This article originally appeared on Climbing
To learn even more from successful climbers such as Paige Claassen, check out our online How To Climb LEARN courses.
In 2014, I was working Just Do It, the famous 5.14c at Smith Rock, Oregon. Every day I tried the route I made a new high point, and then I sent. After 14 years of climbing, I'd made a conscious choice with Just Do It to hop off the roller coaster of "good" and "bad" days--to no longer give in to frustration when projecting--and I saw real results. Here's how I flipped the switch:
I show up prepared. Before investing physically in my training, I spend time analyzing and then addressing skill deficiencies: How do I foresee myself failing? This gives me a much higher chance of progressing, enjoying myself, and succeeding. Take Shadowboxing (5.14d) at Rifle, a route that features primarily underclings. I knew my biceps were likely to hold me back, so I added bicep curls to my weekly routine in the months before my attempts. Guess what? I was able to pull through the crux undercling moves and take advantage of the only rests--underclings--without pushing my previously lacking biceps to failure.
I set myself up for success in ways I can control. The day prior to a project attempt, I stay hydrated and fuel my body. Protein is a big macronutrient for me, but in general I make sure I'm not depriving my body of calories and energy. Perhaps most importantly, I plan my rest days precisely, and will absolutely forgo an additional day of training to show up at the project recovered.
I clear my head of factors I can't control. Excuses embed strongly in our psyche. The biggest one for us climbers is the weather. If I've made the choice to climb that day, then I don't allow myself to focus on conditions. This lesson hit hard on September 3, 2017, during a trip to Flatanger, Norway, when friends and I bailed on climbing because it was "too warm and humid." That day, Adam Ondra sent Silence (5.15d). Another factor that's difficult to control is sleep. When I sent Necessary Evil (5.14c) in 2018, I was going through an unusual period of insomnia, sleeping one to two hours a night. Since then, whenever I sleep poorly, I remind myself that I've performed without sleep in the past and can do it again. At the crag, I can usually boost my energy by snacking on an apple or sugary treat before climbing, listening to high-energy music, and not allowing myself to sit or lounge before attempts. And, no matter how sluggish I feel on the ground, I often feel like I'm in a completely different body up on the rock--sometimes you just need to get climbing.
I try really hard. This one seems simple, yet if you've ever told yourself to "just try harder," you know it takes practice--it's a skill honed over months and years, not just sessions. The first step is clearing my mind of doubts through affirmations and reminders of previous small wins. For example, I'll repeat in my head, "My biceps are stronger than ever, and I feel explosive through that hard undercling move." Then, once climbing, I'll focus on lunging for moves, even if it means slapping a hold sloppily instead of going statically and trying to control it. This helps train muscle recruitment and a "go for it" mentality, which could ultimately see me through a tough sequence.
I redefine progress. Of course, I want to set a new high point every day, but that's not realistic. Instead I focus on learning something new, even if it's as small as a new foothold. My goal is to show up tomorrow with advantages I didn't have today--in fact, I have a mantra: "I'm not the same climber I was yesterday; I'm better."
Paige Claassen has spent 22 years testing herself on difficult sport climbs, ticking off lines like Dreamcatcher (5.14d) in Squamish and Shadowboxing (5.14d) in Rifle.
For exclusive access to all of our fitness, gear, adventure, and travel stories, plus discounts on trips, events, and gear, sign up for Outside+ today.