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Vertical Mind – Possibly The Best Book for Climbers

Vertical Mind – Possibly The Best Book for Climbers

Over the past few years, it’s become noticeable that my mental game heavily affects my climbing performance. In my search to learn how to train my mental game, I came across Vertical Mind by Don McGrath and Jeff Elison.

The reviews on Audible were praiseworthy so I spent the next few weeks listening to the book while I took my dog on a walk in the mornings.

This article goes through a full review of the book, but for those of you that don’t like reading (and plan on getting the audiobook anyway), here is a quick summary:

Within the first five minutes of listening to the book, I realized that this book was going to be a great way to help with my climbing training.

Should You Buy It?

This book is certainly one that I enjoyed as an audiobook and I plan to purchase the paperback book as well.

I highly recommend you purchase this book. Not only is it well written, but it is filled with details and information that can help improve the mental aspects of your climbing performance.

My favorite part about the book was the actionable drills that it walks you through so that you can build your mental strength. For example, if you are afraid of falling, it goes through not only why you may be afraid of falling (spoiler, evolution has made you adverse to pain) and it goes through drills that you can do while climbing to help you through that mental block.

In addition, this book helped me realize that I was over gripping due to fear and now I’m frequently checking-in with myself to ensure that I’m gripping the proper amount, which has helped me conserve a lot of energy and may be responsible for some of the long sends I’ve accomplished.

If you are interested in improving your climbing performance and would like to learn how to train your mental game, then this book is a great way to do that.

Content Overview

According to the description, McGrath and Elison want to help climbers improve their mental game and have more fun climbing.

To help with this, they 1) use brain science and psychology to outline training for overcoming fear and anxiety, 2) teach climbers how to improve their mental game so they can be a better climber 3) recommend how to coach other climbers to work through fear and anxiety and 4) provide drills, exercises and training to climb harder.

Here is a brief overview of how they did that:

  1. Use brain science and psychology to outline training for overcoming fear and anxiety. They did a good job with this and I felt like I had a decent idea of not only what makes the science work, but also ways to use science to your advantage.
  2. Teach climbers how to improve their mental game. McGrath and Elison had two main sections that supported this, one, the section that was about teaching yourself how to become better mentally and how to teach others to become mentally stronger and better, thus also improving your own.
  3. How to coach other climbers for climbing better using mental training. Like mentioned in number two, there are two sections that support this objective. I had no intention of training or coaching anyone else, and I still don’t intend on coaching anyone (I’ll just recommend this book) but I feel like I learned a lot about what I need to do to become a better climbing partner. 
  4. Provide drills, exercises and training. Throughout the book, there are multiple drills and exercises for at the climbing wall and at home between your climbing trips. I’ve attempted a few of the drills and exercises already and with continued use, I imagine they will be very helpful for my climbing experience.

Target Audience

The audience that would likely benefit the most from this book are climbers that somewhat seasoned and fit one of the following (or both). 

  1. They want to up their climbing skill and training
  2. They want to enjoy climbing more or don’t enjoy climbing as much as they used to

New climbers would also benefit from it and may even be able to build an even better training regimen than if they waited until they were more experienced. However, some of the experiences that are highly relatable to experienced climbers may be foreign to new climbers, and thus, less useful or applicable.

Book Length and Price

Paperback $22.74 – 274 pages

Kindle $9.99

Audible $12.99 – 7hrs 37min

The value you get from this book is worth the cost. Even though I purchased the audible, I’d recommend that you get this as a paperback book instead. 

That way you can flip through the pages to get to different training exercises as you find the need for them.

Sometimes with the audio version of the book, I wanted to re-listen to a part that I heard the day prior but it is more difficult to skim through audio than it is to skim through text.

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