Overhangs have always made me nervous. I took my first lead fall on an overhang, and I took another one this past fall in Yosemite. I don’t like having my center of gravity behind me. I like to balance over my feet, where my hands don’t have to do too much work. There's nothing worse than hanging by your hands, feeling them slowly slipping, as energy fades from your fingers. Overhangs are the most exhausting. But they are part of the terrain. They are part of life. I can’t avoid them, so I figured I’d better get good at them.
This winter I joined a rock gym. This is new for me. I’ve always climbed outside. The stakes are high with outdoor climbing where you set your own gear and protection. But this winter I wanted to keep in shape plus up my game. A gym gave me a safe place to practice.
I picked the biggest overhang in the gym. My first time up the route I was antsy. I rushed and worried, and it showed. I fumbled clipping the rope, gripped all the holds too tightly, got pumped out and generally floundered. I even pulled a muscle in my left forearm. And that’s okay. It’s not always smooth and pretty when we push into our fears. But I needed to start somewhere. I needed to write the first draft.
On our way home from the gym, Rob—my climbing buddy—told me “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” It's an old marksmen credo. I liked that. Stephen Covey said it another way, “Fast is slow. Slow is fast.” I think both were right. I often think running around fast and busy is the best way to get things done. I'm learning the opposite is true.
I went back to the gym a few days later with a calmer mind. I was nursing my pulled muscle, so I had to be gentle. I had to move lightly. I didn’t want to exacerbate the injury. Parameters usually help us. I calmed my mind, moved slowly and deliberately focused on what was right in front of me. Take a look for yourself.