Climber A steps off the ground in a hurry. He continues to speedily move up the rock without the slightest pause. Soon, he hits a point of no return, pumped and powered down. He falls off 20 moves into the route with an audible expulsion of breath.
Climber B pulls onto the rock very slowly. She pauses two moves into the climb to shake out. She makes two more moves. She pauses to shake out again, resting on handholds. She continues to climb like this, taking 10 times as long to reach the 20-move mark as climber A. She also falls, after shaking out for a while, about 20 moves into the route. She is not out of breath but is too powered down and pumped to continue.
You’ve probably observed both of these scenarios in your climbing experience. Possibly one of them resonates with you, reflecting your tendency when you climb.
Neither of these scenarios reflects an ideal climbing pace. Both Climber A and Climber B have not found the sweet spot for effectively resting while climbing.
Time management for resting on routes involves the following:
Where You Rest
The best rests will allow you to relax with straight arms on great handholds with awesome footholds directly under you. You can sink down and straighten your arms. You don’t need to shift your body position in the best resting spots. You can simply drop off one hand at a time, shaking it out behind your back or above your head, or alternating between the two. This is somewhat similar to jogging in place to recover from a sprint. Read more about this in the first MOM article on resting.
Of course, such perfect resting spots will not always be available. Work with what the route presents, always striving to find the most relaxed places to rest. Sometimes you’ll have to shift your body position for each arm to get a better shake out. Sometimes the footholds will be less than ideal. You may even find that you are resting with bent arms in certain situations. So long as you are truly getting something back, this can still work to your advantage.
If you’re Climber B, resting everywhere you can, work to wean yourself from taking rests you don’t really need. Build up comfort with doing more moves in a row. Rest when you actually have fatigue built up rather than wherever you can rest. This goes hand-in-hand with picking up your pace in climbing. I’ll discuss pacing in more detail in next month’s Move of the Month article.
If you’re Climber A, sprinting to failure, watch where most other climbers rest on the sequence in question. Then, try to rest there yourself, calming your breathing and bringing your heart rate down. Even if you get pumped there to start, with training, you will find yourself able to climb more effectively by incorporating rests into your climbing toolbox.
How Often You Rest
More endurance-oriented climbers like myself tend to climb more like Climber B. We cling to any holds we can hang on to, trying to make them into a rest rather than moving up.
Meanwhile, Climber A is sprinting, trying to outrace the pump.
A happy medium somewhere in between these two extremes usually yields better results. For me, choosing my rests wisely and spacing them out actually works better instead of preemptively resting on every hold possible. For Climber A, learning to slow things down will likely help in the long-term, though resting at all may seem pumpier at first.
In other words, Climber B will ultimately benefit from speeding things up a bit, while Climber A will benefit from slowing them down.
Training for the Rests (If Necessary)
“Resting just makes me more pumped!” argues Climber A, trying to explain the reason for the sprinting-to-failure approach. This indicates a need to train resting. Just like all other athletic skills, resting effectively is trainable. It’s simple, too. You just get on holds that you want to rest on, and you shake out there. You may need to play around with your body positioning to maximize the rest. Over time, you can usually transform rests that don’t feel restful into true rests where you get something back.
Climber B may have to train for certain rests, too. I certainly have had to train for too many rests to count. This experience helps me know that even if a needed rest on a route doesn’t feel particularly restful at first, I can train it.
How Long You Spend Resting
Climber A and Climber B may never meet in the middle on this point. Knowing how long to rest for the best benefits in your climbing will be highly individual. One climber may be literally able to “get it all back” spending 5 minutes shaking out. A different climber may find that after 15 or 30 seconds at a particular rest, he or she has to keep climbing, as the rest is no longer restful.
I use my heart rate and breathing as my first measure. I wait for them to slow down before proceeding on the climb, so long as the rest feels restful. Of course, using the feedback from your arms and hands and the rest of your body is part of resting, too. If you are getting more pumped from resting at what everyone else thinks is a good resting spot, you almost assuredly need to train your resting more!
For hard redpoint projects without awesome rests, I almost always have to train the rests as well as the moves. I experiment with lengthening and shortening the rests, seeing how this changes my performance on the next sequence of moves to the next rest. I usually settle in after a few tries on what feels like the best breath count for each rest. I count my breaths as I shake out at the rest. Then I move on from the rest into the next section of the route. The breath count can range from 10 to 500 breaths. It really depends on the quality of the rest!
One thing I’ve noticed is that as I’ve built strength and worked hard on climbing faster between rests, I don’t usually rest for as long as I used to on holds. I haven’t had a 500-count rest in a long time. These days, my rests tend to fall in the 10- to 100-breath range. Most often, they’re at about 30 to 50 breaths. How long I stay depends both on how taxing the rest is and on what’s coming up on the route.
Summing It Up
Choose your rests wisely, don’t be afraid to spend time training your rests, and learn how to use feedback from your body to effectively determine when it’s time to leave the rest and continue climbing. No matter who you are and what your climbing style is, focusing on time management when resting can make a huge difference in your climbing.