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Climbing Burn Out

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Caz Drach · · C'Wood, UT · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 310

So im burned out. Ive lost that loving feeling (whoooaaahhhoooaa)

Not sure really how to cope with this as its been quite unsettling and it has really tainted the last 4-6 weeks of my climbing.

I have been training so hard and pushing myself out of the comfort zone that it has actually had the reverse effect that it typically had: growth and learning.

My confidence has been rattled, I would walk up to almost any climb with confidence that it would either be pointed or atleast completed. Now I dont, now i am nervous and unsure - which has severely impacted flow, movement, belief which in turn has lead to frustration and even more loss of confidence.

I have twice come back from major shoulder surgery and built myself back up from literally nothing into 12 sport climber and 10 trad with the goal of pushing further 12s and into an 11 on trad this year. This mentality of pushing, grinding, training, failing - I feel has gotten me to this point.

I had switched my training regiment from one week train, one week climb; in the hopes that it would help growth however I have been so rigid with the structure it has sapped the fun out of the sport in a way.

As I have researched burn out - the emotional signs and physical signs are present (anxiety, self doubt, frustration, trapped, and isolating).

I write this as i hope that someone could share their experience... how they coped... what they did...

and in the end atleast help someone else that has experienced it.


Brian M · · Long Beach, CA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 145

Why don't you take a small break from climbing bigguy before you get totally burnt out from all the training, sometimes it'll do wonders,

Also I only just started reading it but as far as the mental aspect of climbing I've heard only good things about "The Rock Warriors Way". Might be worth taking a peek.

Also for me at least having some good partners to keep the stoke up is always a plus. Hopefully you get back at it

Mathias · · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 306

The obvious question to ask yourself is: Why do you climb?

Everyone has different perspectives and goals, of course, but it seems like you've found pushing yourself harder and harder isn't giving you what you want. Have you tried climbing recently?

fossana · · leeds, ut · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 13,251

Thread from last Dec:…

It's OK to take some time off, many of us have.

Jay Harrison · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 6,307

Climbing should be challenging.
Climbing should push you.
BUT...climbing should be fun.
Think about your job. If you didn't get paid, would you do it? If climbing seems like a job, not a joy, then change your approach and/or attitude.
Climbing's two-edged sword is its quantitative measurement. We chase the numbers - which is part of the game, and part of the fun. But too much concentration on the numbers game spoils the fun. It makes it work. We have to train, we have to chase more hours on the rock, we have to progress.
Unless you have a true financial gain from pushing yourself to do harder climbs, you are turning the sport into a job. Mix up the push with a few pure joy outings. Climb a scenic mountain. Enjoy easy movement over some mellow climbs. Do it for reasons that delight you and make you feel at ease.
Recognize that no, you are not the next Adam Ondra, you are you and climbing is meant to provide a healthy, exhilarating way to spend your free time, not getting the next paycheck or trophy.

Aleks Zebastian · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 175

climbing friend,

perhaps take short break. perhaps don't be so rigid with your idea and your training and instead seek bold flash of inspiring and aesthetic boulder and long route and become more touchingwith your inner fire stoking burning for why is you have enjoy climbing.

if it is only to impress the others and prove your worth as human being, perhaps yes, you be burned out, yarrr, and will never climb again.

if it is because you are quite sad you hit plateau, either you must try harder/differently, or quit.

perhaps after short break, inner meditations on star wars original trilogy and use of the force, and perhaps a good swim in cold mountain stream, you come back with forearms refresh and mental refresh, strong like wild boar!

Parker Wrozek · · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 86

Stop training and just go climb outside. Pull up a list of classics and go do them. Repeat some favorites. Don't be afraid to go climb cool 5.5-5.9.

Chris Rice · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 55

Classic case of over reaching or over training - it happens to athletes all the time - especially those thinking "linear progression". Take a break for a couple weeks - you can't push hard forever without breaking down.

mattjohnson · · Laurens, SC · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 40

Every poster thus far is correct, and as always, climbing friend Aleks summed it up best. I'll add this: Climb somewhere new and exciting, Indian Creek for example. Or do something different that excites you for a little while.

Tylerpratt · · Litchfield, Connecticut · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 40

Climb the way you love to. Make sure you are doing what you want. Then train when you are happy. Training yourself into a hole will or can do you more harm then good.

T340 · · Idaho · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 5

Take a little time off would be my two cents worth. If you have any other hobbies or interests, that could be something that you could focus on for a time. Sounds like anything to get your mind off climbing for just a bit could really help you out.

Brian Malone · · Olney, MD · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 3,704

Don't do something crazy like getting rid of your gear yet. Its probably temporary. Climbing isn't the only cool thing to do. Go surfing or mountain bike riding or hang gliding or weird mushroom picking....etc..
I agree with the responder who suggested evaluating what it is you like about climbing.. Why do you train and what are you trying to accomplish and most importantly, WHY do you do it? Being the best climber in your group doesn't mean you will enjoy it the most.. Forget about the numbers and climb fun stuff. You don't have to impress anyone, including yourself..

petzl logic · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 541

This is what happens what you don't ski all the winter. The only remedy is a short break from climbing to make some turns somewhere. Or go camping with your friends and cruise some 5.6's somewhere by a lake. Duh.

M Sprague · · New England · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 5,018

It can be very refreshing to take a little break and catch up on things you have put aside to have more climbing time, such as chores you have procrastinated on or even just relaxing and catching up on some reading.

Mathias · · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 306

I can only imagine (because I don't climb hard) that the idea of completely ceasing to climb hard or train would make anyone who's been focused on pushing their grades feel very uneasy. Knowing that when they once again get the bug to push themselves, they'd be dealing with overcoming some regression. So for the OP's benefit, can anyone comment on the feasibility of training just enough to maintain the current level of ability without spending too much time or mental energy on it?

M Sprague · · New England · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 5,018

I don't think you lose much by taking a short break. In fact I often find I climb better and any lost fitness is made up quickly

Kereinha · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 10

My psyche level definitely hits peaks and valleys...I think this is natural. As others have said, take some time to look at why you climb. If you don't feel like going out for a few weeks, don't. If you don't feel like trying hard for a little while, don't. I bet if you just take a relaxed approach for a bit, your original excitement will return.

It sounds like your training plan may not be helping either. Hard training is physically and mentally exhausting. Oscillating between training and climbing every other week is most likely counter-productive for both activities. I'm no expert though...just a thought. I prefer to train/climb in blocks.

You could also try to switch up styles...try your hand at bouldering for a bit. Good luck!

evan h · · Ivins, UT · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 360

I love training and pushing hard, but I intentionally plan for 10-14 day breaks every 3 months. It doesn't matter how well I'm climbing, how close I am to sending, or how great next weekend's weather looks...I still throw in the towel. It's on the calendar. I have friends who can't seem to take time away, and I think that sets you up for motivation issues, or potentially injuries.

Brent Apgar · · Out of the Loop · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 70

Another thought rather than take a break and chillax from climbing.

As someone who's more than a little neurotic about playing the human performance game I've had this conversation with friends (non climbers), climbing partners and clients.
My experience has been that a lot of people get into climbing because it's fun and performance gains come quickly through climbing alone.
At some point (regardless of sport or person) you will hit a plateau where simply doing the activity for fun in an unstructured way will no longer produce performance gains.

This is a major fork in a lot of athletes/weekend warriors development. Most of the folks I know who continue to make performance gains do so because they enjoy the game of figuring out how to be a better climber. I'm not even sure that the climbing itself really matters that much. It just so happens that they found climbing and fell in love with it rather than something else.

So the real question becomes are you more interested in doing what it takes to continue to make performance gains in your own climbing for your own reasons? (Which could mean that there's a lot of training that doesn't involve climbing per se.) Or do you just want to climb and you need to figure out how to enjoy it without necessarily continuing to tick the next grade?

Super interesting topic. I'd be interested to hear some thoughts from people on both sides of the topic. Personally, I still love pushing myself to see if I can set a PR but after 20+ years of climbing and beating my body up, I've also let go of a lot of bullshit and can simply go out and appreciate just being outside in a beautiful setting doing something I love.
Like the bumper sticker says: "The worst day fishing, is still better than the best day working."

Have fun,

Sam Stephens · · Louisville, KY · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 1,100

I hear your frustration. I've been told I hit the ultimate plateau, I climbed over 100 5.12s of varying grades (100 sends of individual 12s, not repeats) and got told that I should have sent 13 a long time ago. I've sent one, but who cares.

I do enough other stuff that occasionally I step away from climbing for a month, but after that month all I can think about is getting back out. Sometimes I'll focus more on my golf game, or spend time working on tree stands or shooting competitively, with a little thrown in for good measure.

For me, that's what helps. I've been climbing for 9+ years and I wouldn't keep doing it if I didn't love it, like so many that have been climbing for 20+.

It's important to have other things to occupy your time when you're burnt out, it happens to everyone.

Alissa Doherty · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 60

When I’m unmotivated to do a climb or workout, I don’t do it. It’s an approach that I read early on from a pro climber (I forget who). Sometimes I just need a week, but after winter training, it’s typically 3-4. I’ve never noticed a loss of ability after this break. I think this is because climbing is more than 50% mental, and rest is often needed to regain a loss in mental strength. After a break, I feel excited, happy, and relaxed when climbing because I’ve missed it. As a result, I climb harder and happier—a win-win.

If you come back and still feel burnt out, maybe you need more time off or perhaps you’re ready to dedicate focus to a different outlet. As others have mentioned, climbing is about having fun. Early on, the fun is often tied to quick progress but linear grade improvement is not sustainable for 99% of climbers. For me, climbing is now about experiencing wild and inaccessible places, which I think is an easy way to stay motivated for a lifelong pursuit.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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