The importance of remembering sequences in climbing

On our coaching camps we talk a lot about visualisation, the importance of remembering sequences and what should be running going through your mind as you climb your route (your internal dialogue). If you are one of those climbers who only climbs intuitively "I'll just figure it out as I go along" you are sabotaging your true potential. Seriously!

This video of our man Joey Kinder is a great insight into the level of detail required when you are memorising your sequences.

Here are some visualisation and memorisation tips:

  1. Sit at the bottom of the route, close your eyes and climb the route in your mind. If you get to a bit you can't remember, open your eyes, look up, get it sorted and start over.
  2. If it helps you, give specific holds names i.e. "the brick" or "the contact lens".
  3. Imagine vividly how each hold will feel on your skin.
  4. Like Joe, visualise how each finger will sit on each hold, particularly if it's a subtle or tricky grip.
  5. Don't just concentrate on hand sequences. On difficult routes you must also know 100% what you are doing with your feet and what your body positions are. This represents heaps of data and might be very hard to memorise, but you simply have to do it. Start with the hands, but begin to expand your mental program to foot movements and body positions to make the sequence more and more detailed and realistic.
  6. Get your climbing partner to quiz you. Mime to them the entire sequence, talking it through as you go. Moving your arms and feet is very helpful.
  7. Sometimes there will be a section, or a subtlety you will continue to forget on route. Come up with a trigger phrase like "Stand tall" or "Pull in right hand" or simply (as is often the case) "Breathe!" and have your belayer yell this at you at the appropriate time. When you are running through the route in your mind, think about that section, and say the trigger phrase to yourself. Do that multiple times. Really embed it deeply. You'll find you'll begin to remember the section very well.
  8. If you are a visual person, compile a route map. This is a sheet of paper where you draw the route, the holds, mark L hand and R hand, draw little arrows, mark clipping holds etc. If you can do this accurately for the entire route, you are well on your way to having a good sequence locked in your memory. Now let's hope your sequence is the most efficient one :)
My climbing partners and I have previously noted that on our hardest sends we have to be like a climbing robot. The program is set and it is all a matter of executing perfectly. There should be no decisions made on route - none! The program is written. Simply execute.

Happy projecting!

Joey getting his bling on at the annual Rifle clean-up. © L Cujes 2010


Lee Cujes said...

Mike Law was having trouble posting his comment to the blog, but here it is:

“All good stuff - You generally see and remember hand moves, work hard to remember where your feet go (they are further from your brain) as they affect whether your hands stay on the holds.

A drill from racing is to visualise the climb and time yourself, if it's 10 seconds for a 10 move crux you're probably missing stuff. This bits you miss are often body positions.

Find ways to do moves when you're weak, they almost always need more foot movements, which is still more to remember.”

Thanks Mike!

jj said...

Some people are naturally fast at remembering sequences. Matt Schimke can remember not only his sequence, but everyone elses also. Some people have through deliberate effort trained themselves to be good at it. Some people are niether, that's me, and rely on muscle memory which takes quite a number of attempts to sink in, but once it's locked in it's as good as permanent.