This summer I spent almost every weekend climbing out at the New and was training in the gym 1-2 times a week, so it was clear that my focus this summer was physical.  However, now that things have slowed down and I’m climbing much less, my focus has shifted.  With all this downtime I’ve had a lot of time to think. And think. And think and think some more.  Which is not a bad thing… mental training is definitely as important, if not more important, as physical training.  Now 10 weeks into the semester which equals 10 weeks of straight thinking about climbing, I’ve made some realizations about my mental weaknesses.  The first was my competitive mindset that seemed to be hurting my climbing more than helping it (which I wrote about a couple days ago: And now… my mentality around being short.

I’m short.  There’s no way around that fact and it’s not going to change. I’m 5’0″ with the only consolation being that I have a +2 ape index. The growth ship sailed long ago, sayonara, adios, this is my body.  And obviously, my stature has a huge impact on the physicality of my climbing: it impacts my strengths (tension-y overhung crimp moves) and my weaknesses (big, powerful moves, making moves when I’m fully extended).  But it additionally shapes the way I think about climbs.  Sure, there are positives to it: I get creative on climbs, figure out weird beta, crimp my face off on nonexistent intermediates.  But generally, being short causes me to think pretty negatively about my climbing.  And I’ve slowly been realizing that this negative mindset is holding me back more than I think.

Being short, it’s easy to blame the inability to do a move on… well, being short.  But 9 times out of 10, that’s total bullshit.  Chances are I can do the move, but I’ve made up my mind that I can’t because of my height and I stop truly trying.

Example: The Vagina at Rocktown

photo (10)
photo by Leanna Lockhart

This move. Get set up on a left hand crimp then throw your body to a right hand crimp.  This move requires power and precision.  And maybe a couple of giant tick marks to guide you to your target.  The first time I got on this climb, I couldn’t even get the height to reach the crimp.  I shut down, told myself it was too big, and stopped trying.  But being in Chatt during winter break, my return to this climb was inevitable.  The next session on it, I stuck the move in isolation.  The next session, I stuck the move in isolation consistently.  And the next, I sent.  No change in beta, no tricks.  I wasn’t too short, I just had to get big.

And then sometimes I’m convinced that taller beta won’t work for me.

Example: 1, 2 Punch at the New River Gorge

photo by Olivia Cecil

On this move- reaching up to the pinch where my left hand is- I had convinced myself that I couldn’t use a lower foot to go for the hold because I thought I would be too short.  I kept putting my left foot up higher making the move way more difficult.  But I told myself I had to use that higher foot because of my height. Which was a hilariously misguided thought as you can see from the picture: I was able to comfortably reach the hold from the lower foot.  This happens all the time.  Which has taught me… I should at least try the “taller” beta to make sure I actually can’t use it and then go figure out personal beta.  Otherwise, I could be wasting a lot of energy when it could have been avoided.

So yeah, I’m short.  But there are plenty of strong, short climbers (ahem, Ashima…).  It’s an attitude adjustment that’s needed before I can really start trying harder climbs.  There are going to be big moves that I can’t do, but more often, there are going to be big moves that I can do if I tell myself I can.

And hey, believe or not, sometimes I can jump. (got so BIG!)


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