Form is a funny thing. There are so many factors that go in to whether or not you are ‘on form’, and for me I’d say about 80% of that is in the head. It’s comparatively easy to be on form physically, as long as you keep yourself generally fit and have a good base level of strength you can get back to full pulling power within a few weeks. But it doesn’t take much to trip you up when it comes to your head.
Even when you’re climbing well and you’ve got a few good ticks under you belt in recent weeks, you can suddenly find yourself getting nervous above good gear, or even a bolt. I’ve found this has happened to me for the last couple of years during Spring: I progress back to my personal best quite quickly, but then all of a sudden my confidence is gone, for no apparent reason.
The really important thing here is to recognize whether or not you actually need to do something about it. If you’ve just had a bad day or two, it’s easy to convince yourself that you have a problem when you don’t. If you think you have a confidence problem then you will inevitably develop one.
But if there is a persistent hole in your confidence then you need to figure out what triggers that feeling, and target it. Remember that you’re targeting your specific insecurities, so try and work out if you’re nervous when climbing trad, or overhangs, or sea cliffs etc and work on these weaknesses by getting the mileage in. If it’s irrational fear then teach your brain that it’s irrational by experiencing the consequences and realizing that it’s ok.
A common one is being scared above gear, even good gear. It’s nothing irrational, you don’t actually think that the bolt will break or the bomber nut will rip, it’s just an uncomfortable apprehension, even fear, of being ‘off’. Which basically comes down to not being accustomed to falling, to being in the air waiting for the rope to come tight. There really is only one way to remedy this – you know what’s coming – get some air miles!
All any of us really want is for climbing to be fun, to have that flowing feeling on the lead, to feel like you’re kicking ass! But we also need to accept that we can’t be on form all the time, and enjoy it while it lasts.