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A Climbing Mind: Breathing Power

Breathing Power – by Allan Evans


We often hear our fellow climbers reminding us to breathe when we are climbing, and, likewise, it is us shouting it up to the climber.

When we are climbing at our limit it can often be the first thing we forget about. I don’t need to tell you how important it is to breathe while climbing, or for just generally living. But I do want to explore just how important controlled breathing can be while climbing.


Breathing and particular types of breathing can help you manage your fears and anxieties – pre and during climbing. Regardless of what type of climbing we are doing it’s common to have anxious feelings at times, whether it be a fear of falling, of failure, of blowing an Onsight attempt on a route you have been saving for years! The list goes on.

A technique I came across in researching breathing techniques to use with my counselling clients was hacking the Vagus nerve.



What’s the Vagus nerve I hear you ask?

This nerve secretes a fluid which helps regulate our heart rate. As our body can’t distinguish the difference between what our mind is making up or what we are imagining, it responds to whatever story the mind is telling it.

Therefore, if we start getting fearful or anxious before a climb, our body responds. It elevates the heart rate and will produce adrenaline and a whole host of bodily functions are affected.

That explains the sweaty hands…

We can hack this nerve by performing longer exhalations, simply take a deep inbreath and on your outbreath make it slow and controlled and slightly longer than the inbreath. This stimulates the Vagus nerve and therefore slows down our heart rate, putting the body into a calm state.

Breathing deeply also has the added benefit of allowing more carbon dioxide to enter our blood stream, and having more carbon dioxide in our system slows down parts of the brain, including the amygdala, which is where fear is generated. Deep rhythmic breathing can also help us focus, when we get scared it takes our attention from the task at hand, to climb, to place protection well.



Do breathing techniques work?


In my own personal experience yes, they do. I can remember countless times on routes where I have been scared for whatever reason, a little voice in my head tells me to focus on breathing, in doing so I’m able to shift my attention back to climbing and continue.
Unfortunately, that little voice doesn’t always appear, and my fearful mind takes over, I hesitate, get pumped and either down climb or ask my belayer to take. I’m still working on using this powerful tool myself.


Disclaimer
These breathing techniques can be used to help you manage your mind and body whilst climbing, including your fears. I am however not suggesting you should not be fearful, fear keeps us alive and stops us from hurting ourselves. Climbing is an inherently dangerous activity and managing your risk is your responsibility.
It’s science!

I have linked a few articles I used as inspiration, they go into greater detail about the techniques used as well as the science behind it all, it’s interesting stuff.


Thanks for checking out the first instalment of my blog, I hope you find using the power of the breath useful not just in climbing, also in your day-to-day life.


If you see me at a crag, say hello and let’s do some breathing together!


Allan

References
https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-athletes-way/201905/longer-exhalations-are-easy-way-hack-your-vagus-nerve


https://rightasrain.uwmedicine.org/mind/stress/why-deep-breathing-makes-you-feel-so-chill


https://neurohacker.com/breathing-technique-focus-mind



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The Road to ClimbMuz

Siddrah introduces us to her new intiative to get more Muslim women into indoor climbing and how ClimbMuz was born.


I started climbing in my early 20’s when a friend introduced me to Mile End Climbing wall. While they never went back I continued climbing on and off throughout the years. I spent a long time climbing by myself, I did feel self- conscious not because I felt I needed representation but because I felt as though in my mind I was being judged for being scared, I have a huge fear of falling so it took me about 8 years to reach the top of a V0. I enjoyed climbing so I would always go back.

Years later I went to a Muslim meetup social event.

A group of us started climbing socially once a week, it did not occur to me how we were a group of Muslims in a majority white environment, I did not think about representation. I just accepted it as part of the norm. We stopped climbing as a group, ‘life happens’ and I as usual carried on climbing, making more climbing friends, this time around the majority of them were from the white community. I was proud of myself for being in this environment. I became comfortable being a minority as it was aiding my growth.  Also, on the other side a small part of me never really understood why people needed familiarity, someone who looks like them. If someone wants to try climbing, why not just turn up. I hadn’t realised how much of a barrier lack of inclusivity and representation is for many people.

On the 18th of June 2020 I had a conversation with someone about being a minority on the climbing wall…

“I’m used to being the only minority amongst people I climb with, I’m okay with that as the people who inspire me are beautiful souls. I personally don’t feel like I need representation.I grew up in a very desi (a person of Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi birth or descent who lives abroad) high population of ethnic minorities, for me having non South Asian friends who don’t climb has given me the opportunity to mix in with people and learn from other backgrounds that are not my own. That includes people from the white community. Hanging around with my white climbing friends moves me out of my comfort zone and broadens my experiences.”

I then realised that perhaps the lack of diversity in the climbing walls was down to lack of representation.

I wanted to make a change. My journey in all of this involved having conversations with people, tuning into Louis Parkinson’s takeover Tuesday stories and actually realising that not everyone feels comfortable or has the confidence to be a minority in a predominantly white environment. For some, seeing someone in climbing walls who has a disability, who is a visible Muslim or from a minority background might provide some comfort in that space. It will give them the confidence to take up climbing as a sport if they have the representation that they need.

I want everyone to feel comfortable in trying something new

Creating a inclusive, welcome space using events was the way I felt I could make a difference. It was in June of this year that I approached friends about spreading the word and increasing diversity in climbing walls, then at the beginning of July, ClimbMuz happened. I run groups at my local climbing wall and offer places to Muslim women who have never stepped foot in a climbing wall before. I have always been reluctant to be visible on social media primarily because it can come with a lot of unwanted attention, undesirable comments and trolls. However, alongside all of that there is the opportunity to create something truly magical, to inspire a whole new group of people, to try and tip the balance, which I believe far exceeds the negative.

To find out more about Siddrah and ClimbMuz – visit her on instragram, @Climbmuz and keep an eye out for upcoming events.


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Zoes goes carlife: five months in…

FIVE THINGS FOR FIVE MONTHS: A summer of #carlife.

FIVE MONTHS. I have lived in my car for… (nearly) Five. Months.

Three pot noodles, two dodgy encounters and one parking ticket later, I’ve watched the world go by out the boot of my Astra Estate. And now, I’m going to tell you about some of it.

Seatbelt up.


ONE. I’ve never eaten so many bagels.

I swear I’ve never seen a stale bagel. Whilst this should really make me question what could possibly be in them that they last forever, it actually just means they serve as a serious car-life staple. You get 5 in a bag – that’s 5 meals, boyo.

Soup and bagel. Lentil daal and bagel. Smashed avocado on a bagel. Cheese, tomato and hummus bagel sandwich. And for dessert? Nutella bagel.

Minimal cutlery is involved and the empty bag can be used as a bin. Occasionally you’ll find a toaster and it’ll be like winning the lottery. Bagels. That’s all I’m saying.


TWO. ‘Will someone hear me if I scream?’

Finding parking for the night is part of the fun. I love waking up to new scenes and listening to the gentle hum of the world outside – waves, gulls, rivers, songbirds, laughter – all tucked up in my little space.

No one knows I’m here, but I hear everything.

Unfortunately, that also means that I can only hear the car pulling up next to me at night and I have no idea of the occupants’ intentions. Did they see me get into the car? Was my laptop left in view during the day? Are those lads pulling donuts, were they drinking, and what if they crash into me?

It’s a difficult balance between finding spots that are far enough from the rowdier folk but also within earshot of people that might come to your rescue. And so I hear myself asking, ‘will someone hear me if I scream?’. It puts the safety aspect of this lifestyle into perspective. If it doesn’t quite sit right, if something is putting me off, then I don’t stay there. I won’t sleep anyway.


THREE. Keep a diary.

And in it, write down all those tiny little moments you see and swear you will remember but just won’t. Giving a university presentation from your driver’s seat. The lady who carries seashells in her makeshift face-mask basket. The boys on bicycles who offer you their freshly caught fish. The field rat that made off with your dropped tortellini. The first time you find out that Greggs does a VEGAN sausage, cheese and bean melt. The woman and son who quietly released a balloon and cheers-ed a tinnie for his friend that committed suicide, and the kind stranger that sat with them.

A lot is going on out there.


FOUR. Essentials.

Penknife. Sunglasses. Cushion. Window covers. Travel spoon. Toilet roll.

^^Your start-up kit for #carlife. I don’t think there is any generic situation (other than financial) that can’t be solved with the above items. Get creative. Challenges accepted.


FIVE. Relax, Zo, and figure it out later.

I tried to plan everything – where to park, what I was going to eat, when to shower, where is the nearest toilet. I tried to replicate normal house-life but just in a car.

As soon as I let this ideal go, everything seemed to work it out before I’d even realised it was a problem.

Accept that you won’t be eating full homecooked meals every night.

Accept that, even though you bought soap and a brush with only the best intentions, you will stash those dirty dishes until you next get to the sink at work.

Accept that you will try to use a She-Wee on your bed because you’re in too much of a public space to go outside, and you’ll hear it successfully going into the bottle but apparently you’ve used it at just the wrong angle that there’s suddenly a suspicious little wet patch just appeared on the duvet, and it’s already 11pm so there’s not much you can do about it, so a next-day shower and sheet-change will just have to do. You’ll survive.

Get ready to garner a whole new appreciation for the normally vertical activities such as getting dressed standing up and walking between rooms.


(SIX. Hangovers suck.)

‘nough said.

HashtagCarlife remains one of my best decisions. I plan to keep it going whilst the weather stays, and then go part-time for a while BECAUSE… *drumroll please*

Please enter, #CABINLIFE.

Catch up soon 😘

Zoe – @zoallin


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