Friday, 20 December 2013

A crisis of motivation

We are entering prime grit season, so why do I find my motivation waning? Last year, I had more psyche for grit bouldering than I knew what to do with, getting out in all weather to find shaded, dry grit stone to climb on. Hot, cold, windy, wet, it didn't matter, I just wanted to climb anything and everything. Temperatures at 25C - that's OK, I'll go climb a 6B+ that feels like 7B+ because its right in the blazing sunshine. Two degrees and blowing a gail - that's OK, I'll go and try my 7C project. Come rain or shine, I was out there with bells on, climbing until my skin was thin and arms like lead.

This year, however, I haven't had the same drive. I've focused on getting fitter and stronger and I've waited for prime grit conditions to arrive before venturing out. Sliding off warm and greasy grit did not appeal. Eventually, I took a week off work to just climb in the Peak District. And I did get out every day, to lots of local venues. Success was elusive, however, and I didn't have the drive to try particularly hard, calling it a day without too many efforts on various boulders. I climbed a few new things, of course, but nothing that really stood out for me. By the end of the week, I barely had the motivation to pull onto the rock for more than half a dozen tries in a session. This wasn't like me... what was happening?

I am lighter, stronger and fitter than I've ever been before, but without the motivation that all counts for nothing. After that week, I knew something had to change. I took a few days off climbing, choosing instead to go running and, admittedly, like a dope fiend, occasionally dangling from the fingerboard - I couldn't go completely cold turkey. Eventually, I got the urge to go climbing again, but I didn't want to boulder. I didn't want to push my limits, I wanted to do something fun. I wanted to do something different. So I ventured to the new Awesome Walls that has opened in Sheffield for a bit of an exploratory leading session.

I hadn't been lead climbing in months and I've only ever done it sporadically in my climbing career, but I thought it would be a good way to reset the climbing psyche and get interested again. Like never before, I fell in love with lead climbing. I've taken several huge steps backwards, in terms of the level of difficulty I'm climbing, and it almost feels like being a beginner again, but I love it. I've never particularly got on with leading and climbing on a rope - admittedly, that largely came down to the fear of falling. I still get worried, of course, but I'm learning to control it. I'm learning to try hard several moves above the last bolt. I'm learning how it feels to climb more than 3 moves in a row and stay on the wall for several minutes at a time. I'm getting better quickly, the inevitable steep learning curve before it starts to level when you're pushing your physical limits. I haven't got there yet - still pushing my mental limits more than the physical, but I feel like I'm moving forward.

And instead of replacing bouldering entirely, lead climbing has rekindled my interest again. I'm psyched for training at the moment, more than getting on grit stone. But for the first time ever, I am looking forward to getting stuck into sport climbing this year. I feel like I'm setting myself up for a fall with a statement like that, because in two or three months' time I might find myself once again wanting to sit under a boulder problem and do the hardest moves I can, rather than lots of moves. But right now I feel like I've opened a new chapter on my climbing career and I can't wait to see how it goes.

Leigh-Anne and I have bought a three month pass for Awesome Walls and I've been going two or three times a week for the past three weeks, with a single bouldering session at the Climbing Works usually thrown in for good measure as well. However, I'm normally found on the circuits board near the entrance, working on my power endurance, my forearms burning and ready to burst from lactic acid build up, thinking about the next time I get to tie in. 

There will be climbers reading this who change their discipline several times a year, to keep their motivation up, going trad climbing in the autumn, bouldering in the winter, sport climbing in the spring and training through the summer. I've never needed or wanted to do that - always happy as Larry to throw a bouldering pad on my back and trundle out to some well-traveled rock at Curbar or Burbage. I'm absolutely sure I'll get back to that - we're currently in the process of organising the annual Fontainebleau trip and I'm super psyched for that - but I'm enjoying the new challenge of lead climbing and I hope it continues and takes me onto the myriad of limestone sport climbing that Yorkshire and Derbyshire has to offer.

Please let me know if you've ever had a crisis of motivation and what you did to overcome it.