Don’t Climb Too Slowly

[This post is part of Xandra the Adventuress‘s Thoroughly Adventurous Thursdays, but this post isn’t just about climbing so don’t be scared or anything silly like that :)]

In our fast-paced society, we are tempted, encouraged, instructed, to pick up the pace. We want things instantly. I just read about this today, in Stephanie Perkins‘s Anna and the French Kiss. Super awesome English teacher Professeur Cole says:

“It’s often suggested that as a culture, we’re only interested in immediate gratification. Fast food. Self-checkout. Downloadable music, movies, books. Instant coffee, instant rebates, instant messaging. Instant weight loss! Shall I go on?”

And she is right. One of my goals as a minimalist is to slow down. Well it was. Until this evening’s trip to the climbing gym when I realized that slowing down isn’t quite the solution to the negative effects of speeding up.

I was going up a friendly 5+ on a flat wall with no overhangs – a climb comfortably within my range – so I decided that my goal would be to conserve as much energy as possible by making deliberate choices and executing them with elegance. This strategy prevents me from mindlessly rushing up easy climbs without practicing technique – or worse, struggling on them and wasting loads of energy.

Essentially, I would slow down to avoid the carelessness that often comes with speeding up.

About halfway up the wall, I gazed at the options in front of me and was shocked to realize that I didn’t know what to do next. Brookes routes are straightforward, the challenge being in stamina more than technique, and this was supposed to be an easy climb for me. I was making very conscious decisions and taking care to place my feet and hands in the most effective positions. I was going slowly…

Too slowly. As I paused to look up I noticed that all of the holds were barely beyond my reach, and that the way to get to them was with momentum. The best use of my energy was not in making sure that I was in the most rested positions throughout, but to propel myself to the top, using the energy I gained along the way, to ensure that I wouldn’t need to rest at all. If I stopped at every hold, I would have to build up energy to reach for the next tricky one every time.

“Slowing down” didn’t work. “Moving efficiently” did.

I should have known! This is the same mistake I have discovered in reading – sometimes if I don’t understand something, slowing down leads to more confusion. Instead I force myself to speed up to get my mind to work more quickly at piecing the information together, and usually this works.

Sometimes I use “slowing down” as an excuse to zone out and relax too much, when really a little speeding up will energize me and sharpen my focus, allowing me to power through whatever challenge lies before me.

(The second half of the climb took about a minute to complete. Bam.)

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