Silvio interviews Luca Montanari: “The mental training for sport climbing”

It’s well known between regular climbers that climbing is not only about the hardware side of our body but is also fundamental the software side: the mind. That’s why our athlete and physiotherapist, Silvio Reffo, after explored many aspects about physiology and climbing training of the body now wants to explores the mental aspect. So, he’s interviewed Luca Montanari, alpine guide that some year ago decide to investigate this subject in the sports field. Let’s see what he tells Silvio:

Hello Luca, let introduce yourself…

I’m alpine guide since 10 years, member of X-Mountain alpine school and I teach to the Mountain High School in Tione (in the Brenta Dolomites area). Moreover after a study path since 2 years I became Sport Mental Coach. I practice the alpine guide job full time, from rock climbing on hard multipitch in Dolomites to ice and mixed climbing and steep skiing. Last years I focused mainly on high mountain and out of Europe expedition, often twice per year. I did ascents from the Rockies to North America, climbing on the most famous Californian route in Yosemite Valleys, ascents and attempt to 6000 and 8000 meters in Nepal, Tibet, China, Ladakh and South America.

What brings you to focus on mental coaching?

Mountains has ever been my teaching and stimulating place where I learn and projects new challenges and projects. In particular the out of Europe and high altitude expeditions bring me in a new dimension made of focus and dialogue into myself. I’m firmly convinced that the duo mind-body is determinant to reach difficult and ambitious goals, so in 2017 I reached the degree of Professional Coach and I started to work on projects about climbing and mountaineering.

Since twenty years mountains had been my coach, now It’s time to offer to the others everything I learnt from them.

 In sport, especially at high level, the mental aspect is very critical. How do you see this aspect, both for amateurs and professionals?

The mental training is ones of the many kind of training (physical-technical-tactical…) that an athlete must follow. Unfortunately, often the mistake is to consider it only marginal instead of give it the right importance because climbing is very emotional discipline. In my personal experience I can affirm that mental coaching is very useful both for climbing amateurs and pros. What they have to understand is that for train the mental side they need the same determination and sacrifices as technical and physical training. A must-to-do step  to permit to reach the fixed goals in the right time and to live the experience fully aware.

What does exactly a sport coach do?

A qualified Sport Coach is someone who graduated at a Coaching School and registered at the specific bar based on the 4/2013 law. The educational course provides specifics lessons for give a complete preparation. Sport Coach has the main goal to train the mind of sport athletes to be aware of emotions and govern them, blocking the negative thoughts. A research study by British Psycological Society – Concentration Skill Training in Sport, affirms that mental training made by a professional coach helps to increase 50% the athlete’s performance. Although the Sport coach action field is not only the one-to-one work with the single sportsman or with a team. In fact often this role is adopted into sport club or federation to transmit specific competence to trainer and technical expert such as leadership, efficient communication, listening of the athlete’s needs…

How much the mental side, such as fear, impact negatively on improving of medium level climbers?

The fall-fear is for sure the most common mental-block between medium level climbers.

About this aspect I can say that there isn’t a technique valid for everyone to better manage the fear to fall. It’s necessary to analyse the single subject because everyone need different way and timing to step over. At every level there’s margin to improve. More and more athletes are trained or work on these aspects, such as Chris Sharma, Adam Ondra o Janja Garnbret. If you want to step up the the game, you have to find every single resource and potential of your own and don’t feel any limits. For everyone and at every level.

Does exist any strategies, exercise that could help to improve this component?

The aspect on which the athlete and the coach work are so many. The first is the building and the plan of the goals. Without a well-built objective there’s growth. To improve the performance the athletes has to work on his state of mind, modifying from some physiological aspects to his own interior dialogue about his limits and his behaviours. We called the “inner game”.

What’s your tips as alpinist, alpine guide and sport mental coach for people approaching these discipline or who’s already good amateur and would like to improve more?

Since 20 years mountain is my daily coach. Mountaineering and climbing are both activities that start a fire inside you. I would like to give the message that is important to find your own path practicing them. But first of all, interrogate ourselves about “Why we do it?”. Feel your own soul and follow it. To be curious and honest with ourselves. And to study the mountaineering and climbing history as source of inspiration and self-awareness, designing a clear path to follow. And then, to reach the defined goal the only thing that could help you is work, ask a qualified consultancy and work more… Results will arrive for sure!