I’m a scaredy cat. I’m afraid to jump. Afraid of slab. Afraid of bugs. Afraid of landing. Afraid of belaying. Afraid of dynos. Afraid of momentum. Afraid of water. You name it, I’m afraid of it. So you’re probably wondering how I manage to climb at all, particularly outside. I’ve spent the last few years really working on controlling my fears and would like to share how I’ve dealt with them.
When I first started training for American Ninja Warrior, I was paralyzed with fear while attempting pretty much every single obstacle. I couldn’t do even the most basic things. Not because I physically couldn’t do it, but my brain just wouldn’t let me. I had only two months before I was competing in Dallas, so I knew I needed to do something drastic to help me train. I decided to try hypnotherapy. I had tried hypnosis in the past while on chemotherapy but it did nothing to ease my nausea or help me accept the changes I was going through. But what did I have to lose? Nothing! And I had everything to gain! I decided to try hypnotherapy one more time.
I signed up for several sessions and each session went deeper into my subconscious. Hypnosis didn’t include swinging a watch in front of my face. Instead the therapist spoke gently counting down to zero. When he reached zero, I was supposed to be hypnotized, but I just felt very relaxed. I decided to keep my eyes closed and go along with whatever my therapist said. He gave my brain suggestions such as “I am brave” and “I like new obstacles”. Afterwards, he told me to repeat those suggestions every morning and night and before I attempted obstacles. During the next sessions, he actually had conversations with different parts of my brain. He asked to speak to the part that was holding me back and the part that was pushing me forward. He also asked what their names were, which almost made me burst into laughter during the session. But now in hindsight, the names were crucial to identifying a major source of my fear.
After my first session, I went to the gym to test out my newfound bravery. I thought for sure after the hypnosis, I was going to jump and swing around like a new, braver woman. Sadly, I was just as afraid, and could still barely work up the nerve to do anything. After a few weeks of more regular sessions, I started to notice that if I said one of my mantras before an obstacle, I could actually do it. It seemed as if the mantras actually worked! I started saying the mantras while driving, at work, any free second to make sure my subconscious got the message….I AM BRAVE.
The hypnotherapy made me brave enough to start obstacles, but I needed something more to get me through the obstacles. For this, I scream like I’ve being cut up in tiny pieces with a dull knife. Immediately after I start an obstacle, I let out my battle cry which releases all of my emotions! Many people have ridiculed me for my scream, but that doesn’t stop me. I do what I need to do to complete the obstacle.
Other Tips to Overcome Fear
- When I step up to an obstacle, I usually feel my stomach drop to my knees and my heart start racing. This used to make me walk away from the obstacle. But now that I have more experience and confidence, I have learned to just ignore it. Only ignore it after you know your limitations, otherwise you could get seriously hurt.
- Don’t be afraid of failure. Try whatever you want to overcome and then fail on purpose in a controlled manner. This way you can learn how to fail without hurting yourself. If you can be confident that you won’t get hurt, then you’ll have the confidence to finish the obstacle.
- Ask for help! A spotter can do wonders! It can help you learn the move without worrying about getting hurt!
- Train hard. In climbing, my bravery stems from my confidence. If I have spent the last several months hangboarding, I am confident in my finger strength. I am more willing to jump to hold because I know I can hold on. Identify what you’re afraid of first then take small steps towards beating it. I don’t like highballs. I don’t like exposure. So I often make myself climb V0/V1 highballs. These are climbs that I am 100% sure that I can do, so that way I don’t have to worry about falling. I can concentrate on my breathing, the movement, and not OVERGRIPPING! Sometimes I even run laps on them, just so I can get comfortable with the height and exposure