Words by Crystal Tan and Hank Greene
Photos by Crystal Tan
Do you ever think about how music can affect someone's climbing ability? You see that guy at the gym climbing hard, and you can't understand why you aren't sending your project. You both have high psych and your shirts off, so why aren't you crushing?! Then you realize, he has earbuds in...he must be listening to some sending tunes. That, or he's listening to a recording of Shia LaBeouf screaming, "JUST DO IT!!!!!"
Listening to music while climbing either at the gym or outdoors may or may not be for everyone. It also differs from climber to climber. I asked trainer, coach, and cuddle monster, Hank Greene, what his thoughts were about music and climbing. Here's what he had to say:
What’s your favorite type of music to climb to, and does it differ for training?
"Depending on my mood, the music I listen to while climbing at the gym can vary from downtempo electro, to hiphop, to classical, or even hardcore and punk. Artists include Emancipator, Tycho, Biggy, Black Flag, Dropkick Murphys, Rage Against the Machine, and Rachmaninhoff. Training music depends on what I am doing that day. If it's strength/power, I'll listen to punk, or hiphop to get fired up. I have noticed that my hangboard sessions feel a lot easier when I’m bumpin’ Biggy or Thrice. While endurance training usually involves live Grateful Dead or Phish shows since it keeps me mentally engaged and gives me a surprising amount of energy, plus it keeps me in touch with my dirty hippie roots."
Does the music depend on whether you are bouldering or rope climbing?
"I try to avoid headphones when I’m on the sharp end, it’s too sketchy. With bouldering, it’s different. Having headphones on helps me tune-out the chaos that is the bouldering area and focus on climbing. That being said, it can be difficult to pay attention to my breathing with headphones in, so if I feel that’s affecting me then I’ll ditch them altogether."
Is there a difference with music when you’re outdoors compared to indoors?
"I rarely listen to music when climbing outside. Sometimes a portable speaker is pumping some jams at the Riverside Quarry or other not-so-wilderness-y crags, assuming there aren’t any other folks within earshot. If I’m having a go at one of my projects, I’ll tend to throw in some earbuds. Sometimes it helps, but usually it doesn’t. The sound of nature is a pretty perfect soundtrack as it is."
Do you think listening to music helps with climbing?
"Yes and no. I think music definitely helps with training for climbing; anything that decreases the monotony of hangboarding is a win in my book. The same goes for weightlifting and cardio. It also keeps me from over-socializing and getting distracted during my workouts. When I am really climbing, I like to focus on my breathing and movement. Music can sometimes distract me from those things while other times it enhances my focus. It really just depends on my energy level going into a session of climbing. If my energy is high then I try to mellow out, but if my energy level is low then I use music to get PUMPED UP! The climbing environment matters too. Noisy, crowded gyms can be distracting and headphones would be a must. Quiet places, especially out in natural environments where music is not a necessity is ideal."
Climbing with music is subjective and really depends on the climber. Maybe music can help with climbing, or maybe it is more suitable when training for climbing. How do you feel about climbing with music?
Just don’t forget that music while climbing isn’t for everyone, especially when you’re outside at your favorite crag or climbing spot. It’s good to respect other climbers and your surroundings. Sometimes it's just better to take in the delightful sounds of Mother Nature.