Category Archives: Rock Climbing

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions: DOMS Prevention and Attenuation Tactics (IYC Series), Part 4

Items 5 to 7 of my DOMS reduction tactics are detailed below, adding to the following interventions discussed already in previous entries as potentially contributing to my lessened post-exercises soreness: resting enough, sleeping enough, reducing stress, and engaging in light, recovery-oriented physical activity.

Developing more strength appears to have lessened the intensity and duration of my DOMS. (Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net).

Developing more strength appears to have lessened the intensity and duration of my DOMS. (Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net).

5. Get stronger. Gaining strength through a more committed and sustained approach to resistance training – including working on  my less-used muscles (the ones that tend to not get overused in climbing) – seems to have had a tremendous impact on my ability to recover from hard climbing days that used to leave me hurting, as well as my capacity to recover more quickly from hard resistance-training workouts, too.

In previous years, I’ve consistently fallen into the seductive cycle of letting go of strength work virtually entirely for months on end during my outdoor climbing season, and I think this has been detrimental to both my body and my climbing in the end. Gradually detraining from my peak strength levels throughout the season while often simultaneously climbing too much and not resting enough, I would also build up muscle imbalances and accrue minor tweaks and pains. However, by working to more conscientiously stay true to my intention to keep some resistance training in my life throughout outdoor climbing seasons, combined with resting enough to allow for recovery, I am finding that I feel less sore; appear to lose less strength (detraining); seem to incur fewer minor aches, injuries and pains; and overall have more energy and recover faster.

6. Hot tub (or hot bath). Maybe it’s just me, or just some of us, but nothing feels better (except maybe a massage) the day after a hard workout on my sore muscles than a hot bath or hot tub. But that’s just me. The scientific jury is still out on if any form of hydrotherapy (hot, cold, thermo-neutral or alternating hot and cold baths) can be proven effective at ameliorating post-exercise pain or enhancing recovery.  As with all things DOMS-related, my take on this is to do what feels best to you and seems to work for your body, until or unless clearly proven information comes down from the powers that be showing that what you’re doing in the name of recovery is definitely, without a doubt, causing more harm than good.

7. Self massage/massage. Another still-somewhat controversial treatment for DOMS, massage (or self-massage/self-myofascial release) seems to have staunch supporters on both sides, with some folks claiming it does nothing, and others dying to crawl onto the next massage table they find in their path. I fall into the latter camp. I love a good deep-tissue massage, and if I can’t get one from another person, that’s what the foam roller and Thera Cane Massager are for, right?

Recent studies on massage and DOMS seem to support my long-held love of massages for alleviating post-exercise pain, such as “Manual therapy ameliorates delayed-onset muscle soreness and alters muscle metabolites in rats,”  and “Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures,” and  “Effects of therapeutic massage on gait and pain after delayed onset muscle soreness.”

Up Next Week: Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions: DOMS Prevention and Attenuation Tactics (IYC Series), Part 5

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!

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions: DOMS Prevention and Attenuation Tactics (IYC Series), Part 3

For me, not sleeping soundly or enough can make DOMS much more pronounced. (Image courtesy of saphatthachat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

For me, not sleeping soundly or enough can make DOMS much more pronounced. (Image courtesy of saphatthachat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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 for reducing 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!

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions: DOMS Prevention and Attenuation Tactics (IYC Series), Part 2

Taking an extra day or two off can make a world of difference.

Taking an extra day or two off can make a world of difference.

Today, I’ll discuss the first of what I personally consider to be the contributing factors that have helped me experience much less DOMS recently (in the past year) than I have in the past (two decades of climbing). Realize again that none of these interventions rest on strong scientific proof (from what I’ve seen, anyhow) save for the first one on my list – but that I offer up my DOMS attenuation recipe list in the hopes that some of these interventions, alone or together, might help others seeking to lessen the severity of their post-exercise pain just like I have. I’ve ordered them as logically as I can through the next few entries, grouping interventions together that seem to play into one another — aside from this first one, which gets its very own entry.

DOMS Attenuation Tactic #1: Rest. I intend to write way more about rest in another IYC entry here at some point soon. And I’ve written about it before. I believe rest to be one of the most underused and undervalued training methods for climbers (and probably for lots of athletes). Not resting enough to allow your body to repair and recover between workouts undermines your ability to work out at a high enough intensity to make the most gains possible, or to be ready to undergo another high-intensity workout/effort – a vicious cycle that can land you squarely on a plateau because you are never recovered enough to push hard enough to make real gains or to reach your personal peak potential. Even if you can climb harder than everyone else for multiple days in a row, you are still most definitely not reaching your personal potential if you don’t allow your body the rest days it needs to recover, thereby preventing yourself from ever climbing/training at a truly high intensity for your body.

Also, ample rest is the number-one way to get rid of DOMS. If you rest enough, the soreness will dissipate (so long as it is DOMS and not an injury – most injuries take much longer to recover from, as does overtraining). If you don’t rest enough, but instead insist upon climbing hard and/or training hard on sore, under-recovered muscles (and ligaments and tendons), you are interfering with your body’s repair process and therefore sabotaging the gains you are hoping to make. Who wants that? Tell your anxious brain that another day of rest is money in the bank, and that training when you’re not sore and worked is far more profitable in the big picture than pushing through the pain you built up from yesterday’s workout today.

Again, always remember that I write this from the perspective of a recovered volume-trainer-aholic who used to beat the living sh#$ out of my body as often as possible for as many hours as possible a day. I get that it’s hard to stop doing that, but if you can retrain your brain to understand that rest is good, and that paying attention to and carefully manipulating your training intensity along with your rest days is more important than a daily grinding volume workout, the results might surprise you!

Up Next Week: Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions: DOMS Prevention and Attenuation Tactics (IYC Series), Part 3

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!