Feel like quitting – how to keep climbing when you don’t feel like it?

Lately I have noticed that during harder climbing routes when I need to battle my way through them, I catch myself with a thought “I am done and want to quit this route”. And I feel that this thought comes up more when I am physically and mentally tired and it has been a slow, tiring and frustrating climb. I know I still have some energy left to try again but it feels easier to quit.

In today’s post I wanted to share with you what did I realize and how did I deal with these thoughts.

Thought “I want to quit”

I have been experiencing these thoughts more during sport climbing routes, where I’m pushing my limits, trying new things and figuring out new techniques. I don’t have the same thoughts on warm up routes.

The first time during last climbing session when I caught myself wanting to quit was this 6a+ which was inside the arch with not so easy holds. Arches are not my cup of tea as they also intimidate me. I was battling my way through the route, feeling how the pump in my forearms is building up. Until I could not hold anymore and I let myself fall. I was at 2/3 of the route and it felt quite heavy already and heavier when I looked at the remaining part. The grips were not very good, lots of balancing and trusting my feet were needed and I felt how I was over gripping my way through.

I was hanging in the rope and trying to get my arms rested but the pump in the arms was just building up. And I felt like I want to quit this. I felt pumped, anxious and was not enjoying the route. If I would quit and go down, I would be done with the route and could rest. But I would also wonder to myself how would have been the remining part, could I have rested a bit more and then continue? Would I be up for another try next time?

After some time resting I realized, I don’t want to do this climb from beginning again, so let’s try to make some steps forward while I was at it. I can do just one move at the time and rest, especially because I was not far from the top.

The difficult thing about stopping near the top is feeling that if I don’t finish now, I’ll need to come back next time to at least try to get till the end. And not always I feel like going through the climb again (especially when it is intimidating). Although it is good to build the resilience and also skills and comfort zone around routes which intimidate me, it takes quite some courage to go through all the uncomfortable feelings.

At the end I managed to finish that 6a+ with few more blocks and very pumped arms. The thought what helped me there was I’m almost there and a belayer who didn’t mind me taking time. Thanks her for the patience! 😊

After that I did another 6a which I remember as nice flowy route. But also heavy on my arms. And this time I managed that in one go which was a great boost for my ego πŸ˜… and self confidence.

Another route I really wanted to try that evening was this difficult 6b+ or easier 6c (according to my friends πŸ˜„). I saw my friends doing it before me and although looked heavy, seamed doable.

And there the quitting thoughts kicked in again. It was a difficult route. Small crimps, a bit on longer side with overhang part at the top.

Half way I was starting to battle with the raising pump feeling in my forearms. But hey it was a 6c I was working on. I kept going until my arms were so tired that fingers wouldn’t lock around grips anymore. Then I stopped for the rest. And tried again to go forward. There was a move I couldn’t do quite right away so needed to approach it several times. And that’s where I wanted to quit again. It was heavy, I was tired and it felt like I was for ages there. Also there were some other climbers below me (we all were on top ropes so they were crossing behind me) and I was afraid to continue as me falling could potentially pull the others off their routes. With this situation I was really eager to stop. I actually was trying to say my belayer to bring me down but she couldn’t hear me so luckily for me I had to continue πŸ˜‚. So, I though, alright I can try one more time and see how far I can get. I actually managed few more moves before I fell off. There I was battling with my pumped arms and last 5 moves from the top. So I said myself I’m so close, would be so pity to not finish even when I need to stop for each move. I rested and went again, and I finished.

I reached the top and was so relieved I didn’t quit. I went down and was glad for finishing the route, despites the huge pain in my forearms.

This experience made me realize how my mind was reacting to the challenge I was in and what it takes to push through it.

Why do you feel like quitting?

When learning new things it takes more time progress and results are coming slower. In some point in the process the thought “I’m tired, I want to quit this route and go down” comes in the mind.

This has happened several times for me and lately I really managed to catch myself thinking this. The nice part of this thought is, it feels so easy to give up and be done. However I often know inside me that I could still try (at least one more time) and try my best before I really give up. The proud feeling comes when I manage to pursue what I started and go until I have really used my strength and energy.

When you are in the middle of the climb and the thought of quitting kicks in, check in with yourself why do you feel it:

  • Is it about running out of energy?
  • Is it about lacking focus or motivation?
  • Is it about feeling uncomfortable and experiencing fear or anxiety?
  • Is it too hard of a challenge and I don’t feel like it anymore?
  • Etc.

I feel from my own experience that when I stop because I have given my all to the route, there are no regrets. Even if I couldn’t reach the top. If I enjoyed the working on the route, I say to myself, it’s going to be the project for the next time.

However, if I quit because I was not committed, or I was feeling too scared and couldn’t get my focus back, I wonder could I do better or could I try harder.

How can you deal with quitting thoughts?

Create a short discussion with yourself and see what would be the best way forward. Below are couple of question examples, which can be asked when you feel like quitting.

QuestionPossible answerPossible action
How’s my energy level?Energy still leftRest and try another move. It will be knowledge for me about the route.
No more energy leftLet’s go down and rest. I did my best and can try again next time.
How’s my motivation?I feel motivedLet’s try again. See how far I can get.
I don’t feel motivatedWhy not, what holds me back? Am I scared?
How I am feeling?Good and confidentDepending on energy can decide to continue, try another move.
ScaredSee why and can I overcome it? Maybe rest and breath. If not, go down and take a break.
What do you gain by not quitting?

Managing to go through when you know you still can but need some commitment gives you an accomplishment feeling and confidence in yourself. When I reached the top of that 6c, I felt so good and really, really tired, however proud I didn’t give up. I tried the moves, so I know what to expect next time and I felt this is something I want to try again because is doable one day.

Another benefit is creating a proof for yourself. Next time when you feel you want to quit mid route and you know you can still continue, the past experience of getting though these thoughts and feelings will be a proof to yourself that you can make it.

I hope this inspires you for your next session. Let me know in comments below how did you deal with quitting thoughts during your sessions?

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and see you next time!

2 thoughts on “Feel like quitting – how to keep climbing when you don’t feel like it?

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