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Falling is something we all tend to avoid. It’s scary and can potentially cause us injury. However, falling is also a very real part of climbing, so avoiding it doesn’t help. It’s also a skill. We can find responsible ways to integrate falling into our training so we can practice it well. To do this, we check our motivation. Instead of being motivated by practicing falling to “get it over with,” we’re motivated to be present as we practice. How do we do this? There are two important aspects:
1. We practice in small increments, which allows us to take on a little stress or fear and work through it gradually. Starting our practice on toprope or at the top-clipped lead bolt can help. Then we can increment to longer falls by taking one step up as we become comfortable, until eventually we’re taking honest body-length-plus whippers.
Practicing falling in a safe environment like the gym is a good way to get comfortable taking whippers, and to practice “coming in for landing” on the wall. Video by Arno Ilgner.
2. We pay attention to our practice by focusing on our breath, where we look, and what we do with our bodies. By exhaling throughout the fall, we develop more comfort. By looking down as we fall, we focus our attention on the task of falling so we’re present for it. By assuming proper falling posture (knees up and level with our hips, and not grabbing the rope), we position ourselves for impacting the rock in the safest, most optimal way.
By making sure we’re motivated to be present for our falling practice, we don’t avoid it. Instead, we learn falling as a skill and diminish our fear of it until it no longer holds us back while climbing.
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