Silent Feet

I’ve been bouldering with Harrison a good amount recently, and after two or so months of twice-a-week sessions I’m back to my natural plateau: good enough to send a decent number of routes through sheer muscle memory and core strength, but not good enough to tackle the next tier up which require heretofore unfathomable levels of grip strength and technique.

To work on my technique and break my bad habit of brute forcing routes, I’m working on practicing silent feet. This is exactly what it sounds like: focusing on making your feet movements as quiet as humanly possible when bouldering.

Implicit in “quiet” is a number of important things: confidence and precision with initial hold contact; control and grace extending from your core so you don’t loudly smack the wall; focus on extended comfort as opposed to letting your next obvious upward move guide your decision.

It’s increasingly obvious that this is a useful approach across disciplines. (Kent Beck famously writes “first make the change easy, then make the easy change.”):

  • It requires rigor and self-control to pull yourself away from the big, sweeping movements in favor of smaller, more precise, and perhaps less satisfying movements.
  • It can require breaking bad habits and build muscles that you’ve been long-neglecting (how much likely are you to dutifully ship small PRs if your end-to-end CI suite is flaky and takes twenty minutes?).
  • It requires redefining your end goal away from closing the ticket to perfectly executing every step, which is the hardest of all for me — there is nothing I like more than seeing the open issue count on the roadmap decrement.

Anyway. I think that’s the right level of ham-handed metaphor. My core hurts; I hope to send my first V5 this week.

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© 2023 Justin Duke • You deserve a high five.