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Wanna Climb Better? Just go to Sleep.

I was climbing the 30 Wall the other day on a high-gravity day. I was flailing; failing hard. You know those days when you can’t seem to get your footwork quite right? When the skin on your finger-tips is shredded down paper thin and your arms are pumped after a few attempts? One of those days.

lucid dream climbing

I was climbing the 30 Wall the other day on a high-gravity day. I was flailing; failing hard. You know those days when you can’t seem to get your footwork quite right? When the skin on your finger-tips is shredded down paper thin and your arms are pumped after a few attempts? One of those days. But I continued climbing through it anyway, thanks to some sage advice from our Head Routesetter, Phil.

The V4s were taunting me. I kept getting halfway through or close to the end, but the top of the wall kept eluding me. Again. And again. And again. Frustration started to set in, and I kept slamming the mats on my ass, and then again with my hands out of irritation.

I had to remind myself to keep breathing I ended my session defeated, and that night I went home not having sent any of my projects. The content of my dreams that morning was predictably about climbing – not surprising for a climber:

You know, just trying to solve problems in my sleep. And in the glossy, surreal-like manner only a dream setting can provide, I gleefully sent that yellow & orange V4.

When I woke up, I didn’t think that much of it. But later that day I went in to face the 30 wall again, during a Session with Luke. I tried the yellow V4. I sent it on the first attempt – just like in my dream (and thanks to coaching from Luke)! And again on the orange. Done. Problem-solved. Maybe the easiest step to becoming a better climber is the one straight into your bed – you just have to start dreaming about rock climbing.

lucid dreaming climbing 2
Route setter Will, projecting in his sleep in the cave at BKB.

The step beyond that is lucid dreaming – which has been quite popular in the news lately for it’s purported benefits. Consider the evidence that proves lucid dreaming quite useful for the sport of climbing: “Practicing a physical activity during a lucid dream could improve performance in waking life,” writes The Atlantic in The Ways to Control Dreaming. Studies also suggest that dreams also pass in slow motion, which may allow for a more practiced study of physical movement.

And most compelling: in a more recent study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, it was found that “much of muscle strength is based on brain activity, rather than on the mass of the muscles themselves,”. Essentially, just imagining performing physical activities can benefit your muscle memory – and what is dreaming other than an exercise of the imagination?

So the next time you feel frustrated from that off-day, just go to sleep. And start dreaming.