Flow Training – Maximising Performance in Rock Climbing – Case Study

Flow Training – Maximising Performance in Rock Climbing – Case Study

Flow Sports Tips and Training Videos

We are delighted to announce some great results on a recent study with rock climbers receiving flow training. The climbers received 4 different types of training over a 3 month period and the results far exceeded our expectations.

Below is Camille’s account of what happened. Camille is a budding adventure enthusiast who competes in a multitude of sports and a true inspiration. She runs a great blog for those wanting to see how she quit her job to focus on a life worth living: http://www.farandhigh.co.uk/

Over to Camille and her a piece, she wrote to go on her blog.

I was delighted when Cameron, the training coach from the Flow Centre, offered me to be part of the group of elite climbers selected for a case study on flow training.

Initially, I didn’t know what the flow mindset was and it is thanks to the study that I learnt more about it.

Flow is the optimal mental state that produces performance, creativity, decision-making and innovation.”

Flow is a psychological state we experience during our peak experiences and is behind many of the greatest athletic performances.  It is the state when we perform at our best and feel our best.

As part of the study, the climbers were asked to complete the same indoor climbing route twice a week, time ourselves and then complete a questionnaire straight after each climb including questions on our performance and our flow state.  We were also asked to rate our overall climb.  As weeks progressed, we were provided with training and individual coaching sessions on flow.

camilee2

Throughout this experience, I’ve learnt some great tips on how to train your mind to get into the flow state and how to maintain that state. I thought I’d share the most valuable ones to me.

  1. Motivation to perform

For me, motivation to perform is the biggest contributor to get me into a flow state, i.e. the desire to get to the top of the route.  When the motivation is missing, my performance suffers.  When the motivation is at its best and I truly want to reach the top, I’m enjoying the moment and I give it me all.

  1. Total Focus

Secondly, finding focus is key to get me in the right state of mind.  I need to completely shut down the outside world around me.  For example, I need to ignore other climbers watching or shouting tips during a training session (sorry, I know you’re only trying to help J).  This is especially true during a climbing competition when I find the audience very unnerving and it makes me anxious.  So I need to completely zone out my surroundings and forget about my ego, so I can totally concentrate on the task at hand.

  1. Be in the Present

To reach and maintain flow, I need to be completely focused on the present moment. I can’t be thinking about anything else other than each move as it unfolds.  If I’m already thinking about reaching the top whilst I’m only half way up, my mind is not in the present.

  1. Challenging Route

The climb has to be challenging enough for me to get into the flow state.  If it is during the warm-up or an easy climb, it’s not motivating enough for me to really be in the flow.

  1. Physical Readiness & Self belief

I’ve found that my perception of my physical fitness and readiness to climb a route has an impact on my ability to reach and maintain the flow state. If I feel physically ready and capable, then I feel in control and there are no limits!

  1. Fear of falling

When I have reached the flow state, I am so focused on each move that there is no holding back and I forget about the fear of falling (even in the dreaded overhangs!).

With the help of our coach Cameron, I have come up with my climbing mantra which I now repeat to myself at the start of each climb, and sometimes in the middle:

  1. Focus
  2. Precision
  3. Power
  4. Excel

Repeating the mantra in my mind has been very effective to help me get into the flow when everything seems to come together and I perform to my highest standard.

camille

To conclude, my personal results from the route I climbed during the study are:

  • Route: 14m 6C+ route
  • 1st attempt completed in 9min23s.
  • After having received the training and coaching on flows, I completed the climbing route on my 15thattempt in 2min10s.

Of course, once I knew my results, my first question was related to the fact that even without the coaching, my performance would have improved naturally just by the experience gained by every attempt and the increased memorization of the moves.  However, this was minimised by having us only start the training and coaching on flows once our performances had plateaued and we weren’t climbing faster at each attempt.

Finally, being part of the study and learning about applying flows for sporting performance was definitely eye opening and a great opportunity for me in the pursuit of following my passion for the sport and performing the best I can.

These techniques can, of course, be applied to any experiences in life.  I’m also currently working on applying these techniques to my running and learning to find the flow state during a run J  So I’ve now created a mantra for running as well …

Flow Interview – World Champion Rock Climber Hazel Findlay

Flow Interview – World Champion Rock Climber Hazel Findlay

Articles To Inspire Flow Performance Skills Sports Tips and Training

Meet Hazel Findlay. Hazel has won multiple National Championships (UK) and is considered one of, if not the, best female climber worldwide. Hazel became the first woman to climb a British E9 (hard and scary!) with her ascent of Once Upon A Time In The Southwest, near Devon, UK. She has been recovering from injuries this past year but will no doubt be taking the climbing scene by storm when she returns.

 

Hazel is a great friend of The Flow Centre and continues to inspire us month-on-month. In one of our sessions with Hazel we got to ask her about here flow experinces

Cameron:
What was one of your biggest flow experiences?

 

Hazel:
It was actually on one of the smaller cliffs, but right up in the corner where it formed a right angle. I find that sort of climb really interesting because instead of using your hands and feet to find and grip holds, you basically have to push against each side of the opposing walls. Your hands are just flat against the rock, with no reaches to aim for, you basically have to only listen to your body position; you can’t really let the rock guide you too much. There’s no “Oh, I’ll reach that hold and I’ll reach for this hole kind of thing”, you just have to get it exactly right for that next bit of upward movement. So Yeah, this particular moment at the top was just a classic flow experience, where it’s just like, I was in this! You know the descriptions!![laughter]
It was really intense and it was just complete focus on every little movement. I remember the breathing being in time because the climb was really physical as well. I just remember the breathing intensified with each movement, using my whole core to stay in this corner of the rock. It’s funny, when I was in flow, it was like I’ll finish that little piece of rock and then I can’t remember anything about what I did. Then when you get down, the other climbers will say “How did you do that?” and when I’m in those flow moments I’m like “Oh, I’m really sorry, but I just don’t know what I did, I just did something”.

Cameron:
So what was it like in the experience? How did you approach the rock?

 

Hazel:
During the climb, it was like every time I put a foot on the rock I could see all the little features, my foot was exactly where it was supposed to go kind of thing. I think time almost slowed down, if anything. I’ve got vivid memories of my foot in slow motion, because there was so much detail in the moment, you know what I mean? I was just in a little pocket of time and space, me and that little of piece of rock like the only thing that’s there.
I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say I was an extension of the rock. But one thing I think happens when climbing is the movements are kind of binary. Like it’s “right foot, right hand, left foot, left hand”, very specific movements that are all separate. It’s also binary in the sense that you either do it or you don’t! But in a flow state, it feels like the movements aren’t divided into separate moves anymore. You know what I mean? It’s not like you’re moving from one movement to the next movement; it’s all just one complete movement in flow.

 

hazel-findlay-big-sq

So, in that corner it was like I was moving up, and it wasn’t this awkward “right-left” kind of thing, it was all just one fluid motion of the rock kind of thing. Am I an extension of the rock? I think it’s more like what I was saying. The rock doesn’t provide the sort of black and white challenge, like “I did that move or I didn’t”, or “I did that piece”. I suppose it’s very much linked to the idea of success-failure, goal and everything. I’ve always found that when I’m in that flow I totally let go of that desire to succeed and to do the route. I’m just so focused on the next move and the next bit of climbing.
You know, when I start a route I’m like “Okay, come on! You can do it!” – You know, all that positive thinking is running through your head. Or if you’re having a negative day it might be like “Oh, I feel like sh** – just give it your best shot anyway”. Whereas when you’re in flow, all of those ideas about yourself versus the rock kind of thing just fall away. So usually if I’m in that flow, even if I fall off and I fail, I usually don’t care because I know that I was climbing my absolute best because I was in that state. So it just doesn’t bother me that I failed, because what more could I have wanted from that experience? Nothing, because I was doing my best. So, that’s why I love it so much!!

I always feel like it’s the rock that forces me to be in flow. I never really feel like it’s me, but maybe I should take some more ownership of it. There never seems to be a correlation between my thoughts and feeling and how I access flow. I’ve accessed flow on really bad days, when my thoughts have been totally negative and I’m really unconfident. But then just something about the climb I’m doing forces me into it. I can have good days and just access it for some reason, I don’t know! I just feel like it’s the rock!
I totally agree with this “skill meets challenge” idea, because I really think it has to be quite hard for me to access flow. Sometimes I can access flow on easier grounds, but it’s a bit like when you’re driving a car. Often there’ll be other thoughts going through your head, so it’s not as intense and experience of flow. But it’s the sort of thing where I’m just moving up the rock and I might get to the top and not really remember anything about the climb. I was thinking about something completely different; that’s when the challenge is way below my skill set. I’m not as good at harnessing flow during those climbs. I see other people climb much better than me on easier ground, but I tend to let my internal dialogue stop me from reaching flow on easy terrain. That’s something I want to work on.

 

Cameron:
When do you most experience flow?

It’s being on the hard routes, on hard rock climbs. That’s the thing about climbing on natural rock; no-one made it, no-one designed it. So really it’s just chance whether that meets your skill set or not. So there might be a particular route where I might be in flow, but then I get to a section where I just can’t reach the holds, I’m not tall enough or strong enough or whatever, then I’ll just fail. I’ll snap out of flow; the challenge became too hard for me. So really, I feel like it’s the rock that forces me into flow, because it just so happens that the rock, the way the holds are, the way my body moves, it just fits the rock.
I think it’s strange; climbing is maybe quite different to other conventional sports. What often happens when you climb is that you get to a point where you can rest and you can think. So you look at the rock ahead and problem solve your way through it even before you do it. I think one of the keys to climbing well is to, in that restful position, consciously have a plan and problem solve, but then as soon as you start climbing try and switch into that unconscious state that we’re talking about. Really let your body take control and use your subconscious mind. But you have to remember what your conscious mind was telling you to do. That’s what makes climbing different.

 

The Flow Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank Martina for her time and energy.