Continuing on, then, with my discussion of my DOMS-lessening recipe ingredient list that I started last week, to item No. 1 – rest – I add the following three interventions.
2. Sleep. Second on my list of DOMS relief methods – closely linked to rest days – is the quality and quantity of sleep. I used to be a very restless sleeper, and I still can be, to some extent. However, I’ve worked to change this by making an effort to make my sleep area as dark and quiet as possible, always traveling with earplugs, getting to bed early enough to make sure I get at least eight hours of sleep (sometimes 10 or 11!) a night, and even lying down to try to take a nap occasionally during the day (sometimes unsuccessfully, but the lying down seems to help). I firmly believe that paying attention to my sleep and making it a conscious priority has helped me recover much more quickly. And, one of the reasons I used to sleep poorly ties into number 3 on the list – stress.
3. Reduce stress. Life stressors can seriously interfere with your overall wellbeing, and that includes your ability to recover from the self-imposed stress of physical training and climbing. If you are stressed out or feel pressured about training, climbing, or your performance in either area, this only adds to stress, making for an even more potentially muscle-tightening, sickness-inviting, recovery-inhibiting situation. The less stressed I am, the faster I recover, and the better I sleep. For more details on how undue stress can mess with all aspects of your being’s health (not to mention your ability to recover from workouts), plus tips on how to reduce stress, check out “Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk,” “Stress Symptoms: Effects on Your Body and Behavior,” and “Eliminating Stress Brings Pain Relief.”
4. Light activity that doesn’t interfere with recovery. For me, this ties directly into the above entry (reduce stress). You probably know that I don’t believe that steady-state jogging/running is a strong frontrunner (at least for climbers) in this category for a variety of reasons (but again, if it works for you and you love it, who am I to judge?!). And, the problem with prescribing “light climbing” as an activity to reduce soreness and promote recovery is almost always that though the keyword is light, this is a concept that many climbers (myself included) tend to struggle with. You can do some light climbing, but it should be as easy as taking a short, easy stroll. In other words, recovery climbing has to be really easy in order to truly promote recovery! If you find it too challenging to truly go easy, find an alternative activity that works for you.
For me, yoga seems to have helped with the reduce stress part of the equation, while also falling into the light activity category (which happens to be one of the more proven interventions freducing DOMS – though not necessarily the actual muscle damage.) Since I practice yoga (and now teach yoga as well, because after seeing so much of a change in myself through a more dedicated yoga practice, I found myself wanting to help others find their way into this stress-busting, pain-busting, self-confidence-boosting practice, too), I’ll refer you to a few articles supporting yoga as a stress-buster and/or recovery technique: “The effects of yoga training and a single bout of yoga on delayed onset muscle soreness in the lower extremity,” and “Yoga – Fight Stress and Find Serenity” (Mayo Clinic).
Up Next Week: Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions: DOMS Prevention and Attenuation Tactics (IYC Series), Part 4
This multipart series of articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. This information and advice is based on my 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.
One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing and training!