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Mentally drained from "pushing it" too often?
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_fiend_


Apr 25, 2006, 6:43 AM
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Mentally drained from "pushing it" too often?
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Food for thought. More sashimi than maccy ds, I hope.

A couple of years ago I was "climbing well", i.e. with confidence, with few doubts, pushing myself and tackling challenges, with little inhibition from my concious mind. This came from various tactics and approaches, not really RWW ones though. I think as a mental state during climbing goes it was fairly similar to what can be gained by RWW.

I had a great time, and tackled quite a few routes that were physically and mentally challenging for me.

However at certain periods during that time, I ended up feeling mentally drained from constantly being challenged at my limit. Mentally as in emotionally, rather than intellectually.

The amount I had to give to some of the harder routes, the fear to cope with, the determination to use, the focus and attention needed, took it's toll, and sometimes I felt "Enough" and had to take a break from pushing it for a while (I don't usually take breaks from climbing through choice).

This wasn't a problem, but it was an interesting side effect of a generally positive and reassuring personal climbing situation.

(Actually I had the same situation recently, on a sport route, which was probably the hardest I've climbed - I didn't manage to finish the route, but I enjoyed what I did, I pushed myself several times beyond what I thought I could do. But when I got to the bottom I felt like "F--k me I'm sticking to easy scrambles for the rest of the trip", and it took me a while to want to push myself again.)

Reading as I'm writing this all sounds pretty obvious and natural. But still, do other people share these experiences? Does the RWW cover this in any way? Any thoughts?


Partner heiko


Apr 25, 2006, 7:13 AM
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Re: Mentally drained from "pushing it" too often? [In reply to]
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I totally share these experiences. I was quite confused when this mental exhaustion happened to me for the first time last November... I had climbed so much more that season than in all the previous years together, and I ended up toproping almost for a complete trip with my friends because I just couldn't lead anymore. The weeks after that I just thought "please, no more phone calls from climbing partners..."

After that I didn't really climb anymore for 2 full months thanks to great advice by my more experienced partners, and it was a good decision.


microbarn


Apr 25, 2006, 8:21 AM
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Re: Mentally drained from "pushing it" too often? [In reply to]
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I had a SEASON that was like that.

Last year I made it out all over New England. It was a new area with a great community of people. I was getting out 2-3 nights per week and 2 days on the weekends. I was loving it. I learned tremendous amounts. I did my first trad follows, multipitch climbs, trad leads, and sport falls. All of these things can be quite draining for a person experiencing them for the first time.

I eventually hooked up with someone who was not super experienced. He forgot to protect the second, and I got into quite a pickle if I were to fall. Luckily, after I sat on some gear, I finished the climb without incident. (I took probably 45 mins to calm myself enough to finish the climb.)

The next weekend, I was supposed to go to the Gunks for the first time. Luckily, it rained. I ended up sleeping all except 2 hours of that day. The next two weeks, I only did 2 top roping sessions. When I came back to Pittsburgh, I found I had no confidence in my climbing. I had 4-5 weeks break from my last real experiences, but I didn't want anything to do with challenging my mental leading abilities.

Now, it is about 8 months later. I have done a bunch of easy easy trad leads, and I am starting to attempt some sport onsights. Very recently, I am getting to the point that I am getting back to wanting to push my sport onsight abilities.

I still want to set an anchor and practice fall onto some gear, but otherwise I am now starting to get back up. Overall, I am glad I slowed down. I was starting to forget why I was climbing. I don't care if I go up the hardest way. I just want to get to the top. Those easy climbs have ended up being very fulfilling.

My biggest problem has been my partners. Supportive partners that let you decide when you will push yourself are important. Possibly later when I fully build back my confidence I could have a partner that challenges me. However, partners that challenge me with climbs hurt my mental abilities immensly. By encouraging me to try strictly hard climbs, they were demeaning the things I had accomplished.

Eventually, I realized that I just need to climb separate from that partner. Now, I have fun when I climb. I have redeveloped back to a level that I am starting to challenge MYSELF.


miavzero


Apr 25, 2006, 8:29 AM
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Re: Mentally drained from "pushing it" too often? [In reply to]
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There are various types of stress.
Eustress is positive stress that is uplifting, encouraging, brings out the best in you, or just makes you tougher.
Distress is nerve wracking, interfering, anxiety producing and harmful to your overall health and well-being.
It sounds as though you are placing yourself in too many situations where there are serious perceived or actual consequences for falling.
Arno or some other guru might ask you to assess the true consequences of falling, maybe you are just uptight and over-reacting?
Whenever I find myself overworked, drained or just not enjoying what I am doing I change things up a bit. You can take a break from heady routes and plug gear into secure hand cracks, climb easier routes, go low-ball bouldering, clip bolts, or enjoy something outside of climbing like hike, bike, exercise, read a book, paint a picture or learn to cook your own methamphetamine. Life is full of choices, do what you enjoy in reasonable moderation.


microbarn


Apr 25, 2006, 8:39 AM
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miavzero, good suggestions. However, I personally didn't know how to step back and see that I was getting overly stressed. So, your advice will help me in the future, but not at the end of last summer. I had already broken a barrier of mental weakness, and just had to resolidify my base of good fun climbing.


buckyllama


Apr 25, 2006, 9:06 AM
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I've experienced similar. It's usually a bounceback effect for me after spending a period of time focusing on a particular climb, or after doing quite a bit of challenging trad. I've expended a ton of energy focusing on the climbing, the moves, the exposure, whatever... and then I'm spent. I lose interest for a while, do other things, maybe climb a little, and then get back into it hardcore sometime later. "sometime" can be anywhere from an hour to 6 months. It just depends.

There is the other kind of "drained" which is more like "burnout". You've walked the edge for too long and it's starting to get you. I've had this happen when taking multiple sketchy falls when I shouldn't have fallen, taking a groundfall once and breaking some ribs, etc.

The former is very positive and usually is as the result of a success. The latter is negative and is usually the result of a failure, or a near-miss.

Be honest with yourself about your comfort level and your passion. Also surround yourself with partners who understand this. I've had "burnout" days where I've climbed maybe twice on toprope but spent the rest of the day belaying a buddy on a project just because he was really motivated that day and I wasn't. The reverse has been true as well. I've also had times where we've hiked a long way to get to a climb, looked at it, and said "not today".


puerto


Apr 25, 2006, 9:26 AM
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Re: Mentally drained from "pushing it" too often? [In reply to]
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Burnout happens in all sports, but obviously in climbing the consequences can be far more serious..

I try to go back to leading easy trad when I get burned out with sport near my limit, which is also useful for me cause I still need a lot of experience placing gear..

But there's only a couple of places with easy trad where I live and they're always crowded and I hate crowds..

can't win I guess..


arnoilgner


Apr 25, 2006, 8:56 PM
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Re: Mentally drained from "pushing it" too often? [In reply to]
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fiend,
Sounds like you spent too much time in the risk zone. We all need to cycle in and out of the risk zone. Remember, the risk zone is stressful. If you stay there too long you stress yourself out. Make sure you cycle back into comfortable/familiar climbing.
arno


_fiend_


Apr 26, 2006, 12:13 AM
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Re: Mentally drained from "pushing it" too often? [In reply to]
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In reply to:
It sounds as though you are placing yourself in too many situations where there are serious perceived or actual consequences for falling.

That's a useful thought. For myself, I had generally been climbing well protected routes.

However, I had climbed a few bold routes with safe, but long, runouts, and a few serious routes with definite groundfall potential. These would definitely increase the draining effect on my mental reserves.

I also think that I was not tackling fall consequences, dealing with phantom fears etc at that time - and I think in general trad (mostly what I was climbing) was mentally stressful enough for me even when safe (and even though I was pushing past that stress).



Arno, I agree it probably is as simple as that - but it's good to have that confirmed as a suggestion.


tonloc


Apr 26, 2006, 3:47 AM
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Re: Mentally drained from "pushing it" too often? [In reply to]
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me being a broken record, but...i think the best way that it was said was to cycle in and out of pushing yourself, one day go for that hard redpoint, if its not working out run some laps on trad or nice sport lines, or find some bouldering, just mix it up, dont make it always about accomplishing more and more harder and harder, the times for that will come...its not useful for me to beat my head against a V7 for days at a time so i find some easier problems and come back to it when i feel ready and go for the send...just have fun man, its just climbing don't stress over it...


_fiend_


Apr 26, 2006, 3:25 PM
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Re: Mentally drained from "pushing it" too often? [In reply to]
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Tonloc (not the Ton Loc, surely?) & arno again:

Agreed. I've been thinking about this more today, and I realise the value in what you're recommending. My inclination, when climbing well, is to keep pushing and see where I can go (this is what I am feeling like doing at the moment), but I agree that this can end up being too much. So I will try to ensure I have occasional days where I do things differently - some easier multipitch, exploring new areas without anything hard to try, bouldering, etc etc. Mix normal trad up with those more relaxing options.

Cheers.


grampacharlie


Jun 4, 2006, 9:27 AM
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Re: Mentally drained from "pushing it" too often? [In reply to]
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I had a similar experience getting burned out, but it was onthe other end of the spectrum. I spent most of a full year climbing well below my ability level taking out friends and teaching climbing to folks, guiding alot, and began feeling very unfulfilled. I quit climbing for two months because it just wasn't that much fun, and partners that allowed me to push myself were in short supply.

In the past year I have found new joy in climbing at my limit, teaching, and getting in over my head.

The trick is to find balance in your outings. Sometimes you may need a personal challenge with a partner that can push your climbing level. Sometimes the most rewarding experience is seeing others find a new challenge, and being able to coach them through it.

In the past 6 months I've quit carrying guidebooks in favor of going after fun-looking climbs, and spent more time on climbs i know I enjoy nrather than constantly seeking to improve. in the end you just have to ask 'If you're not having fun, why do it?

The more you enjoy it, the better you will get, and the less you will care how good you are.


_fiend_


Jul 12, 2006, 11:25 AM
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Re: Mentally drained from "pushing it" too often? [In reply to]
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Well that time is definitely now. Been getting a few messages from myself in recent weeks but now the message that I need a break is getting more forceful.

A few weeks ago - sea-cliff climbing - just done a challenging route, and found myself belaying someone on the next route, looking at some rocks at the base and fancying just bouldering instead.

A couple of weeks ago - crag climbing in the Lakes - felt tired and bored of going away all the time, ended up climbing okay and enjoying it, but the motivation was waning.

Last weekend - deep water soloing - got scared most of the time and gave up after getting bored of getting scared.

Last night - normal trad climbing - felt non-committal and uninspired despite the choice of good routes, worst climbing outing this year it felt like.

I hadn't been heeding the more subtle messages so obviously last night was making the point in a firmer way "You've pushed yourself too long on trad at this time, you need take a break from it right now and come back when you have fresh inspiration".

This is all trad BTW. I've done one sport route in recent weeks and it was by far what I felt most comfortable on. I'm going for a week's climbing in Ceuse (yay!) at the end of the week and I'm inspired by that. Less hanging around fiddling in gear. Less running it out and getting scared. Less psyching up needed. More just clipping and going, nice shiny bolts, and simple logistics.

Don't know what will happen after that...


nthusiastj


Jul 12, 2006, 12:04 PM
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I'm psyched to see a useful converstion on here for once!

I feel that I'm going through a similar phase right now too. I've recently come off of a 10 month roadtrip and after all that time climbing 5 or more days a week (not super hard, just demanding), I think I'm a bit drained. I've blown off climbing more since we've been back than I ever have.
I'm just kind of letting it take it's course and mix it up as others have said.
I've found just cruising the local moderate classics that I remember loving from before has been really rewarding.

Some good advice on here. Thanks.


tradmanclimbs


Jul 12, 2006, 12:56 PM
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I find that by the end of the Ice season I am pretty fried. I do a fair ammount of soloing and allmost all the leading. I followed maby about 10 pitches last winter and all but 3 of them I would have routinly soloed if i had not been teaching a new leader. leading 4+ and 5 new england ice can be pretty dangerous stuff. there were literaly hundreds of moments where falling was simply not an option and the climbing was hard enough to get my attention. I am usualy pretty stoked in the spring to get on the rock and have some decent gear and not have to worry about threading off some huge icicle in the dark or haveing the the damn thing melt out and fall down with me on it. Or shatter because it's too cold, or have the screws melt out cause the sun came out and its the wrong exposure for the temps Etc, Etc,Etc. By the same token I am usualy ready for the solid feel of a good stick in plastic ice by the end of the summer. Again the cause of the stress is too much soloing or getting on thin trad climbs. Mixeing it up with the seasons as well as the ocasional week off Keeps me pretty sane.


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