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Quiet eye training
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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Dec 16, 2012
At the BRC

Anybody familiar with this, or ever used it for climbing training?
It stems from studies tracking gaze and various maneuvers to control attention and improve performance by controlling gaze. Mostly studied in aiming sports, I believe.
I'm reading a text on it now, if there's interest I'll try to do a review.


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By Brendan N. (grayhghost)
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Dec 18, 2012

I saw this NYT article recently.
Not exactly the same, but I don't look at the crux when I am resting before it. I try to look off to the side while visualizing the movements. I also try to visualized myself latching the good hold that marks the end of the business.
What other applications of the technique do you see?


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Dec 18, 2012
At the BRC

This is going to be a little long winded, sorry. If there are folks who really know this stuff, PLEASE correct me.

First some personal background.
I started climbing outside again this year after a long hiatus indoors. I soon realized my footwork was mediocre. I started thinking about a friend, who is a superb climber, and has a distinctive style of really focusing on her feet. Figured I'd give it a try and thought it was helping me. Then I saw the NYT article and it couldn't have been more on target. So I looked up a couple of articles on quiet eye and read Vickers' text on it.

For those who don't know, quiet eye is a branch of sports performance research where they hook you up to this gadget that records where your eyes are looking and for how long, while you do something like shoot a basketball free throw, or hit a golf ball. When they do these studies, they find that elite performers have a longer period of steady gaze at a specific task important location (the location varies depending on the sport and to a lesser extent, on the athlete.)

OK, so that sounds pretty good. They explain the effectiveness by theorizing that the longer gaze allows better visuomotor processing by the brain, thereby better performance.

And there are several studies showing that folks can develop a more effective 'quiet eye' with training and that this can improve performance in things like free throws, golf putts, etc.

If you get a chance, watch the gaze of average climbers when they place their feet. I've been doing this recently. They almost always look away before their foot is placed.

I'm thinking watching your foot till it's ON the hold and little longer will be helpful in accuracy and precision. This is only a small part of climbing, worthwhile, but not that big a deal maybe

But there is also evidence that quiet eye training can decrease 'choking.'

When they studied elite biathlon athletes under pressure, they found that the folks who maintained a quiet eye were the ones who maintained their performance. This I could really use! If I could climb every route as well as if I was in the best performance state (which is NOT feeling super anxious!) I'd be a lot more successful.

There are several explanations offered, the one I favor is that maintaining a quiet eye focuses attention on EXTERNAL task relevant locations, countering the tendency to choke when attention is diverted to internal body/mind cues (eg "I'm so pumped, that piece is so far below me....")

There is also a line of argument that involves distraction. Visual attention is thought to be either goal focused, or salience focused. Salience focus is a separate visual attention pathway which functions more rapidly than the goal focused pathway, and is what let's you notice sudden important (salient) items. Increased anxiety levels are thought to make the salience pathway stronger, which distracts from task performance. Quiet eye training may decrease choking by allowing more use of the goal focused pathway.

So how do you do the training?
In the studies, they hook folks up, record their gaze and performance, then have them compare their videos with those of elite performers. The athletes are guided to analyze their own results and come up with ways to improve.

I don't have the gadgets, so I figure I'll start on easy routes and try to develop the habit of looking at my feet and hands till they are firmly placed. Then gradually stress proof the habit by getting on more stressful routes (harder, more coveted, scarier.)

I don't have SCC around, so don't know if Hunter addresses this. I don't think McLeod does. Horst mentions gaze but not in any detail.

So I put out the post to see if anybody else had any ideas I could use.

PS I like the idea of looking away while visualizing the crux, but that seems more like relaxation, would allow better focus on the visualization, not being distracted by the actual holds right there.


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Dec 18, 2012
At the BRC

JLP wrote:
This sounds like academic overthinking focused on an effect as if it is a cause. Elite performers simply know from conditioning what to focus on and what to ignore and their eyes will follow that. I'd love to see one of these gadgets following the eyes of a stressed out 5.8 trad climber. Oh - what's my belayer doing, is my knot okay, what will that pitch 400 feet above be like - oh yeah, what about this next move... You can't simply tell this person what and what not to look at and expect this change in visual information alone to change their performance.


Maybe not, but there are actual positive studies looking at this in other sports. Maybe the negative studies just aren't published, but I'm willing to give it a try. YMMV.

I'm not an academic, so may not have done justice to the whole concept.


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By Kenan
Dec 18, 2012
Shelf Rd

Reading this made me think back to Arno Ilgner's words about focus and attention in the Rock Warrior's Way. He writes about 'soft eye focus' or broad focus in contrast with narrow focus. The goal (he claims) is to use soft eye focus to achieve an overall awareness of what's around you instead of fixating on or over-thinking about specific features (holds, etc). I'll have to re-read those sections again to reconnect with what he was saying.. But you should definitely check out that book if you haven't already. It really revolutionized the way I thought about climbing.


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Dec 18, 2012
At the BRC

Kenan wrote:
Reading this made me think back to Arno Ilgner's words about focus and attention in the Rock Warrior's Way. He writes about 'soft eye focus' or broad focus in contrast with narrow focus. The goal (he claims) is to use soft eye focus to achieve an overall awareness of what's around you instead of fixating on or over-thinking about specific features (holds, etc). I'll have to re-read those sections again to reconnect with what he was saying.. But you should definitely check out that book if you haven't already. It really revolutionized the way I thought about climbing.


I have read that book maybe 5-6 times recently. Very helpful. I like the soft eye concept but have struggled to incorporate it.

There was a short section in the quiet eye book analyzing tactical gaze studies. One study looked at hockey players and found that elite players tended to have many short duration gaze fixations when sizing up a play, followed by a longer single fixation on the most important player/location. I'm still mulling over how to implement this in climbing.


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Dec 18, 2012
At the BRC

JLP wrote:
Mark - from your last few threads, I think you'd click with Justin Sjong. Suggest you shell out a few bucks for a few hours of coaching with him at Movement.

I have. He's great. Still digesting the learning from our last session.
Really a nice guy too.
Thanks for the suggestion!


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By stow
Dec 19, 2012
portion control

After seeing the NYT article I started experimenting a little with this. I don't understand it but gaze control seems to have a climbing-related performance benefit in a number of areas: really focusing on one spot while slacklining, only winding up and looking at the target hold 1x when dynoing, focusing on one spot when trying to maintain a multi-minute difficult rest position while pumped, even when briefly centering/regrouping pre-crux.

I suspect it has something to do with not overriding the cerebellum - the primitive movement in space/ rapid feedback processing part of the brain. I.e., stop the chatter and just let your body do what it knows how to do already.

Mark, to me it seems like watching foot placements is possibly more a drill to hard wire automatic foot precision and deliberate pressing than any gaze control thing. Probably many times more important than gaze control though!


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By "H"
From Manitou Springs
Dec 19, 2012
Axes glistening in the sun

Interesting read. Sounds like something we used in the military to better our shooting at distance. Wonder if it has it's roots in neurolinguistic programming. Some excercises in NLP use eye movement to help "reprogram" the brain in a short period of time.


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By Jeff Kent
From Sedona, Az
Dec 19, 2012

I always thought it was "Whispering eye"?


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Dec 19, 2012
At the BRC

"H" wrote:
Some excercises in NLP use eye movement to help "reprogram" the brain in a short period of time.


Mind elaborating?


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By "H"
From Manitou Springs
Dec 19, 2012
Axes glistening in the sun

Mark E Dixon wrote:
Mind elaborating?


"This technique for accelerated learning allows you to make any
new action or skill automatic in your behavior. It is useful any time
you want to have more choices, learn a new skill, or model an
expert.
1. Imagine looking off a little to your right, and see yourself in front
of you.
2. Decide what you would like to learn how to do. It may be acting in
a more satisfying way in a current situation, or it may be doing
something new. How would that other you look if that other you
could already do it? Construct a movie of that other you doing it.
If the movie is incomplete, that other you can pretend “as if” he/she
were able to handle situations like that easily. Now watch as the movie
fills in any missing parts. If you need more information, seek a skilled
role model, live or taped. Carefully observe and listen as the role model
performs the desired behavior. Have that role model transform into the
“real” you doing it. Watch as the role model turns into that other you
doing the new behavior in the desired situation or location.
3. See and hear that other you doing the new behavior in the desired
situation or location.
4. Is what you see and hear what you want? Is that satisfactory to you?
5. If something is missing, or the experience doesn’t look or sound
satisfying or appropriate, adjust it until it is a full and satisfying
experience. You can do this by deliberately making the changes
you want. Or you can let a fog or mist conceal the movie while your
unconscious mind makes the adjustments and clears the fog when
it’s adjusted appropriately.
6. Step into the beginning of your movie and live through it in the
desired situation, having all the sensations and feelings.
7. Discover if anything is missing from the experience. If it is a full,
satisfying, and desirable experience, skip ahead to step 9."

From an NLP manual


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Dec 19, 2012
At the BRC

Love the hair in the video, but not enough mariachi


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By Brian Adzima
From the Paris of Appalachia
Jan 28, 2013
somewhere in WV

I have been forcing myself to watch my foot placements the last week or more and have a couple of observations.

1) I learned I was always starting to look elsewhere right before my foot made contact with the hold.

2) I learned I was dragging my feet down the wall more than I realized, especially on dead-vertical terrain.

3)However, I suspect most of the time it did not make a difference as to where my foot ended up. I also suspect that the drill was not as useful as 'silent feet,' but it may have its place.


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Jan 30, 2013
At the BRC

Brian Adzima wrote:
I also suspect that the drill was not as useful as 'silent feet,' but it may have its place.


It's not a drill, it's a lifestyle :-)

I've been practicing this for a month now and find it very useful, both for optimizing foot placement and for focusing attention externally. I have also been carefully watching the better climbers in the gym, who generally spend just that extra bit of time to look at their foot or hand after it is placed.

FWIW, ARC training was a good time to practice this and try to incorporate it as a habit. Working on stress proofing it now.


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By Brent Apgar
From Out of the Loop
Feb 5, 2013
Me and Spearhead

Interesting thought. The main issue I see w/ any translation to climbing is that 90% of the study material focuses on fine motor control based skills in a "relaxed" setting.
There's a bit of a difference in making a good golf shot, even under pressure and coordinating your entire body movement (possibly when already physiologically fatigued) AND under the duress of fear while in a lead climbing situation.

There's a physical fitness component to climbing that can't be underestimated. I don't care how good your technique is, there's simply a minimum amount of strength needed to climb 5.13.

I took Ilgner's discussion of focus to be more about relaxing the mind in a stressful situation or focusing the climbers intent depending on the needs of the situation.
I thought JLP's comment about the new 5.8 trad climber was quite apropos. When you first try and learn a skill/performance your mind is trying to keep tabs on so many variables that the person gets overwhelmed. As the person gains more experience they learn to filter out certain info (whether internal or external) and focus their attention where it's best used. Certain skills (footwork, rope management...etc) become much more automatic and don't need as much attention... effectively leaving the climber more resources to deal w/ the climbing.
Sorry, no brilliant ideas just my observation.
great discussion, thanks,
BA


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