BMC ambassador Hazel Findlay talks five years in her van making a living out of climbing, eastern philosophy, why she's only interested in coaching the mental side of climbing, and how it has made her better at dealing with life in general.
I've been a fulltime climber for almost five years. Most of my income has come from outdoor clothing brands; in the past that was the North Face and now it's Black Diamond. I also do talks and recently I've started mental coaching more.
Working for a clothing brand involves a lot of promotional work, both of your own 'personal brand' and the brand you're associated with. This is usually via social media platforms, but also through events, films and print media. They also like to hear a lot of product feedback, which helps them design and test new products.
I have a lot of freedom. Too much probably. I have very few commitments that I can't say no to. I travel most of the year and don't think I've been in one place for longer than six weeks since I finished university in 2011. In Europe I live out of my van mostly and then when I travel to other continents I usually camp because it's cheaper, but sometimes I can afford accommodation or stay with friends.
I haven't been climbing this summer because I've been recovering from a shoulder operation. I took myself to Chamonix so I could still be in a beautiful place, and they have good physios there. So my main climbing project, which I'm putting nearly all my mental and emotional energy into at the moment, is fixing my shoulder.
Watch: Hazel Findlay talks about recovering from injury on BMC TV
I'm really interested in philosophy because it feels like all of the subjects and none of the subjects at the same time. If you take any subject - science, art, social science - and you keep peeling away the layers, you're left with philosophy. When I studied it at university I never felt like it impacted my life much though. I found Western philosophy very logical, dry and analytical, and very far removed from real life.
Since I've become interested in mental training for climbing, I've found philosophy again and it feels like it affects my life much more now. Probably because I'm more interested in eastern philosophy now. It probably has improved my climbing. It's helped me shift my mindset and made me better at dealing with life in general, not just within the context of climbing.
I'm pretty much only interested in coaching the mental side of climbing. I don't think I would make the best physical coach. Even though anything related to the mind is infinitely complex, to me it's also infinitely interesting.
I really like the fact that mental training for climbing isn't really mental training for climbing but really for life, you can't really separate the two. For example, learning how to respond to stress in a climbing situation helps you learn how to respond to stress in any other kind of situation, too.
I think mental coaching is a hugely neglected area in sport and when implemented it's usually the classic 'positivity' approach. If you can believe you can do then you will do it. If you can imagine yourself at the end of the route then you can climb to the top. I don't think this approach works very well because it distracts you from what you're supposed to be doing.
To climb well, I think you should be totally focused in what you're doing in the here and now, not thinking about being at the top already. It's also unrealistic to think in this blindly positive manner. I've found that it's much better to accept the way things are in reality - and the reality is that you don't know whether you'll do a route or not.
The unknown in climbing is better accepted than rejected and is also something we should celebrate. How boring would climbing be if we already know whether we would do a route or not before we even left the ground? And, again, the same principle can be applied to other areas of life.
As well as being a sponsored climber and a coach, I'm proud to represent and promote the BMC as an ambassador. They do a really good job of preserving our ability to climb at the cliffs we love. This job is becoming increasingly difficult as there are increasing numbers of climbers.
I'm very interested in helping the BMC keep the mindset of all the new climbers in line with environmental issues. We always assume that we are very mindful of the areas that we climb in, but really we aren't - generally we treat these areas as if they were our own. We park where we want, go to the toilet where we want, leave tick marks on beautiful boulders, stash gear, leave bits of tat hanging off our crags.
In recent years the BMC has also become very forward thinking and been extremely successful in making it an organisation that younger people can relate to. I think the ambassador scheme has been a big part of this process and I'm pleased to be a part of it.
WATCH: Hazel Findlay's dad Steve talks about living life to the fullest
"The best thing about my Dad is that he's in love with the world and always striving to explore whats round the next corner."
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