Are You Really Trying Hard?

Last week, I had a brief discussion with Team ET Head Coach Ellis Whitson about kids and trying hard. I’m paraphrasing, but it went something like this:

“If you don’t teach kids to try hard when they’re young, then it’s very difficult to have them change that mindset. Most kids don’t get ‘trying hard’. When you tell them ‘try harder!’ after they fall, their response is usually ‘but I tried as hard as I could!’ That’s generally not the case.”

That resonated with me, mostly because I’ve been thinking about the concept of “trying hard” a lot over the past few months. And it got me thinking, how many adults don’t grasp the concept of “trying hard”?

I’ll admit, I am very often guilty of just not trying. Not crimping hard enough, not pinching hard enough, not committing to a move, not putting forth a complete effort. I’ve noticed this especially on problems that I perceive to be at or above my limit.

An example: last week, my training partner Mark and I were working on a problem we had made up. It involved tensiony moves on slopey crimps (actually footholds) into a big move to a sloper and several powerful crimp moves to finish.

Mark got the problem in a few goes, and his beta worked beautifully for him. I stand about 5 inches shorter than Mark, so despite my best efforts, his beta just wasn’t working.

The crux move for me was falling into one of the slopey crimps with your left hand while gastoned on the other with your right. I fell repeatedly on this move, and no beta felt like it would go. At one point, I tried getting a high foot and using body tension to control the cross, but I face-planted.

One of my other friends, Evolv coach Taylor Reed, suggested shortly after watching me fall with different beta to use the high foot (he hadn’t seen my earlier attempt). I told him I had tried earlier, but it didn’t go. Knowing how good Taylor is with movement, however, I decided to try the beta one more time.

This time, I committed myself to really toeing in, keeping my body really tight, and locking my right arm into the gaston. Low and behold, I easily stuck the cross with my left hand and would go on to send the problem on my next go.

I came off the wall and felt two things: one, happy that I sent; and two, like a complete idiot because I would have saved so much time and effort had I actually tried the first time.

I’ve noticed it on other problems too. On one problem, I fell 6 or 7 times at the same move towards the top. When I finally sent it, I told myself on the ground, “you’re going to actually try to keep your feet on.” Guess what, it worked, and it felt easy.

A lot of this, in my opinion, really has to do with your mental attitude and how you approach a climb. Trying hard and believing go hand-in-hand. But that’s a topic for another article.

How many times are you in the gym and you watch somebody just freeze on a problem or route and spend several seconds looking around before just letting go? What if they had tried to make the move? Isn’t failing while falling better than giving up?

I think it is, and oftentimes, you’re going to surprise yourself. Even if you fall a few moves later, you can at least know you fell giving 100% of your effort. That’s how I want to fail. I want to fail falling, not just letting go.

Part of my focus in 2013 is putting forth a complete and total effort, every time I’m attempting a climb. I like to think I give me all whenever I climb, but I know I often don’t. This change in approach is something I’ve been working at for a while, and it’s required a change in mindset – something I’ll write about soon.

Additionally, check out this awesome post on trying hard by Erica Lineberry. Good stuff!

To all of you out there: do you really give 100% every time? How hard are you really trying? Leave a comment and let me know – I’d love to hear from you.


4 responses to “Are You Really Trying Hard?

  1. You shouldn’t say the words never and can’t within the walls of the climbing gym. I know exactly what you’re talking about: you can tell the difference between someone who’s falling trying and someone who talked themselves off the wall in their head.

    My only caveat is that sometimes trying again and again can be a recipe for injury. I usually put an upper limit on tries per session–usually 3, but I’ve been going quite a bit higher of late. When I know I only have so many goes ‘allowed’ it’s extra motivation to climb hard!

  2. Great post! Interesting point regarding the development of “trying hard” in the team kids or new climbers. Some of them really do get the concept, but others seem to think it means “throw myself harder and harder into the same motion.” Add in the fact that their bodies are often growing faster than they can mentally keep up with, and it’s no wonder some of them have such a hard time learning to move efficiently.

    Looking forward to hearing your expanded thoughts on trying vs. belief. For me, belief is the biggest challenge when working on problems with a deadpoint crux. I can think of at least three problems this year where I’ve fallen repeatedly on a dynamic move, despite the fact that I make contact with the hold every time. When I stepped back to analyze exactly what was happening at the time of the fall, I realized for all of these problems that I was either taking my weighted foot off the hold or lowering my free foot to the ground, either way because I wasn’t actually expecting to stick the move.

    Thanks for the snow day reading!

  3. Hit a comp this past Saturday with a mantra of “won’t quit”. I often punt during gym sessions because, why not? But, in preparation for the comp, I changed my attitude. Ended up flashing six of six in general climbing time and fell on the finals route truly going for it. Felt great!

  4. Pingback: #PositiveMentalAttitude | To Defy Gravity·

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