BMC Ambassador Hazel Findlay: how mental coaching could change your life

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 11/12/2015
Hazel Findlay. Photo: Alex Messenger

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.

 

READ: Hazel talks about fear of falling in this BMC article

 

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."

 


JOIN THE BMC: Save 50% on your first year's membership

The BMC works for indoor climbers like you. Benefits include:

  • Retail discounts
  • Access to BMC Travel Insurance
  • Register for Mountain Training award schemes
  • £10m worldwide Combined Liability insurance
  • £10,000 Personal Accident insurance
  • Discounted entry to many competitions

Find out more about BMC membership benefits

WATCH: Molly Thompson-Smith: Portrait of a Champion on BMC TV

Follow the BMC's competition climbing Twitter feed: @BMC_Comps

Find all upcoming competitions here.


« Back

Post a comment Print this article

This article has been read 468 times

TAGS

Click on the tags to explore more

RELATED ARTICLES

Hazel Findlay: Let's vote for positive change so the BMC can move with the times
0
Hazel Findlay: Let's vote for positive change so the BMC can move with the times

Climber Hazel Findlay explains why she’s helping to build a better BMC by voting for our new constitution.
Read more »

Interview: Hazel Findlay crushes on El Cap again
1
Interview: Hazel Findlay crushes on El Cap again

BMC ambassador Hazel has just become the second Brit to free climb (i.e. trad climb - using no aid techniques) the classic route, Salathé Wall, which takes the most natural line up El Cap in Yosemite.
Read more »

Sweet dreams: why do big brands crave climbers?
8
Sweet dreams: why do big brands crave climbers?

Coke has started to sponsor pro climbers. Should the climbing community embrace support from big drinks brands or fight back against their sugary fingers? Hazel Findlay takes a look at this sticky issue.
Read more »

Post a Comment
Posting as Anonymous Community Standards
3000 characters remaining
Submit
Your comment has been posted below, click here to view it
Comments are currently on | Turn off comments
1
1) Anonymous User
17/12/2015
cool

RELATED ARTICLES

Hazel Findlay: Let's vote for positive change so the BMC can move with the times
0

Climber Hazel Findlay explains why she’s helping to build a better BMC by voting for our new constitution.
Read more »

Interview: Hazel Findlay crushes on El Cap again
1

BMC ambassador Hazel has just become the second Brit to free climb (i.e. trad climb - using no aid techniques) the classic route, Salathé Wall, which takes the most natural line up El Cap in Yosemite.
Read more »

Sweet dreams: why do big brands crave climbers?
8

Coke has started to sponsor pro climbers. Should the climbing community embrace support from big drinks brands or fight back against their sugary fingers? Hazel Findlay takes a look at this sticky issue.
Read more »

BMC MEMBERSHIP
Join 82,000 BMC members and support British climbing, walking and mountaineering. Membership only £16.97.
Read more »
BMC SHOP
Great range of guidebooks, DVDs, books, calendars and maps.
All with discounts for members.
Read more »
TRAVEL INSURANCE
Get covered with BMC Insurance. Our five policies take you from the beach to Everest.
Read more »