When I think of the sports that would be most likely to prompt a large dose of fear, Climbing is high (sorry!) up there; particularly the fear of falling or the fear I’d get myself into a position I couldn’t escape. I, like many others I suspect, watched Free Solo through fingers in front of my eyes – knowing the outcome but still fearing what could happen. So, although climbing looks hard from a physical aspect it is also one of the hardest sports to tackle psychologically. The performance anxiety many of us struggle with in our sports comes from a mental threat, often to our self-identity. But in climbing there is also a physical threat, to our safety, and that adds a whole new dimension.

With this in mind it would be ideal if every climber had access to a sport psychologist to support them through the tricky moves, and tricky times. And yet, as psychologists, we are acutely aware that our individual sessions can seem expensive – you are paying for the seven years of training, hours and hours of experience, room or equipment costs and our time to tailor every intervention and activity directly for your situation. But we all love to help people so a book like Smart Climbing, written by someone who is an expert in psychology and climbing (Dr Rebecca Williams) is the next best thing.

Smart Climbing is super specific because it comes from a climber, for climbers. It covers Rebecca’s lessons as a psychologist and a climber. The book comes from a mix of CBT and ACT approaches – which tends to be how many sports psychs work and means you don’t only develop your acceptance that some things are hard and scary but also places your values and self-awareness of what matters to you at the core of your climbing. This really helps you to learn the most valuable mental skills for you as you develop your mindset.  

If Rebecca’s credibility as a climber isn’t enough the book is really well referenced with peer reviewed papers so you can see everything is developed from a really strong evidence base.

The book is split into three sections: Key mental skills (chapters 1-3) to get your started, fear and anxiety (chapters 4-10) to help with the most common issues in climbing, and then more specific mental skills to help you build confidence and focus (chapters 11-14) so you can be a great climber.

The chapters are full of worksheets and activities to do so you really do tailor what you read to your specific situation. I particularly liked the skills assessment sheet and the activity where you get to design your own climbing coat of arms – they both really make you think about what matters to you as a climber. I also loved the case studies that bring the issues and activities to life. Lots of different climbers with different psychological needs.

I have also written my books from a general performance perspective – trying to make the skills work for anyone in any sport or sector – this means the stories and activities are accessible to anyone – but the reader needs to do some work to tailor them to their own situation. The beauty of Smart Climbing is that it is so specific, it feels like Rebecca really gets you and the issues you are dealing with. As a result I would say Smart Climbing is more than a sport psychology book. It is written by a climber for climbers with brilliantly specific explanations, case studies, activities and worksheets to help your mind help your body to take your climbing to the next level.

You can pre-order a copy at: Sequoia Books