Day 165: Slacken

I tell you–we’re not quite halfway through this year and it’s getting harder to avoid reusing subject headings. Today’s post should really be entitled “loosen,” but that one was already taken. And so was unwind. So we’re going to go with a synonym–and one that happens to have a relationship to climbing as well. More on that in a little bit.

Ever since I got off the plane last night, I’ve had a tight neck that has been teetering on a full-blown headache. It’s not that uncommon for me, especially after I’ve been toting bags around, or driving all day, and there have been periods when I have maintained a steady regimen of ibuprofen just to keep my muscles loose.

A good night’s sleep can do the trick too–but this morning I woke up with that nagging tightness still there, and with another plane to catch.

But rather than immediately seeking relief–quashing the pain before it is really full-on pain–I decided that I would be as attentive as I could be to where I was holding my tension in my muscles, and then just try to loosen up. Lots of neck rolls all day, and kneading of muscles, and slackening of my jaw. And you know, for the most part, that worked just fine for just about the entire day. The pain would start to well up, I would taken a moment to loosen up, and then the pain would dissipate.

So where does the climbing come in?

I’m in Texas today for a divisional championship with my oldest boy, the competitive climber. He is only competing in one category this season: speed. We got to the gym early and had about an hour before the check-in. I thought he would want to hang out with his team mates, many of whom had competed in the morning and were waiting for the afternoon speed session. After about fifteen minutes, though, he asked if we could leave the gym until closer to check-in time. His explanation: he didn’t want to spend the next hour staring at his speed route and running it in head head. He wanted to stay loose and relaxed right up until competition. So I obliged.

I didn’t actually see him do his two qualifying speed climbs–I was volunteering for another age category in a different area of the gym. When we caught up later in the day, I asked him how he thought he did. He told me he scratched on his first climb, and then climbed a bit more cautiously–not his full out fastest–on the second, to make sure he had at least one qualifying time. As we were getting ready to go, he stopped me:

“Listen: if you know what my time is on that second run, don’t tell me. I really don’t want to have that number in my head tomorrow for finals.”

I told him that since I hadn’t been on his side of the gym, and scores hadn’t been posted, I had no idea what his time was.

“Good. Let’s just leave it like that and not know what it is.”

I was really impressed with his ability to keep a loose grip on everything. He seemed confident enough to know that he had qualified for finals tomorrow, but he didn’t want to get caught up in a “must beat” mental game with himself. Or with me, for that matter.

He was calling for slack, and I was more than willing to offer it to him.

It may seem like a stretch to connect my attempts to keep my neck loose with my son’s desire to remain mentally loose in this competition, but in a lot of ways, I do see a similarity. It’s about knowing what ties you in knots, and figuring out how to keep from getting bound up too tightly.

And yes, I did eventually take two ibuprofen, about a half hour ago, as the headache started to win out; and yes, I did check the speed results online at about the same time, just to confirm that he did indeed qualify for tomorrow’s finals….

But today’s challenge was very much about learning how to loosen up–literally and figuratively–and how to keep from letting “focus” turn into an unhealthy, unhelpful tension.



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2 Responses to Day 165: Slacken

  1. nrhatch says:

    I’d say Father and Son are both on the right track. Happy Father’s Day!

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