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It’s pretty obvious that regular rock climbing is going to exercise your body right?


I mean have you tried to do a chin up lately? Although there’s a lot more to climbing than doing chin ups!  In fact, climbing regularly increases you’re strength, coordination, mobility, endurance, core stability and gives you one of those bone crushing handshakes. But there’s a surprising mental benefit that not many people know about – climbing makes you calmer…


Here’s how it works.


Most people are naturally afraid of heights, and that’s a good thing!  It’s natural to have a fear of falling.  But when we start climbing we use a harness and ropes to make sure we’re not going to fall.  The rational part of our brain knows we’re safe and so off we go.  As we head up the wall though, older parts of our brain (that evolved to keep us alive and operate outside our conscious control) flood our body with the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, and we feel fear.


The first time you climb maybe that fear made you come down again.  Then next time you tried a little higher and a little higher, learning to use your rational mind to overcome your fear.  Great work! But climbers do more than this.  Climbers train their mind to deal with the hormone onslaught by relaxing, taking a breath and focusing.  Here’s what it looks like:


Climb up the wall

Reach the limit of my ability…. (Where you might fall!)

Body floods with cortisol and adrenaline

Take a deep breath, refocus, think

Move up to the next hold


The deep breath triggers a relaxation response allowing you to refocus, calm down and think.  It’s an essential skill for climbers to develop. But a funny thing starts to happen….  The practiced response of taking a breath, refocusing and thinking, starts to be triggered by the hormones themselves, instead of the climbing.  Here’s how it looks:


Walking along the street

Someone gets hurt – it’s an emergency

Body floods with cortisol and adrenaline

Take a deep breath, refocus, think

Now you can help and not freak out


Having a discussion with partner

They say something really hurtful/angry/annoying

Body floods with cortisol and adrenaline

Take a deep breath, refocus, think

Avoid saying ‘relationship ending’ comment 😉


Don’t get me wrong just like Pantene Hair (remember that commercial?), this doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

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