Sasha DiGiulian climbing Rayu 8c, Spain on September 19, 2022.
© Jan Novak/Red Bull Content Pool

Climber Sasha DiGiulian: "Consistent falling is how I learned to rise"

How do you keep pushing forward when most of the time you’re failing? American climbing star Sasha DiGiulian reveals the mental strategies that propelled her to the top, despite the odds.
Written by Thomas Peeters
4 min readPublished on
In her new feature film Here to Climb on Red Bull TV, Sasha DiGiulian explains how climbing is a sport in which you “fall, fall, and fall” and it’s this topic the American explores further on the Mind Set Win podcast with host Lisa Ramuschkat. How do you get back up eight times, when you’ve fallen down seven?
Mind Set Win is the podcast that unlocks the winning mental tactics of high performers and elite sports professionals, and shows how we can apply the same strategies to our daily lives. Every Tuesday, Ramuschkat hosts an in-depth conversation with a new guest before being joined by York-Peter Klöppel, Head of Mental Performance at the Red Bull Athlete Performance Centre, on Thursday for a breakdown of the interview.

Why climbing is a mentally demanding sport

DiGuilian, 31, has been climbing since childhood and her exploits on outdoor rock have seen her become the first woman to conquer some of the toughest graded routes in the world.
She describes a cliff climb as like an “interactive jigsaw puzzle” as there are so many sequences that you need to piece together in your mind and it’s for this reason, she explains to Ramuschkat, that her mental game needs to be just as strong as the physical, if not more so.
“Climbing is a really mental and physical sport,” she says. “Mental components, and having a strong mind, enables you to think outside of the box, be more creative, assess and manage risk, and operate in extreme conditions.”

DiGiulian: If you're not failing, you're not pushing hard enough

Despite being a climber that’s achieved multiple world-first outdoor ascents, DiGiulian believes that climbing is a “sport of failure” because you fall more than 90 percent of the time when attempting challenging walls.
The key to success, like in everyday life, is knowing how to cope with our defeats, learn from them, and keep on moving. For DiGiulian, the key to doing this effectively is through acceptance.
“In climbing, if you’re not falling and failing, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough,” she tells Ramuschkat.
“It’s only through the act of consistently falling in my sport, that I’ve learned how to get back up.
“Sometimes, we look at progress as this linear expectation of progressing every single day. You don’t always have that. Sometimes you have regression before you have progression.”
Sasha DiGiulian enjoying base camp life during a big wall climb in Picos de Europa, Spain on September 21, 2022.

Sasha DiGiulian in Picos de Europa, Spain

© Jan Novak/Red Bull Content Pool

In climbing, if you’re not falling and failing, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough

Box breathing: A special technique to clear your mind

Continually falling and getting back up to achieve a goal requires another quality alongside extreme levels of desire and commitment - patience. Developing patience both on and off the wall has been a conscious mental tactic for DiGiulian during her career.
The technique she often uses to calm and clear her mind and control her emotions before getting back on the wall is resetting her breath through the box breathing method.
This involves first visualising a square box in your mind. Then, you think about each breath, hold, and exhale as one line of the box. Breathe up one side, hold across the top, release down the other side, hold along the bottom.
“Even just four counts or eight counts can really help,” DiGiulian says. “It works well for me as it’s something I can do with my watch, and just close my eyes and get into the zone.”
Sasha DiGiulian of the United States climbs in Kalymnos, Greece on October 25, 2021.

Sasha DiGiulian climbs in Kalymnos

© Alex Grymanis/Red Bull Content Pool


Motivation: A simple trick to get anything done

The above breathing exercise is usually over within five minutes and DiGiulian reveals a simple technique she uses if she’s ever lacking the motivation to do it. Time pressure.
If you’ve ever decided against doing something because you’ve painted a picture in your mind that it will take too long, then read on as this one’s for you.
“It comes down to realising how quickly something actually takes,” DiGiulian says. “Sometimes, if I really don’t want to do something, I’ll count how long it takes me. I’ll set a timer.
“Usually, the cost versus the reward on your schedule is very minimal.”
Do you want to watch the full conversation between Sasha DiGiulian and Lisa? Check out the Mind Set Win YouTube channel.
Watch out for Thursday’s Part B episode, in which the Head of Mental Performance at the Red Bull APC, York-Peter Klöppel, extracts the most valuable takeaways from the interview.

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Sasha DiGiulian

American climber Sasha DiGiulian has made a career of overcoming the odds, with more than 30 first female ascents to her name.

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