Climbing through neuro-physiological limitations

Hey all, I’ve recently been struggling with advancing my skills.

At first, I thought I was just weak - many times in the past the way through my plateaus has been to just train a little more: add weight on the hangboard, start lifting heavy, etc.

Not working this time. I seem to have a technique deficit that I’m just not getting through; I was thinking about it and it seems to be related to some physical (but not really strength) deficiencies.

I had a pretty gnarlerific brain injury about 11 years ago - climbing is actually a big part of how I learned to use my body afterwards.
Unfortunately, it left me with some issues; I have a really hard time generating force quickly on the left side of my body (even though overall strength is just about even), and I have an eye condition called nystagmus which among other things leaves me completely without depth perception.
I keep looking for ways to get around these setbacks, but I’m at an impasse.

Anybody got beta on climbing effectively with one eye?

This might sound silly, but first place I’d probably go is trying to limit sight or maybe alter lighting to affect depth perception for the other eye - just to see if any compensatory patterns or skills begin to emerge from it.

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I have no idea what it’s like, but you could try getting really creative with tactics. For instance when outdoor climbing, you will probably spend some time figuring out the moves on a climb before trying to red point. Maybe some advanced tick marks could help you judge the exact distance to the next hold better? When indoor climbing, maybe counting the amount of holes between holds could help you judge the distance…?

And how are you at heel hooks and drop knees? If you have trouble generating force quickly, then perhaps getting really good at these kind of moves can help you stay static. I guess getting really good at rooting would also help you stay static and help you have the time to feel a hold before really trying to latch on.

What are some of the things you’re already trying?

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It might be worth reaching out to national para-climbing teams (members and coaches) to see how they approach this for their visually impaired athletes

Hopefully they’ll have some thing that can apply to your training


Huh, that’s a really interesting idea, I’ll definitely give it a shot.

Honestly I’m sure I compensate already, but it’s true that I have no idea what those patterns look like or how they change in various situations. Getting a li’l clued in to the ways my body/mind already tries to deal seems wise.

I hadn’t even thought of that! My friend works with coaching paraclimbing, and it hadn’t even occurred to me to ask her. Thanks for the input!

I definitely have extremely careful footwork; my troubles tend to be a little less on individual movements and more coordination patterns.

That said, eg more precise ticking might help lock in some relative timing things, I’ll try it!

I’d be careful about overvaluing precision. Watch Adam Ondra climb something. He is very often extremely careless in his foot placements when he knows the speed is more efficient than the precision.

Careful usually = slow. Not always a good thing.

Just wanted to say that I can appreciate the struggle—I also have eye issues that leave me without proper depth perception and other interesting challenges so I often don’t know where the holds are in space until I go through muscle memory of learning the individual moves. I have a decent amount of power but typically perform better on static moves because I have an opportunity to figure out where the holds are.
Indoor climbing at least provides an opportunity to count bolt holes from the ground for the higher moves, so I have some useful information to go off of.