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How do I get motivated to climb?

Updated: Mar 10

What is motivation?

The dictionary definition for motivation is;

A reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.

"escape can be a strong motivation for travel".

Motivation is the reason why we pursue something, in the context of climbing we might desire to climb because it gives us a feeling of freedom, challenge or, as mentioned above offers us an escape from our current circumstances.

Why is motivation important?

Motivation is key in helping us decide what we want to do and how we want to spend out time, as climbers this could be routes we want to climb, grades we want to achieve or places we want to visit. Looking at our motivations can be especially useful when it comes to goal setting and training as it allows us to isolate the specific things we would like to work on and give us drive to keep working towards them.

How do we become motivated?

Action (Internal)

We have previous experience that the experience of going climbing offers us something that we enjoy or desire. This could also be other related activities giving us motivation, for example, "I had a great hill walking today, I really enjoyed the beauty of the mountains, therefore I'd like to try winter walking because it would extend that experience".

Inspiration (External)

We see or hear something that inspires us to try climbing, because we recognise something that we want for ourselves. For example a climbing film, magazine or podcast might tell us a story or show us images of something that inspires us to try climbing or something specific within climbing.

climber hanging by a rope on a cliff while mountaineering in wales

My Motivation Story

Before I started climbing I had absolutely no desire to try, I hated heights and would become gripped up with fear as soon as I left the ground. At the time I was working as the maintenance man at an outdoor centre where I was living, I was surrounded with friends who enjoyed climbing and was immersed in an outdoor culture. I was snowboarding loads in the winter and then mountain biking and kayaking the summer. I had not desire or motivation to climb.

When my contract came to a finish, I ended up moving back to live with my parents and with mountain biking and kayaking unavailable, I started dabbling with indoor climbing after a few friends dragged me along. I was terrible at learning the ropework (I think the amount of time I took to learn to tie a figure of 8 must be a record, it was in the months rather than hours!), but the physical movement of climbing, especially bouldering was exhilarating and my motivation to climb grew. Shortly after, I moved to North Wales where I had more opportunity to climb outside and I was hooked.

For me it was the physical movement that kickstarted my motivation for going climbing. Over time other elements of my motivation grew, the enjoyment of time spent outdoors, curiosity to visit interesting places and the escape and freedom found with travel. This motivation isn't a constant for me, writing this in a lockdown I find myself bombarded with instagram posts, facebook stories and youtube videos of people climbing all over the world, this can sometimes cause us to make a draining comparison between ourselves and a glowing picture of perfection. For some this might be all they need to get motivated, however I would suggest that for most this isn't true motivation, rather at best it might be the spark that lights the tinder of our deeper motivations (freedom, escape, connection etc...).

When I reflect on this now I realise how important for me it is to think about how I keep my motivation levels high. By thinking more about this process I can more sustainably maintain my motivation, in my case by looking back at my core motivations and basing my climbing choices and goal setting on them.

What comes first the chicken or the egg? Action vs motivation

I've put a video below in which Dave Macleod talks about how motivation doesn't necessarily equal action and that usually the hardest part of sustaining motivation is the action of getting out of the front door/off the sofa.

Have a think about your sources of motivation, whether they are helpful and how they can be harnessed to generate positive outcomes in your climbing life.