Tag Archives: climbing

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 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!

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!

Climbing & Training Myths & Misconceptions 2: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) (IYC Series), Part 2

What I do for the rest of a climbing day depends on how I feel warming up on familiar ground.

What I do for the rest of a climbing day depends on how I feel warming up on familiar ground.

This entry continues last week’s discussion of common climbing-related DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) myths.

Does the presence or severity of DOMS indicate the quality or efficacy of my workout?

Not necessarily. As mentioned last week, different people experience different levels of DOMS. And, certain workouts – especially ones that include a lot of eccentric motions – are likely to predispose you to experiencing DOMS more than others. But, you don’t necessarily need to experience debilitating post-exercise pain in order to make gains, or to think that you had a worthwhile workout.

Keep in mind, though, that if you never push yourself hard DURING workouts (i.e. you always stay well within your comfort zone, rarely or never try hard moves, stay on angles and styles of climbing that are pretty easy for you, and always say “take” when you feel the slightest bit pumped, and so forth), you’re not as likely to make significant gains as if you do push hard – regardless of your post-workout DOMS status. I still think there’s some truth to the now-somewhat-unpopular “no pain, no gain” concept, particularly for those who want to excel at a sport – but all within reason, meaning that if you’re still sore and unable to train (or even worse, just to move/live life normally without pain) three or four or even more days after a workout, you’d probably do well to take it a bit (or a lot!) easier the next time around.

You can definitely make gains by taking a more moderate approach, and particularly, by allowing your body the time and space it needs to recuperate between sessions, since bodies can get stronger, faster if they’re provided with adequate rest after working out. If you continually tear your muscles up and never allow them the chance to rebuild, you will never be able to put your full effort into your training or climbing, and you will never realize your true potential as a result.

For me, a more moderate approach tends to mean less volume (i.e. shorter sessions, or not climbing or training until I’m 100 percent drained, which I used to do regularly) and sometimes, less frequency (i.e. fewer training sessions per week), while still trying to maintain a decent level of intensity (difficulty) in each training session, whether I’m focused on strength, power, power endurance or endurance. The only exception to the intensity rule is if I do a recovery climbing session – which I’ll talk about in more detail later on in this topic.

If I don’t have DOMS, am I ready to train hard or climb hard again?

Maybe – but maybe not. I used to use my level of post-exercise muscle soreness as the main indicator of my recovery status (though I often ignored it, too, and then got frustrated and/or overtrained as a result of my body not rigidly adhering to whatever schedule my mind had decided it should be able to stick to). And remember that DOMS can take one or two days after working out to fully manifest – a fact that got me into trouble too many times to count, as I’d wake up “feeling fine” and head out to train or climb, not realizing the pain that awaited me down the line (and the consequent even-longer recovery time). Nowadays, I definitely still consider my DOMS status as part of the equation, but I also take into account:

  1. The difficulty and style of my last workout, meaning that, for example, if I did a hard strength-training workout and dug deep, I probably won’t do that again for a number of days, regardless of how I feel. I actually usually wait 4 to 10+ days before strength training again after a serious strength workout (meaning weight training);
  2. My mental and emotional states – since I’m a person who really loves training and climbing as hard as I can, if I’m not psyched to do either of these things, that means I’m probably not recovered. Sometimes I’m psyched to train/climb and I’m still not recovered – and that’s always tough! But that’s even more reason to not train or climb if I’m not psyched – it generally means that my body isn’t recovered enough for me to get much out of it, and that I’d be better off resting; and
  3. How I feel when I start to warm up and engage with the climbing or training I have planned for the day. I have some standard training warm-up exercises, as well as some familiar warm-up routes at the crags I go to regularly, and I use how I feel on these to gauge my status for the day and to alter my plans accordingly as needed. Sometimes I feel more recovered than expected, sometimes less – but the key here is having a flexible, open mind and being ready to shift my plans accordingly should I recognize that what I thought I should do is not appropriate, given how I feel warming up.

Up Next Week: Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions: DOMS Attenuation and Prevention

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!