Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (5): Resting (EASY-MEDIUM)

Resting enough between efforts can help you send routes in fewer tries.

Resting enough between efforts can help you send routes in fewer tries.

Rest: it seems like a no-brainer. To climb your best, you should rest enough between efforts, get plenty of sleep and take ample rest days to enhance recovery between workouts and climbing days. Yet the simple concept of resting proves to be a pitfall for nearly all enthusiastic sport climbers and boulderers at some point in their climbing lives. Not resting enough can sabotage your performance both short-term and long-term, undermine your potential progress, decrease or burn out your excitement for climbing and ultimately, lead to overtraining and overuse injuries.

Resting Between Attempts

Boulderers and sport climbers often try to cram as much climbing as they possibly can into every day they climb or train. Taking this approach makes it easy to sabotage your performance potential or training gains on any given day. Focusing instead on quality efforts with plenty of rest in between each try can yield more successful sends or valuable training sessions, even if you get less climbing in for the day. It’s all about priorities — are you more interested in sending a hard project or problem, or are you interested in climbing nonstop until you’re exhausted?

As a general rule, the longer, more taxing and more involved the climbing or bouldering effort is, the longer the rest period between attempts you will likely need in order to recover fully or fully enough for another solid attempt. This means that for a short, explosive boulder problem, resting 5 to 8 minutes may suffice before you’re ready to give it another full-power effort. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a 130-foot ultra-endurance sport climb that takes 45 minutes per redpoint effort might require an hour or more rest before your next attempt. As will all things athletic, the exact and perfect amount of resting time will vary from individual to individual. It’s your job to learn how much rest works best for you in each climbing situation, and then to be disciplined enough (only if you care about maximizing your sending efforts, of course) to put a timer on yourself so that you make sure you rest enough in between attempts to optimize your performance on any given day.

Use the time you rest between climbs or problems wisely. Belay if you have to belay, of course, but make sure you rehydrate and have a small refueling snack (optimally of that magical 3 or 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein) right when you get down from a lengthy redpointing effort, to give your body time to replenish your glycogen stores prior to your next attempt. Drink frequently and regularly throughout bouldering sessions. Consider using a sports drink to help your muscles stay well-fueled if eating while bouldering or climbing doesn’t work for you. While you rest, visualize the climb or problem from bottom to top, reviewing the pacing and the movements. Walk around and stay mildly active; you may experience better performance than if you spend your time off sitting or lying on the ground, as evidenced by an April 2000 study reported in the “International Journal of Sports Medicine.”

Sleeping for Recovery

Sleep is essential for optimal athletic performance and recovery. Create a sleeping schedule and routine and take these seriously as key components of both climbing performance and training sessions. Climbers should aim for a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night, but may see greater benefits from sleeping for 10 hours or longer.

Rest Days and Workout Intensities

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