If you quietly observe at the climbing gym, most people warm up and try to send boulder problems. The goal is sending – it’s super fun, it boosts the ego, you fist pump your buds, and up it goes on Instagram for public consumption. If your primary goal is to have fun, get some exercise and engage in the social aspects of a rad sport, by all means, send away. But if you’re trying to improve climbing ability and progress, particularly if you climb outdoors, then this “performance mindset” isn’t most efficient way to rise through the grades.
The performance mindset is results-oriented; very easy to pick out by simply asking a climber what they are doing or have done; “I did two V4’s and worked on a V5,” would be standard issue for this type of mentality. The result is the reason for the session and is often accompanied by expectations (“I am going to send that red V5”) and the potential let down and ego smashing (I suck. I couldn’t’ even do V4 today.”). On the flip side, cruising a soft V5 that caters to your strengths can boost the ego but does little to progress climbing ability.
The practice mindset is process oriented. “I am going to work on using small, high feet and gastons since I am not that good at those,” would be a typical thought of the process oriented climber with the correct practice mindset. Grades, or even routes, matter little and the climber may be better served by just using the gym as a random set of holds to which he or she can apply movements and holds that attack their relative weaknesses. Asking “how was your session?” would prompt an almost always positive response by a climber making honest efforts: “I worked on using high feet and fell off a lot,” represents a successful session by all counts of an experienced athlete that approaches training separate from performance. This response means the climber actively worked on their weakness, near their limits, on the edges of their circle of comfort; the perfect mix for efficient progression. Did they send any problems? Do they care?
There are times and places to express the performance mindset. Some climbers require empirical proof that they are making advancements more often than others. Planning a gym sending session after an appropriate rest period would indicate the efficiencies of the program. Some climbers save the performance periods and mindsets for road trips, others for outings to the local cliffs. In any of these cases, it is important to remember that proper training programs manage building fatigue and any performance period is preceded by a rest period to allow changes in the body.
Extrapolate further, and the gym and local cliffs both become areas where the practice mindset is the norm, and the road trips are for full on results oriented goal setting and performance mindsets; this makes for fun goal setting, long-term motivation for training and inspired trips.