When it comes to learning a new skill, training or just transforming into a BEAST in general, I like to let Nature do most of the work. After all, she’s a much stronger force than I could ever be, so why not let her take most of the load?
A little confused as to what I mean?
Read on and allow me to explain how I use Nature and the subtle, but very powerful force of Reflex Action to my advantage, whilst on this journey of learning a fantastic and complex new skill: rock climbing.
And bear in mind that this trick can be applied to learning anything new….

So what exactly is  this powerful thing known as a Reflex Action?
Let’s start with a definition:

re·flex  ˈrēˌfleks/

(of an action) Performed without conscious thought as an automatic response to a stimulus.

So why is this so awesome? Well, firstly, a Reflex Action is subconscious – you don’t need to actively think about doing it. The subconscious is way more powerful than your little conscious mind, so by using Reflex Actions, we can employ the subconscious to do most of the work.

Secondly, it is automatic. It acts all by itself! How awesome is that? Nature has literally programmed your body with a shit load of Reflex Actions that can run all on their own. I will shortly explain how I use this to my advantage.

And lastly, Reflex Actions respond to a stimulus. What is a stimulus?


A thing that rouses activity or energy in someone or something; a spur or incentive.

Notice in the definition above the word incentive? This is a key point to understand.

In a nutshell, looking at that picture above – if your foot stands on those pins, you can bet Mother Nature and the power of Reflex Action is going to take over and remove your foot from the pins so fast – without your conscious input. Sounds like we can use this chain of events to our advantage…

Remember the D.S.S.S. formula I am using, taken from Tim Ferriss‘ sick new book, The 4-Hour Chef? If not, stop reading this post and go back to Part 2, which explains all about it.

The last “S” in D.S.S.S. stand for STAKES. I.e. what are the incentives to ensure that I carry out my chosen task/project/goal etc?

If we take this thought process one step further, we can ask ourselves:

“What are the stimuli I need to create/expose myself to, in order to create my desired reflex action?”

Here are some examples of some really powerful, real-life Reflex Actions to keep in mind throughout this post:The Reflex of wanting to breathe when you are desperate for oxygen.
The Reflex of wanting to drink when you are super-dehydrated.
The Reflex of wanting to smash a whole plate of food down your neck when you are starving hungry.
The Reflex of falling asleep when you are exhausted – it’s so hard to overcome, right!!?
So as you can see, the Reflex Actions is a double-edge sword. I’m all about using their powers to my advantage, consciously; to get stronger, leaner and more competent as a climber.
Bollocks to trying to battle against them!
Let me give you some examples of how I am using the power of Reflex Action to my advantage, in the hope that you can see the process of thinking behind each one, and apply this trick to your own goals.


Being the centre of movement and gravity for the human body, it’s pretty important when learning to climb that your core is in order.
No suprises, I stole this idea straight from the baddest mother fucker, ever, Bruce Lee.

(Important note: I spent the first 8 weeks of my experiment using the mat  as my foundation for core work, to prime the muscles and not rush their development. I recommend you do not rush into advanced shit like this without doing your foundation core work for some time first.)

Before I explain, just examine this dude’s core:As if chiseled from marble, Bruce possessed one of the most impressive, functional cores going. No ‘roids, no cosmetics, no bullshit. Just straight-up beastmode.So how did he get there?
Reflex Actions, my friends. Check it:

This hunk of prison equipment is known as the Roman Chair.
There are some key points to note here:

  • It is designed to enhance the incentive of Gravity. 

  • The enhanced sensation of gravity is achieved by removing support.

  • The enhanced sensation of gravity creates a strong stimulus to the core muscles to get them to reflexively contract harder and deeper; making a much stronger you. 

This picture shows how you would perform the regular sit-up, and turn it into beastmode by using Reflex Action.
Now, you don’t need a Roman Chair to get a core like Bruce Lee. Nor should you start with doing advanced core training like this. What is important to take on board is the principles. The Roman Chair is just a piece of equipment that encompasses the principles of using Reflex Action (a muscle’s response to lack of support and increased sensation of gravity) to aid you in getting stronger.

Right now in the lab, we don’t have a Roman Chair. But we do have a step that I can sit on the edge of, to recreate the same situation. A partner holds my feet, and I lower my torso off the step. The removal of torso-support makes my core contract like a demon, both consciously and subconsciously. If I don’t contract, I can’t even hold the position. I work harder in a shorter space of time – ideal. This theory works the same with free weights. The heavier the weight, the stronger the stimuli to get the muscles to contract deeper.

The principle of removing support to enhance the sensation of gravity is so powerful, that you’d be mad not to incorporate it when aiming to get stronger.
What other movements could you apply this principle to, in order to train smarter and get stronger?

I will be dedicating a whole part of the series to Conditioning shortly, too.


How do I use Reflex Action to get ripped? Simple, I harness the power of hunger. Not appetite. Hunger. The Intermittent Fasting protocol I am following right now involves taking a 24 hour period as your time frame: fasting for 16 hours and eating 3 meals within an 8 hour window.

In layman’s terms, this is what happens:
I have my last meal at say, 9pm. This final meal of the day will contain the fewest calories. I will sleep and then wake up say 10 hours later – say 10am.
I am so, so hungry. My body feels hollow like I’ve burnt off every morsel of the previous day’s food. I take my BCAAs, and then I train for 1-2 hours. Note, I still haven’t eaten. I want to ramp up this hunger reflex as much as I can.
My last meal was 9pm yesterday, so come 12pm after I’ve finished training, I will consume my largest meal of the day, with the highest calorific content. I will have no problem consuming it coz I’m so damn hungry. And I’ll have no problem converting that meal to fuel because I waiting so damn long.

(Note: it is very important you prepare for your first meal of the day by having healthy food to hand. If you break the fast with shit, you are defeating the point of employing the hunger reflex. Appetite is conditioned, Hunger is a reflex.)

As a result of doing this, I am the leanest I have ever been. One of my goals was to get my body fat lower and get ripped as much as I could – I’m on my way! Check it:


I will be dedicating a whole part of the series to Nutrition shortly.


These past several weeks on my learning to climb journey have been full of revelations. A massive light-bulb-moment for me was the first time I really noticed my emotions getting involved before and during a conditioning workout. The whole process was reflexive, and guys, I expect you can relate to what happened:
I was feeling a little lethargic, not really in the mood. I knew only too well the insatiable lactic burn that was about to penetrate my entire musculature from pushing myself to my limits. Just as I began to look for some kind of excuse to remove myself, or some kind of result to motivate me, she walked in. That beautiful lioness carrying herself through steps of a prowl. A confidence so strong, yet so feminine, that I had no choice but to pay attention. The polar charge of sexual emotion was so powerful that I managed to dig deeper than ever before. Usually my finishing heart rate after my pull-up/push-up sequence would top out at 165BPM. This time, I was redlining at 193! Holy Shit! I didn’t even know her name!
And I didn’t need to. The point here is that emotion, whether sexual or otherwise, is such a powerful reflex, especially when it comes to motivation, that we can’t ignore it if we want to achieve our goals.So what? Are we going to employ a bikini contest into our workout area, or schedule the local fire service to make a guest appearance? Not quite.   The sexual motivation is hard to manifest on purpose. But if by chance it does happen to you, for your own sake, harness it and channel that power into the best training session you’ll have that week.What is easier, however, is to harness emotions that are generated when we pay attention to two specific sources; music and visuals.
(Note: You may find either music or visuals get your emotive juices flowing. You may find just one does. Or you may find neither really has a profound effect on you. If you’re the latter category, pay attention to the next section to see how you can harness emotions on a kinaesthetic frequency.)


I don’t train without music. Since learning to climb, I have also noticed the same increase in performance as with my slacklining, when I am listening to my desired choice of music.
Likewise, shit music, shitter performance.
I learn audio-visually primarily, so music has a massive effect on my emotional state. I have learnt this over the years, and now use it to my advantage.You can too; all you have to do is find out which songs/albums get you really, really fired up, and make sure (if practical) you have them flowing through your ears at the time of your desired performance. Think ‘psyche-up’ music.
The reflex of getting psyched-up can be enhanced and triggered with the right tunes. This can also vary in effectiveness, depending if the music is played on a personal level, or shared with company. Experiment and find your preference.

Here are some of my favourites (youtube album streams):
Rage Against The Machine – Evil Empires
Sasquatch – Sasquatch II
1000 Mods – Super Van Vacation
Fu Manchu – The Action Is Go


For the first time the other night, on one of our “Brutality Training Sessions”, we employed the use of visuals to maintain a positively psyched, emotive state during training. It was simple – create a montage playlist of people training as hard, if not harder than us, and play it through the lab’s projector. Any hint of doubt, tiredness or lethargy and we’d turn our eyes to the humongous visuals of psyched achievers on screen. Immediately, the emotive reflex kicks in, and motivation is restored on sight.You don’t need a projector to do this either. Have some videos saved on your phone. When you’re resting, watch them, absorb yourself into their reality and witness their motivation rubbing off on you as you recover. You probably do this kind of thing anyway – watching climbing videos on your time off, or scouring youtube for the latest base jumps caught on camera. See now if you can apply the same process but whilst you are trying to achieve your goal. Photos work too, but video is a much more powerful medium to play with.Again, experiment with doing this on a personal level, and in good company. It’s a powerful force and seriously worth harnessing.
Also, combining video with the right audio, and you’re onto a real ritualistic winner.

THE REFLEX FOR DIGGING DEEPER: TRAINING PARTNERSI never thought I would write this part. My whole life I have always trained my body in solitude. In truth, I’ve never found anyone who could keep up with me, who shared the same goals or who just wanted it as bad as I did…Until I met Captain Crank, that is.

For the first time, he actually approached me, suggesting that twice a week we should train together, pushing each other to our max.
I was hesitant – in the past this has always failed. But I was willing to give it a go, as this was around the time when I felt that I was coming to a bit of a plateau in my climbing conditioning.
My reasoning was simple – the Captain has stronger tendons than me (a goal of my own), he has the same motivational drive as me (rare) and has a similar free-time schedule to me (important).I guess I expected the partnership to fail, but it’s actually been the opposite – I’ve smashed through the plateau, and helped to share some passion and knowledge with the Captain who has made up to triple strength gains in just 4 sessions!The motivational value is high, and here’s where the reflex lies:

Both of us are proud by nature. We hate giving up. The Captain is a savage boulderer, and like me, gets very emotionally involved when he either sends a problem with success, or gets shut down and fails.

So when he’s in my face telling me to contract every muscle in my body, do you think I’m going to let myself fail in front of him before I’m done?
Do you think I’m going to turn my machoism-fueled pride to neutral, when really I’m competing not only with myself, but with him, too?

I’m using my emotive and egotisitcal reflexes to my advantage by having him there. It’s a very powerful, positive atmosphere, and I am able to dig far deeper than I ever have training solo. I think I made the right decisions in the past – you do not want to slow down for your partner. You want a partner you feel you have to keep up with if you want to get stronger.

I applied this very same protocol for both bouldering, (with Captain Crank) and lead climbing with Sammy. Sammy climbs about 1-2 grade increments higher than me, has stronger grip than me and better technique; all the prerequisites that make him the perfect lead climbing partner, as I need to constantly up my game to keep up!

Combine a powerful partner with motivational music and emotive visuals, and you have a very potent formula!

(If your goal is to share more, then by all means have a partner who you are taking under your wing.)

THE REFLEX FOR BEING A BETTER PERSON: PEER GROUPSThis is another very powerful lesson I have learnt from Captain Crank. As a self-confessed control freak, he let me in on a powerful secret of his which has not only enabled him to feel on top of the world more often than not, but also allowed him to be his best self and give his greatest gifts to others he cares and has love for.I was explaining to him one time how I was finding it difficult to connect with people and a little about my opinion on the antisocial-side of being a machine. I was training hard, but loneliness was setting in harder. As a bit of a control freak myself, my ears pricked up to hear what he had to say…
I don’t know why it has taken me 23 years to figure this one out, but this is one of the most powerful conscious decisions you can make in your life.Simply put: Consciously choose your peer group.
You are the average of the 5 people you spend most time with.
Whether you chose to spend time with them, or not, they are influencing you in a powerful way.
Really deliberate and put some time into choosing who you want to spend your precious time with. And consciously choose who you do not want to spend your time with. You must do both parts, otherwise the people you don’t really want to have around, but you haven’t made the effort to remove yourself from, will still suck away your lifeforce drip by drip.What do you really value in life? Now find others that match that criteria.It’s not as easy as that, for sure. You’re not going to step out the door and suddenly attract a peer group that consists of people that tick every one of your boxes. So start with something simple. Start with one field and a couple of values. Bouldering is a great example – as physical exertion is high up on my values list, as is finding good company.
Stage 1 would simply be surrounding myself with other boulderers; we have bouldering in common, so there is a good potential for a connection.Stage 2: Surround myself with other boulderers that push me and make me feel good. I want company of people who make me laugh. I want to make them laugh. I want to unlock my best self, but I’m not striving to impress them. There’s no need.Remove myself from the company of boulderers that do not. (The removal bit should feel ruthless in the beginning. And that’s a good thing. I don’t want negatrons. I don’t want people that talk more than they do. I don’t want excuse-driven boulderers. If they come around, I’m polite, and I physically move myself away.
Stage 3
: Let yourself be carried by the company of those boulderers that make you feel good. Let go, relax, and allow spontaneity to bring out the best you.No surprises that the members of Captain Crank’s team of bouldering bandits make him laugh like a tickled mongoose. No surprises that he cranks harder and sends the hardest problems when in their company. No surprises they dig deepest when they’re with him and always want him around. And no surprises that there is no negativity to be found anywhere within their bouldering tribe. It’s also a pleasure for me to be a part of, more and more, as we all share very similar values.And you can apply this method of peer group selection to any area in your life. Start with areas that you have control over – your free time. Think very carefully how you like to spend your free time.
Note when you come out of a situation feeling like you could take on the world. Then look for others who make you feel like that.
Starting with your hobby is a great beginning point. Then widen your peer group selectively, to meet some other interests you have.
You won’t need many people, either. The most important thing here is the quality of your interactions with them. You’ll know who they are – Real recognise Real.I appreciate that in a work environment you can not always choose who you work with. But that’s fine. Do your best to hang around with those at work who match your values the most. There might only be one or two of them. But stay true to your values; live by them, and the others will appear. If you spend your free time soaking up the goodness of your chosen peer group, spending time with people your forced to be around at work won’t be nearly as exhausting.The beauty of doing this is that you will effortlessly give your best self to the people you love and care for. Being comfortable knowing that your crew are there for you, and you for them allows you to let go and really relax. Let yourself really be carried by their company – it’s a healer!
You will start to notice an improvement in the quality of your life and a clarity in your outlook.

Happiness is only relative to those who you share it with, so choose wisely.
I am just starting to realise the power of really, really refining the selection of who I consciously hang around with. It’s a work in progress, but it’s working….

Hopefully this post has given you an insight as to how you might use the powerful force of Reflex Action  to your advantage. Remember, reflexes are a way more powerful force than your conscious mind.
Post your methods of employing Reflex Actions into your lifestyle in the comments section below.

Harry Cloudfoot is a writer, reflexive knowledge seeker and driven to obtain results.
You can follow him on Twitter and say hello on his Facebook page.

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9 thoughts on “Self-Experiment | LEARNING HOW TO CLIMB| PART 4 | LET NATURE DO THE WORK

  1. Hi, Harry. First, I would like to congratulate you for doing a great job with your blog posts, keep them coming :). Second, I would like to share something I tried today to get myself motivated which worked. I was feeling really sleepy and drained and not really willing to do anything.

    It took about 15 minutes and this is what I did:
    1. Prepare a cup of coffee* (caffeine for me is a major mood/motivation booster)
    2. Lay down listening to some really chill music starting to sip the coffee slowly.
    3. Put on a timer trying to inhale/exhale at a 5s/5s rhythm
    4. As soon as you start feeling the caffeine kicking in (for me it took about 10 minutes), change the music to something which energizes you (I find it more practical to use headphones so you can get the music loud without disturbing others).
    5. Start doing what you need to be doing (better something which doesn’t require much mental effort at first).
    6. The momentum from caffeine, music and completing tasks would probably keep you productive and motivated for at least 3-4 hours so you can switch to do something mental after the first task.

    *I know some might say “Boohoo, somebody discovered caffeine motivates you”. I do admit caffeine plays a major role but if I have just sat down in front of the PC, browsing Facebook, I would have wasted the opportunity to kick myself into action.

    I based this improvised technique on your post (particularly the emotion part) with this: – A TED talk explaining how breathing and mental (not just physical) performance are highly related.

    Thanks for reading.

    • Hi Kalin –

      Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and psyche-up experience man, that’s awesome! I’m going to give this a try on my next ‘down’ day, for sure.

      Caffeine is a pretty powerful substance, right?
      I’m on about 2 cups daily, right now.
      Have you tried the “Bulletproof Coffee” recipe yet? 25-50g grass-fed butter + 2 tsp raw coconut oil in a cup of coffee? Ah man, so good!

      I will check that TED talk later –

      Thanks for sharing and glad you like the blog posts,

    • Kalin, that TED talk is fantastic, thank you. And filmed in my old home town of Portsmouth! I have been using that cadence of breathing in for 4, out for 6 for a while, really great stuff.
      Thanks again,

  2. Hi Harry! I am glad you enjoyed the TED talk.

    I just tried my first cup of bulletproof coffee (I couldn’t wait until the morning) and that thing kicks like a horse! How much coffee do you use? I am currently feeling a bit dizzy because of the strength of the coffee, so I will try to go with a lower dose next time (I went for 30g of beans).

    By the way, for anybody curious how to make bulletproof coffee, I got my supplies list and recipe from here:

    • Kalin, you’re a beast!

      Haha, man, 30g is a LOT of coffee! My double shots are like 4.8g bro….!

      Get like 500ml of water in your body right before you drink the coffee, then perhaps it will counteract your dizziness 😉

      • Haha, now that I look at the recipe… I have no clue how I ended up with 30 grams… but got to tell you that was the meanest, strongest coffee I have ever had in my life 😀

        Thanks for the water advice, I think lowering the dose should do the trick but I will drink some water too…just in case.

        Tomorrow I am going to try again with something around 7-10 grams.Whatever happens, after that shot to the head yesterday, I feel bulletproof anyway!

  3. Pingback: Self-Experiment | Learning to Climb | Part 6 | CONDITIONING: How to get strong for climbing, FAST | harrycloudfoot

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