How to Use Visual Feedback to Improve Your Climbing
These days, it seems anything anyone does is just for the Instgram. But I urge you to think twice the next time your friend asks you to film them while they climb. Before you roll your eyes, consider this: you might be helping them become a better climber.
Visual feedback in the form of film review is a useful tool for learning and improving. Reviewing video was common practice when I was a figure skater. Film study is also utilized in mainstream sports like basketball, soccer and American football.
“Proper film study is vital for any NFL team to win. Players that can take what they see on the screen and transfer that knowledge to the field will always have their “eyes on the prize.”Ex-NFL athlete, Marc Lillibridge
Though there is not a ton that a climber can lean from how football players train, film review is certainly a tactic we can steal from the coach’s playbook. In the age of smart phones, you are carrying a powerful tool everywhere you go. Here is how you can wield it wisely.
Observing Yourself “Like a Scientist”
Trevor Ragan, founder of TrainUgly.com, has devoted his career to educating people on how to learn better. He writes about the process of “observing yourself like a scientist”. This is the idea that we should be taking an objective look at our practice and performance and take our results “seriously, not personally”.
“The outcome is a reflection of the process, NOT of me as a person.Trevor Ragan
I am not a failure, the failure was in the process.“
Scientists have tools that they use to collect data, so why not use your smart phone to gather some data for yourself?
Cringe Your Way Through It
Do you hate watching video of yourself? Do you cringe watching an instant replay of you failing on something? If you do, it’s pretty normal. However, as Trevor says, part of learning like a scientist is not take the outcomes personally. So take the video, get feedback and improve what you can.
A Little Help from Your Friends:
Getting Useful Feedback
On a November trip to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, I worked on Ale-8-One, a 5.12b in the Motherlode area. Before my first redpoint attempt on the the route, I tossed my friend Justin my phone and asked him to take a video.
I one-hung the route and had the whole thing on film. Honestly, I felt strong and smooth, but when I watched the footage, I seemed to be shaking like a leaf and my clipping was as smooth as sand paper (video below for reference. Pardon the quality). Upon reviewing it, it was
Note that on this attempt, it was my first time trying to emulate the no hands rest at the beginning, hence some of the sloppiness there.
That evening I passed the videos around to climbers who were stronger than me and asked for feedback on what they thought I could improve. I had my own ideas about what needed to be fixed, but hearing the perspective of others was really helpful. They noticed inefficiencies that I would not have picked out were I left to my own devices.
Taking Feedback and Getting Better
Though I didn’t send the route on that trip, my next redpoint go was night and day compared to my first attempt. I made it to the second to last hold before the chains and I felt way stronger. My loyal belayer told me that I looked like a completely different climber than my attempt two days ago.
Reviewing film and getting feedback from others made a huge difference.
A Bit of Research on Feedback and Learning
In a study of 60 male novice swimmers, researchers explored four different teaching methods for improving speed and swimming technique. Which method proved to be the most effective for technique improvement? A combination of film review and verbal feedback from coaches. Compared to verbal feedback alone and watching the expert swimmers, getting a combination of visual and verbal feedback, was superior to the other methods studied.
When to Get Footage
Obviously, getting video can be a cumbersome, especially if you are alone, or if you don’t want the distractions that your smart phone can cause. However, if there is a move or route you are struggling with indoors or outdoors, getting video of yourself is exceptionally helpful. If you are in a scenario where you think seeing yourself doing the move would benefit you, be brave, advocate for yourself and ask for a favor from a friend or a climbing partner.
Other Benefits of Film
We all take rest days. If I am in the middle of working on an outdoor project, I sometimes review the beta in my head as I fall asleep at night. This process can be augmented by having video to review as well. If you can review film and make notes on what you are going to tackle in the next climbing day, you help yourself become more intentional on the wall when your rest day is over.
- Film review is a common practice in high-end sports. We can also apply this tactic to our climbing.
- Objectively observing ourselves “like a scientist” is vital to the learning process.
- Visual feedback through film is a useful way to aid in the learning process of climbing.
- Having trusted climbing partners objectively review your film can give you fresh perspective when working on improving your climbing skills.
- Be brave and advocate for yourself if you want help getting video of a boulder or route you are working on.
- Reviewing film is a productive activity on rest days from climbing.
Have you ever used film review to work out a move or sequence? Have you found it helpful? Were you ever surprised at what you saw? Leave a comment or shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org – I would be thrilled to hear from you.