The Case for Not Trying Hard: R2V6

Your ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash. –Stinger

It’s hard to watch a bouldering video on YouTube and not hear people telling other people to try hard.

Come on. Right here. All the tension in the world. Try hard, Jimmy. TRY HARD.

But I’m here today to make a case for the opposite. I’m here to make a case for NOT trying hard.

You see because trying hard is good some of the time. Or actually very little of the time. But most of the time trying hard is not good. It’s actually counterproductive, and it’s the quickest way to injury, especially if you’re a climber in your late 30’s who hasn’t been climbing that long and whose body is crumbling.

I would say that trying hard is appropriate maybe 2% of the time.

A bunch of situations where trying hard is NOT appropriate: 

  • When you’re warming up
  • When you’re cooling down
  • When you’re warmed up but still not ready to pull hard
  • When you’ve been climbing too many days in a row or too frequently
  • When you can feel a body part starting to get aggravated
  • When you should actually step back and just puzzle out the beta better instead of trying to power your way through the problem

Let’s start with this last one, since other than not getting injured, it’s das beste argument for not trying hard. Let’s say you’re working on an orange at Seattle Bouldering project (V0-V3 outside grade depending on the problem) and you’re finding that a certain move is really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really–just really.

And maybe your buddy who’s standing there watching says, “Come on, Mark, try hard.”

And maybe you walk up to your buddy and punch it in the face because trying hard is EXACTLY what you don’t need to do. What do you need to do? You need to figure out a better way to do the sequence, since you’re obviously doing it wrong. You need to figure out better footwork. You need to figure out a better hand sequence. You need to figure out better footwork. And you need to figure out better footwork.

You could probably just try hard and send the problem. If you tried hard enough. But would you learn anything? Well, yes, actually you would. You’d ingrain a terrible habit that when the going gets tough you just need to try harder, when actually you need to be smarter. If you’re trying a problem you know is under your limit and encountering stopper moves, it’s not because you’re not strong enough, it’s because you’re doing it wrong. So step back. Try something else. Try the move in isolation using a different approach. Watch other people do the problem.

But for Vishna’s sake, don’t just try harder.

Look, I know it’s fun to go out there and just flow, and not get all cerebral about the problems. And there’s definitely a space for that. Sometimes you just gotta get on the wall, crush some greens, crush some purples, flail on some blacks. Sometimes when you’re climbing outside it’s good just to let your fingers touch the granodiorite without getting all analytical. Let your body figure it out. Then maybe if you fail step back and think, Hmmmmm, what should I cook for dinner tonight.

And like I said, there’s definitely a time and place for this kind of climbing. In fact, I would say that if you’re not sponsored by Asana putting up videos with shitty rap sountracks then this is most fo the climbing you should be doing. You should be focusing on having fun.

But inevitably you’ll encounter problems you can’t just flow your way through, and this is when you need to step back and take a two step approach:

  1. Figure out the problem
  2. Try hard

You cannot have number two without number one. You CAN have number one without number two.

What does that mean?

It means that sometimes after number one you won’t even need number two.

Because when you figure out the correct sequence sometimes you don’t even NEED to try hard.

OK I’m bored of writing this post. I’m going to leave you with a music video.

Have a great day. Or don’t. Whatever.

— Wetz