Getting Over My Confidence Funk: Bouldering Again!

Last week I hit a wall or something. My knee is not happy with the cold – I feel like such an old lady. I haven’t run and I have totally plateaued with T25 – sorry Shaun T. I didn’t climb last week and I wasn’t going to climb this week. My confidence tank was totally empty.

This week, I decided to do something about it. So I picked off little things. My knee is bad, so I’ve been doing lower focus (it’s crazy that this doesn’t hurt my knee) to build more strength.

I had an email from my climbing buddy that I couldn’t refuse.

The routes had been reset so I was extra nervous. I started slow – slower than normal. Not because I was scared and not because it was all new. Because I decided to be sensible. I’ve been doing a lot of Pinterest-based research on foot placement, good grips and general technique. I wanted to see if I could convert some of that knowledge in to real life.

I’ve also set up a make-shift pull up bar. It’s official – I can’t do pull ups. But I can do active hangs and crunches, so that’s pretty great. I can also do some traversing, also great, both for climbing and Tough Mudder.

Oh! And I am trying the Russian ladder method* for push ups. The basic principal is multiple reps but not to exhaustion. I’m not being very strict, I’m basically doing sets of push ups throughout the day when I remember. You know what, it’s working. Every day I can do one more push up. Don’t underestimate that – we are talking full on, no modifications. That’s a massive improvement in a short time. Pretty awesome.

*The method was developed by Pavel Tsatsouline I think…

So I completed all of the black routes on the vertical wall, which really calmed me down. But then things became more difficult. For some reason, I was having a mental block for how to get to the top. I could see all of the available holds, but I just could not figure out how to use them to get up there.

Then something happened – my friend struggled with a blue route (generally trickier than black and relies on good footwork). I watched but my sieve-brain didn’t see what he did. He clambered down confused at how difficult he’d found it. I was up. I blindly started, thinking if he’d struggled I wouldn’t make it.

I totally flashed it.

It sounds like I know what I’m talking about – I don’t. To flash a route is to get it right first time, with no mistakes. Apparently.

I felt surprised and a bit confused, but great. It didn’t really sink in until afterwards. This was actual progress!

We did some more black routes and there were a couple I couldn’t do – I struggle with overhangs.


We were stood there talking about his friend’s unrequited love of 20+ years, and a couple walked in with a baby. Yes, a baby. Cannot have been more than three months old. I wish I’d taken a photo of the water bottle table. There was one space which had two water bottles and a baby’s bottle on it. Then there was mine, my friend’s and a few others.

So while the baby was awake, the couple took turns climbing. Then, the baby had a nap. On the beanbag. Next to wherever they were climbing.

I panicked a bit, because the next thing I saw was the tattoed guy, the owner of the husky. As luck would have it, the husky was a no show.

What is this place?? My mum was horrified by this story, but I think it’s sort of great. It’s just people living their lives, not caring about what anyone else might think. Nobody is getting hurt and people are doing something that makes them happy. Fab.

Back to climbing:

Another amazing thing happened, I tried a pink route. Pink holds are bigger, some more like normal rock shapes and some are a bit strange. I actually ended up trying three in total. One I managed to fall from 3 feet at least six times! Another I surprised myself again, getting half way through something which looked really tricky.

I didn’t even realise that the failure wasn’t bothering me. It wasn’t failure anymore, it was a challenge. I was loving it again and I wasn’t scared or worrying about not being able to do it.

We finished on the third pink route. I nailed it. It took about ten minutes to figure out, but when I did it?! I could not stop grinning.

I took that awesomeness to the slackline and I don’t know how, but my core just felt totally in control. Sure, I still came off, but I was staying on there for longer than ever – I was so much more in control.

I have bruises and bits missing from my hands and it feels great. My hands and arms don’t hurt as much as they normally do the next day. I don’t know if this is just me getting used to the exercise or if my technique is improving. Possibly, hopefully a little of both.

So, things I’ve learned which have helped me:

  • Climb down, don’t jump. This isn’t just about control for me, it’s about taking things slowly and paying attention. I also think, by just jumping to move on to the next route, I’ve been missing extra practice. Climbing down is still climbing, right?? Silly me. It also switches the primary focus from my hands to my feet – which is something I need to do more of
  • Using my feet more and generally being more aware of them. I’d naively assumed climbing was mostly about upper body strength. Sure, it helps, it’s a definite advantage. But I have read so many things about how your feet should be the foundation. And this seems to be true!
  • Stop letting the voice in your head tell you that you can’t do it. If it’s saying that, just get up there and try. Once your body has done something, you know you can do it again. If you fail, you have a better idea of what to do next time. You can’t get everything right all of the time, every time.

I feel inspired again and I can’t wait to go next time. I feel almost super human today. I can do things now that I had no idea I’d be doing six weeks ago.


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