Rest is a controversial topic in climbing. You will find as many opinions as climbers who will want to talk to you about it. One thing is certain, you will need to rest to improve your climbing performance. The other aspect to consider, and it is often overlooked, is that rest represents the most important part for your muscles and tendons recovery. In other words, rest needs to be taken very seriously!
Whether you follow a rigorous training program, or you only climb without too much expectations, rest remains the only element that will allow you to reach a higher level. Without it, training is futile. If there is one thing to keep in mind, it is that you will not become stronger during your training, but during your rest.
Before explaining some key concepts related to rest, it seems important to describe the process to better understand its essence. After a long climbing session, your body will be weakened. Its response to this situation is an attempt to rebuild in a way that will allow you to perform the same task(i.e. a climbing) with greater ease. This means that your body is trying to adapt to your lifestyle.
Obviously, if you follow a complex training program, this short article is not for you. For everyone else wondering about adequate rest periods, here are some key things to consider.
Mainly, what you want to do is avoid climbing before your body has done the majority of the rebuilding work. Generally, a 36 hour rest is recommended between your climbing sessions. This will allow you to climb 3 times a week while keeping an acceptable recovery level. Be careful, if you are doing 3 or 4 hour sessions, you will probably need more rest. It is better to keep sessions shorter (1h30 to 2h) in order to reduce injury risks and to maximize your recovery.
Another element to take into account is the style of climbing practiced during a given session. For example, a strength-based session (very few, but intense movements) will require a different rest than an endurance session (many movements with less intensity). If you want to climb two days in a row, it is usually recommended to change the style of climbing: strength the first day, endurance the second day. The body can take up to 36 hours to recover from strength training, while for endurance, you could do up to 4 or 5 sessions during the week, depending on the intensity of your climbing.
If you want to maximize your rest time, some other elements are also to be taken into account. The first is obviously nutrition, which will allow you to recover better. The consumption of proteins immediately after training is strongly recommended. Additionally, there is nothing better than restful sleep; try to have 8-hour nights. Also, you should drink plenty of water, before, during, and after your workout. Most people do not drink enough water every day, so it’s good opportunity to start! Finally, try to focus on active rather than passive recovery. That is to say that during your rest days, you should practice another physical activity very moderately (jogging, cross training, hot yoga or even very easy climbing).