The Most Valuable Lessons I've Discovered From Expert Climbers

The Most Valuable Lessons I've Discovered From Expert Climbers

My videos have over 200k views online and I keep sharing every week.

I have listened to over 100 hours of podcasts on climbing training, taking detailed notes from dozens of incredibly high quality episodes.

To dig in deeper I’ve read books by Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Yvon Chouinard, Lynn Hill, and Reinhold Messner. 

Here are the FIVE MOST VALUABLE lessons from all the ideas I’ve encountered, including the best place to focus your attention and how to balance play and achievement.

Lesson 1: Alex Honnold’s Training Schedule 
The Best Place to Focus Your Attention

Training Schedule

The most impressive part of Alex Honnold’s free solo story isn’t just the actions he took hundreds sof feet from the ground. Yes, his success was built on the stack of proof to himself that he could do the moves.

But one thing he said really boiled it down to a single key lesson for me:

If you want to improve, focus on your weaknesses.

If you want to perform focus on your strengths.” — Alex Honnold


In an interview from 2022 Alex said his regular week involves climbing outside 3-4 days, then one training session inside, usually on a moon board doing limit bouldering to improve his strength.


But his advice for new climbers is to focus on the movement on rock. Stretching and general conditioning can go a long way to helping you improve your rock climbing technique. 


Since he was a kid Alex did pushups and pull-ups every night in his room. To push into the elite levels Alex includes homework outs from hangboarding to one-arm pull-ups. For core exercises, he keeps it simple with leg lifts, front levers, and planks.


One amazing “aha” came from an interview with Honnold one hour after completing his record-shattering free solo on El Capitan - he was asked, “What else are you going to do today?”


To which he casually replied. “Oh, I’m going to do a hangboard workout. I told myself I would hangboard for finger strength every other day. Today is the other day.”


Lesson 2: The Optical Climbing Mindset to Improve
From Peter Croft (Alex Honnold’s Role Model)

Climbing Mindset

Peter Croft grew up in a small town on the northwest coast of Canada. Luckily for him, it became the premiere climbing spot in his country, and as a teenager, he climbed nearly every day.


One afternoon as his friends finished their climbing day and went to get stoned and eat ice cream, Peter realized he wanted to keep climbing. He felt fired up to push himself further and so he ditched his friends to go climb by himself, setting up top ropes and solo-ing easy routes. 


This separation from the pack freed Croft to find the training recipe that worked best for him. And it was all about getting in hundreds of hours of practice, not chasing some harder number grade.


Whenever I’m chasing the grade, I feel like I plateau.

It’s better to listen to your body and listen to let your psyche go. 

Go where the fun is and you’ll tap into that energy to give 110%.”


We’ll see this in everyone from Chris Sharma to Tommy Caldwell to Lynn Hill.
They succeeded because of the daily activities, not because of the large goal written on a Post-it stuck to the fridge.


And the GROWTH MINDSET is the key.

Instead of hitting your goal and calling it quits, aim to make small steps of progress every week. 


When you stack up your little improvements over time you become unstoppable.

The goal is not to hit the target but rather to keep getting better. 


We often see a snapshot of someone else’s progress and think they found overnight success. But in reality, success is the product of daily habits. 


And remember — it’s far easier to commit to a small activity daily than a large challenge every once in a while.


“Of all forms of human motivation, the most effective one is progress.“ 

— Greg McKeown, Essentialism


Lesson 3: Chris Sharma’s Approach to Climbing Hard
The Ideal Balance of Play and Achievement 

The Ideal Balance

For two decades straight Chris Sharma broke climbing records, including climbing the hardest route in North America at age 15. 

But he prefers to climb outside on his project over training in a gym.

Sharma just gets much more inspired to climb on routes outside.
He offers a good framing as a story of two climbers.

One climber might spend two years working the route outside over and over making slow but steady progress

Meanwhile, the other climber has a regimented training plan they follow for a year and eight months. Then they get outside to try their project and send it after just a few months.

It looks like the second climber got fast results but ultimately it took about two years to send.

You just have to figure out what keeps you motivated or what your lifestyle allows for.

Climbing is an artistic, creative thing; 

it's about being spontaneous, traveling, seeing the world, hanging out. 

It's a balance of setting goals while enjoying the process,

 being ambitious without being too competitive.” — Chris Sharma 


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