You Lose What You Don’t Use


Every year I look forward to ice climbing in February. Every year I remember how much fun I had climbing frozen waterfalls in Munising and the camaraderie of my ice climbing buddies. I also remember how easy ice climbing came to me my first year.

Yet when I get back on the ice, the first day or two is horrendous. My ice climbing technique has digressed to a mess and I struggle to reach the top of a fun, yet easy climb called Dryer Hose. I wonder what happened. I question whether or not I had actually climbed well in prior years.

Then on day three or four, something magical happens. I begin to climb like I remembered. The skills I had honed over the years come back like they had never left.

But what happened? Why did I climb poorly the first day or two?

When You Stop Using Your Skills

I know what happened to my ice climbing ability. For a year, I didn’t use the skills I’d learned on Dryer Hose or Sweet Mother Moses or any of the other ice climbs in Munising. The skills I’d worked hard on sat dormant.

Getting those skills back takes time. I have to make my muscles and legs remember the movements they have to make.

Your mind is the same way. You have to use what you’ve consumed. You have to make sure you’re practicing what you’ve read or what you’ve done.

When you stop using what you’ve learned, your skills atrophy. Your mind has a hard time getting back into the groove.

Use Your Skills

Now, had I kept ice climbing or performing similar exercises throughout the year, my climbing abilities would be vastly superior in the first days of climbing in the new year. My body would naturally place itself into the positions it needed to be to climb well.

After a couple of days of movement, my body remembers what it was supposed to do. Your skills are similar to this.

You have to continually stretch the limits of your skills. You have to continue to grow and work those skills.

As you do, your skills begin to cement in your mind and habits. You begin to naturally do what is needed when it is needed.

Don’t let your skills atrophy. Don’t go on autopilot.

You have to continue to work those skills regardless of how well you believe you’ve mastered them. If you stop working on them, you’ll notice your skill level isn’t where it once was.


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