Pro Climber Pete Whittaker Explains the Importance of Setting Goals for Your Sport

To accomplish great things in life, you need to set goals and hold yourself accountable for the results.

Without goals, you will never accomplish great things.

That’s especially true in professional sports, so that’s why professional climber Pete Whittaker believes in having his goals in mind in order to become a better and stronger climber!

In this interview, Pete shares all about how he prepares and trains. He also shares the hardest parts of climbing, how he handles injuries and recovery, his favorite gear and much more.

Climber Pete Whittaker
Photo credit: Jacob Cook

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

For work, I do loads of different things. A little bit of everything. I don’t like to just do one thing as I get bored doing that, so I swap and change the work that I do. If a new opportunity of work crops up, I’ll take the opportunity as you never know what it will lead to, plus like I said it keeps it interesting.

Areas I work in are Tree surgery, Route setting, Writing, Professional Climber, Artwork, Company Director (just started up), film work. Things really do change from day to day but this how I like it. Climbing is obviously a major part of my life and a lot of my work revolves around the climbing that I do or my ability to climb.

If you met me with a bunch of people, I’d say I’m quite a shy person and would let others do most of the talking. If you meet me one to one not quite as much. I’m generally pretty reserved to start with, but once I get to know someone I’ll let more out. I’m certainly not a serious person, being silly and not taking myself seriously is how I generally go about things. I generally listen to music if I’m training. Music gets me psyched for training hard.

Climber Pete Whittaker
Photo credit: Jacob Cook

How and why did you get into climbing?

I got into climbing through my parents. They are really into the outdoors so would take myself and my sister either scrambling, climbing or walking out on the crags and in the mountains.

I’m a pretty sporty person and have tried lots of different things in the past, but climbing just seems to have stuck. Climbing offers a great variety. I remember doing a bunch of competitions when I was younger, but I didn’t get on with them so well, so I moved into other areas of climbing and enjoyed that. You couldn’t do that with say something like gymnastics or football, etc., etc. Climbing just has the variety and something for everyone.

Why is climbing important for you?

It is important to me now because it’s what all my friends do! It gives me something to look forward to and takes me to great places. It gives me a challenge, which is important as I’d get bored if there was no challenge in anything. Every trip and holiday revolves around climbing, it’s certainly more exciting than going to look round museums!

What great places you’ve gone so far because of your climbs?

The places are always the ones that you are currently visiting. I don’t have a favourite place, I’m more just drawn by challenges and projects rather than the place itself. Currently, my big projects are in the Utah desert and Yosemite, so they are currently my favourite places.

Climber Pete Whittaker
Photo credit: Hot Aches

How do you train and become better at climbing?

I always train with a goal in mind. I don’t train to just ‘get stronger’. There has to be a reason to get stronger. If there is no reason at the end, I would rather just go and mess about with mates. When I’m focused on a goal, it’s just full commitment on that one thing. I’ve never followed a systematic program, just trained when I have been motivated and rested when I needed to.

However, now I have some projects, which are way above my level and I’ve started to seek a little help from a coach. It’s useful as they have more knowledge than I do on specific things, so it’s good to combine ideas, a climbing partner or coach massively helps with motivation, which is a huge part in succeeding with anything.

Climber Pete Whittaker
Photo credit: Whittaker collection

What are the hardest parts of climbing?

Climbing is as easy or as hard as you want to make it. You can have massive training sessions or try really difficult routes and completely beast yourself, or you can just have a gentle potter down the climbing wall. I guess, it starts to get hard when you try and find your limits. Is the thing you are trying to climb too hard? Are you investing time into something you will never actually succeed on? This is quite mentally challenging and it’s easy to give up when it’s like this.

In terms of physical difficulties, hard training is easy, hard training without injuring yourself is difficult.

How do you prepare for events and races?

When preparing for big routes/challenges/goals, it’s all about physical and mental preparation. They go hand in hand, side by side. You can’t succeed in your chosen event without both aspects being inline with each other — If your are mentally weak you will fail, and if you are physically weak you will fail. ‘

Leading up to events, it’s all about making sure one isn’t lagging behind the other. If I feel one aspect is getting weaker, I will work on that part.

I also like to have a good mental plan in my head of all scenarios that could potentially happen in the event, then if I do come across these scenarios I can deal with them and move on, without it disrupting my physical performance so much.

How do you eat and sleep?

I’ve never followed a specific diet, I like to eat what I want, when I want. However, for the first time ever this year, I tried cutting out treats (cakes, pastries, sweets, chocolate, pasties, etc.) for three months. I definitely felt like it had an affect, I felt more alert in the mornings and more ready to get up and do things. Certainly, something to bear in mind for the future, but for now I’ll carry on tucking into my large wedge of cheesecake as I finish off this interview!

Climber Pete Whittaker
Photo credit: Petter Restorp

How do you handle injuries and recovery?

I’m generally pretty good with injuries, if I feel something is wrong I’ll stop and analyze it. The most important thing is being able to read your own body. Nobody knows better than you how you feel or how much something hurts or feels wrong.

I’ve found it good to analyze any tweaks, niggles or injuries, then you can take this knowledge and make a judgement on future injuries much better. Does it feel similar to something previously? Is it better to totally rest? Is it better to do active recovery?

If you ask lots of questions about your injury and keep asking these questions as you are recovering, you’ll learn a lot more about how your body feels. If you just sit back and don’t take any note to what is happening, you’ll never learn and every injury will just feel like a new one, which means slower recovery.

Climber Pete Whittaker
Photo credit: Whittaker collection

What is your best advice for new and experienced climbers?

Just go for it!

How do you balance normal life with climbing?

I do find the balance hard at times. It is usually when I have a big climbing project in my mind where I’m so focused sometimes that I forget about the people around me and their needs. Without realizing it, I can actually become quite selfish sometimes. I have to have a word with myself when things like this start to happen.

What kind of climbing shoes and clothes do you use?

I’m a Patagonia Ambassador, so I wear their clothing. As well as actually thinking their product is great, I have respect for their ethos as well.

I think other big companies should take a page from the patagonia book, because if more big companies (I don’t mean just climbing companies, all companies) had the same or a better ethos than Patagonia, it could have a pretty positive impact on the whole world.

I’m also a Five Ten Athlete. I’ve worn Five Ten climbing shoes since I was about 10. They seem to just mold to my feet now. I know how the boots work and I can climb well in them plus they’ve got the stickiest rubber. 😉

Climber Pete Whittaker
Photo credit: Whittaker collection

What other favorite gear do you have?

I’m also a Wild Country athlete. I use all the hardware for climbing that these guys produce. They are maybe not the biggest hardware company around anymore, but I really like this bunch as they originated from where I grew up, The Peak District. Their main offices are only 20 minutes from my house and all the staff are great folks. 🙂

They are bringing out some cutting edge newly designed products in the next year or two, which I think will be really, really good for the climbing community and also the brand.

What will the future bring?

I have a few projects in Yosemite, which should be challenging and fun.

I have one big project, The Crucifix Project, which is in the American desert. Myself and my climbing partner Tom found it last year. It is an absolute beast, mega hard, far too hard for me at the moment. The hardest thing I’ve ever tried and the hardest thing I’ve ever conceived of trying. If we ever did that, I’d be pretty bloody pleased.

Aside from climbing, I’m in the process of writing a book and have just set up a small company with a couple of good friends, so there is always something going on to keep me busy. 🙂

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