Category: Training    | (1) Comment  
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Different mental approaches apply for different sports and climbing disciplines

Mental approaches can be measured on a scale from 1 = I am only here to have fun! to 5 = I will win superiorly! Anxiety derives from thoughts about failure like, 3 = I must do a personal best! Once the competition begins and the more you use your muscles/get tired, the faster the anxiety is reduced. However, in a bouldering competition, you are climbing 5% and resting/thinking 95% which instead increases the anxiety. You are constantly receiving negative feedback from failures and positive feedback is limited as a top-out might be easy. Sports and the climbing disciplines can be analysed from 2 + 4 factors reducing or increasing anxiety during competitions.

Physical effort -  hinders thinking and anxiety
How much maximal power and How tired are you during the competition?

A 100 metre runner gives 100 % all the time and the marathon runner feels tired within minutes. In a boulder competition, 95 % are spent on thinking and 5 % are tiring. For a golfer it is the same but without getting tired.

Mental recovery  - to boost up your self-confidence
How long time resting in between competitions and attempts?

A 100 meter runner has often 24 h in between attempts. In a boulder competition, you have seconds or maximally two minutes to recover after a bad attempt. In golf or high jump, you mostly have 5-10 minutes recovering.


Negative feedback – for each bad attempt or split time etc
How fast, How often and How strong do you get negative or positive feedback for your result?

A marathon runner does not know so much the first hour. A high jumper does know that 230 cm is very good. In a bouldering or a golf competition, you might know within seconds if you did a big mistake and the risk for negative feedback is always there. But a boulderer never knows of a top-out was very good.
 
Sensations and Risk

How much is Coincident/Luck and How big risk for complete failure?

In a bouldering competition, coincidences are part of the game. You might get both hands on the top but loosing it while swinging out. In marathon, very small risk for complete failure and coincidences, the fittest wins.

 

Competition Arena – Competitors vs. Spectators
How many are competing at the same time and How close are audience?

In competition climbing you are sometimes alone to take the pressure from the audience. In 100 meters, 8 finalists share the burden. 

Increase and reduced levels of anxiety for different sports and climbing disciplines

1 - 5

100 m

Marathon

Golf

Football

Comp Boulder

Comp Lead

Boulder Redpoint

Lead Redpoint

Lead OS

Feedback 

-5

-2

-4

-2

-4

-3

-1

-2

-3

Bad Luck

-2

-1

-4

-2

-4

-3

-3

-2

-4

Arena

-3

-1

-2

-2

-4

-5

-1

-1

-1

Pain/Fear

0

-5

0

-2

-1

-3

-2

-3

-4

Physics+

4

3

0

3

1

2

3

3

3

Recovery+

2

0

3

3

1

2

5

4

3

TOTAL ANXIETY

-4

-6

-7

-2

-11

-10

1

-1

-6


Based on this quick and dirty analysis, the conclusion is that boulder competitions are the most anxiety loaded event during competition. The interesting thing is that often, the boulder final results differ from the qualification. The best example is the World Championship in 2007, where Daniel Dulac, who was totally superior from the semifinal could not handle the pressure as he was looking and listening at the spectators who was screaming for each top-out. Once he started to fail on each attempt, anxiety was produced and he ended dead last. Anna Stöhr on the other was last in the semifinal but won after flashed everything in the final.

Different Mental Approaches on a scale from 1 - 5
5 = I will flash all boulders, I will win the competition and make a new record
4 = I will top-out all six boulders, I will beat the other competitors
3 = I will do my very best and I hope to make a new personal record
2 = I will challenge myself and take the opportunity to train
1 = I am not competing and I am here to have fun, period :)

The risk is that if you starts with a #5 approach you will most probably end up with bad feedback and there is no time for recovery.

 

It just might be that Daniel started out with a = 5 approach and Anna with a = 1 approach. This is of course exaggerated but it is done to start a debate and also to make you think if you should move up or down on the Mental Approach scale 1 - 5 in order to perform better.

 

It is interesting to speculate which mental approach are the best for each competition, discipline, attempt and individual. However, as we all know that the best Mental Approach for some is also the most negative one -5 = "It is to warm, to cold, bad conditions, I need a rest day, I have taken to many rest days, I am injured... but OK, I will try the moves!"

 

Personally, I have done my best onsights while I had a #1 or #2 approach. I was feeling completely relaxed and it was not until I started to fight towards the anchor i buttoned the #5 approach.

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