We have a new member of the TrainingBeta team! Meet Dr. Christina Heilman!

With over twenty years of experience as a sport psychologist, Dr. Chris has worked with countless climbers and athletes from over thirty sports to help them harness the power of the mind and achieve peak levels of performance. She is now offering her services through TrainingBeta and we are very excited to have her.

To give you an idea of her methods and how we as climbers can use the concepts to win the mind game of climbing, here’s Dr. Chris.

Winning the Mind Game

By Dr. Christina Heilman, PhD, ATC, CSCS

Your mind likes to play tricks on you.

Your mind likes to play tricks on you All. Of. The. Time.

The sneaky tricks your mind plays might look like:

  1. Having a limiting belief of “I’m not good enough,” so you work super hard, which leads to nagging injuries, plateauing, or burning out.
  2. Self-sabotaging a performance because of fear of failing or fear of looking like a fool in front of others.
  3. Distracting yourself from experiencing hard feelings like pain, fear, envy, or disappointment in order to avoid dealing with adversity and attempt to “keep it together” so that you can send.

One of the most important things I’ve learned as a sports psychology coach for climbers of all ages and abilities is that:

Any trick of the mind can be defeated by becoming aware of the trick.


Dr. Chris on the sharp end.

The AAA Approach

To gain awareness over your mind games, I’ve created the Triple A Approach (AAA) as an easy, effective way to gain awareness and mindfully overcome mental negativity to excel in climbing and in life.

The AAA Approach:

  1. Acknowledge
  2. Acceptance
  3. Action

1. Acknowledge

The first step is to ACKNOWLEDGE your thought, feeling, or response to a situation.

When you face a challenge, mistake, or setback, remind yourself: “This is me reacting to the situation, the situation is a blank experience.”

The situation you are experiencing has no meaning until you personalize it.

You can acknowledge what’s going on in the situation by LABELING your experience as X, such as anger, envy, or not being good enough. Then, say to yourself:

“I am experiencing X (anger, envy, not being good enough, etc).”

2. Acceptance

The second step is ACCEPTANCE.

When you accept without judgment, what happens?

You become relaxed, centered, and gain an open perspective.

The more centered and accepting we are,
…the more positive energy we bring to the situation,
…which eases the heaviness of a difficult moment
…and boosts performance.

After acknowledging “I am experiencing X,” follow it up with accepting the thought, feeling, or response to a situation by saying to yourself:

“It’s okay to experience X (e.g., anger, envy, not being good enough, etc.).”

This gives you permission to experience the moment without negative judgments.

3. Action

The final step is to take ACTION.

In every moment, we have a choice.

The choice to embrace our power or to give it up.

There is no BETTER WAY to develop your awareness and harness your power than to redirect your attention to a better outcome for yourself in any situation.

Ultimately, the choice in how you react is YOURS... No one can carry your burden for you.

So how do you want to move forward?

To take action, the statement you can say to yourself is:

“I choose to _____________.”

If you’re having a crappy day and you want to WALLOW, then CHOOSE to wallow.

Because wallowing can be a slippery slope of negativity, I recommend setting a timer for one-minute to grumble, whine, and complain.

When the timer is up, then you get another choice.

You can either

…choose whether you want to continue wallowing or

…choose to take a step toward how you want to move forward.

In the end, it’s UP TO YOU how you want to show up! If you want to step in a direction that is more aligned with what you want, then I suggest asking yourself:\

“What’s the simplest, easiest thing I can do right now to better my headspace?

Then, do that thing–RIGHT NOW.

Dr. Chris teaching at the Performance Climbing Coach Seminar


When you ACKNOWLEDGE and ACCEPT where you’re at and CHOOSE an ACTION of where you want to go
…you are centered, engaged, and ready for action.

You are no longer wasting time because you are experiencing being here
–nothing more–nothing less.

From this CENTERED PLACE, you’re positioned to use your skills and strengths to the utmost, as an athlete and as a person.

Then, voila!


The next time your mind tries to play tricks on you, like:
“I’m not strong enough to do this,” or
“My achievements aren’t as good as others,”


And WIN the mind game with “3 Short Statements”:

  1. I am experiencing X.
  2. It’s okay to experience X.
  3. I choose to ___________.



About the Author

Dr. Christina Heilman, PhD, ATC, CSCS is a climber, skier, and mountain lover on a mission to share the best science-based skills and sacred wisdom to skyrocket your success. She empowers climbers of all ages and abilities to get out of their own way, live well in the mind, body, and heart and reach their unique potential–and beyond.



TrainingBeta is a site dedicated to training for rock climbing. We provide resources and information about training for routes, bouldering, finger strength, mental training, nutrition for climbers, and everything in between. We offer climbing training programs, a blog, interviews on the TrainingBeta Podcast, personal training for climbing, and nutrition for climbers.

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