Adam On­dra ex­plains how he trained for Si­lence (5.15d) us­ing as­sisted vi­su­al­iza­tion.


IMAG­INE ADAM ON­DRA ly­ing on his back, eyes squeezed shut in con­cen­tra­tion, while a phys­io­ther­a­pist holds his heel in space, help­ing him vi­su­al­ize and strengthen his body specif­i­cally for a move. The ther­a­pist helps him mimic a crux on Si­lence, the 45-me­ter, world’s-first 5.15d On­dra climbed Septem­ber 3 in the Han­shalleren Cave in Fla­tanger, Nor­way. Sound “out there”? Well, when you con­sider that Si­lence links 20 me­ters of 5.13d into a 5.15c, with wild, up­side-down jessery and a V15 crux, this new, in­tense, as­sisted vi­su­al­iza­tion starts to make more sense—On­dra needed ev­ery ad­van­tage.

Who are you do­ing this train­ing with?

Klaus Isele, who is my phys­io­ther­a­pist and an ex­pe­ri­enced climber. My work with Klaus is not only on the level of in­jury pre­ven­tion, but also on the level of how to climb bet­ter thanks to phys­io­ther­apy. On a climb as spe­cific as Si­lence, with such rare, com­plex, and weird move­ments, it is cru­cial.

Ex­plain your process with Klaus.

There are three ways to do vi­su­al­iza­tion, all per­formed while ly­ing on a bed or mat: You can stay still and only do ev­ery­thing in your head. You can move your hands and feet slightly while you pic­ture the moves. Or you can ask some­one to “cre­ate” cru­cial holds and footholds. So, if there is a dyno to a jug, you get your body into po­si­tion, guide your friend to cre­ate the jug ex­actly where it would be on the wall, and then go for it. I am us­ing all three tech­niques.

What’ s the the­ory be­hind this in­tense work?

The more you vi­su­al­ize, the more you have it di­aled and the eas­ier the route feels. You can try it 20 times in real life then 200 times in your mind, and that can bring the same re­sult as “hav­ing it di­aled”—as if you’d tried the climb 50 times in real life. You save skin, time, and climb­ing part­ners.

What as­pects of your climb­ing are you hop­ing to im­prove via this train­ing?

Be­sides bet­ter flow, I’m look­ing to build mus­cle mem­ory so that even on hard moves my body will stick to the cor­rect move­ment pat­terns. Of­ten, once you get pumped, you stop climb­ing cor­rectly (mis­takes like hav­ing the shoul­ders for­ward, bent back, hips away from the wall, etc.), so the key is to have it be au­to­matic. To have that, you need to climb in re­al­ity as much as pos­si­ble with the right move­ment pat­terns, as well as vi­su­al­ize with these pat­terns.

How did this next-level vi­su­al­iza­tion help with Si­lence?

It helped me re­al­ize how to make cer­tain moves dif­fer­ently, to con­sider how to per­fect the moves. In my head, I’m still us­ing the same hand­holds and footholds, but maybe I’ll ro­tate my body more or do some­thing slightly dif­fer­ent. This spring, Klaus and I watched footage of me on the route and dis­cussed all the moves, then he came with me on my first trip to Nor­way this year in May. Then, we even came up with spe­cific ex­er­cises for the mus­cles that were cru­cial for the crux moves, like calf, shoul­der, or ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles on the re­spec­tive side.

How of­ten were you do­ing it?

Fif­teen min­utes a day for the vi­su­al­iza­tion—ei­ther with Klaus, in the stretch­ing room of my climb­ing gym in Brno, the cabin at Fla­tanger, up in the cave, or even in my van while trav­el­ing—and 40 min­utes a day for the spe­cial ex­er­cises, such as the work on my left side abs, which was cru­cial for turn­ing up­side-down and throw­ing a foot jam above my head; or for my calves, which are cru­cial for the knee­bars, so I could triple my time rest­ing thanks to stronger calves.

Should this type of vi­su­al­iza­tion be­come a staple in climb­ing train­ing?

For sure—it’s an­other way to make your climb­ing bet­ter. Since skin is of­ten the lim­it­ing fac­tor in train­ing, with vi­su­al­iza­tion you can train more with­out wast­ing skin.


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