Resting isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your project is waiting and going from lying in your bed to sitting in your car to sitting at your desk to sitting on your couch doesn’t seem like the best way to prepare for sending. However, rest days are just as important as training days.
When you train, you break down your muscles and tax your tendons, thus you need rest days to allow your body rebuild itself into stronger machine. Yup, you read that right: You get stronger on your rest days, not training days. Don’t want to believe me? Well, without rest you’ll quickly find yourself either climbing like garbage, perpetually fatigued and struggling on the warm-ups you cruised four days before when you were fresh, or, worse, injured and forced to take way more days off than your training plan originally called for.
You should take at least two rest days from climbing indoors/outside each week if most of your sessions are fun and casual, or three days off if you’re training hard (campusing, finger boarding, projecting boulders, lifting) and pushing your limits outside.
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But for those of us ever-psyched, success-seeking climbers who die a little inside every time we’re told to spend a day “doing nothing,” here are some active (and non-active) activities to help you stay sane and promote recovery on your non-climbing days.
When considering if an activity is rest-day appropriate, ask yourself two things: Would you consider it climbing, and will it take away from your climbing/training tomorrow. EVO’s head coach, Justen Sjong, recommends zero climbing on any and all rest days. That means no ARCing, no warming up on easy auto-belay routes, and no repeating your favorite V0s. And, as often as I joke that following trad counts as a rest day, climbing outside, unless it’s below 5.5, non-roped scrambling, does not count as a rest day. As far as non-climbing activities go, a 3-mile walk with your dog probably won’t take away from climbing the next day, where a 15-mile, multi-peak trek definitely will and therefore does not count as a rest day appropriate activity.
So what SHOULD you be filling your rest day with? First, your number one goal is to rest. Your number two goal is to refuel, so just because you’re not working out doesn’t mean you should only eat low-calorie snacks and light-dressing-covered salads. This is the day your body is rebuilding the muscle you’ve broken down in your previous sessions, so skimping on calories will only slow your recovery and keep you at your current plateau. I often eat extra, especially extra protein, on rest days when I’m particularly sore, and I always notice a positive difference in how I feel next-day–not heavy, and significantly less sore–when I do so. Focus on eating nutrient-dense, healthy foods such as lean protein, whole grains, lots of veggies, berries, and healthy fats from nuts, avocados, and olive oil on your rest days. This will provide you with the proper nutrients to facilitate recovery and keep you feeling good about the calories you’re putting into your body.
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Rest days are also an excellent time to squeeze in some self care. Foam roll tight muscles, get a massage or trade massages with a friend, ice and massage sore fingers, file your callouses, take a hot shower and stretch. None of these activities are overly interesting, but they’re a great excuse to relax while watching your favorite climbing movies and/or Netflix shows.
Scheduling your rest days wisely can help you succeed in not exercising. Pick your most hectic days when you wouldn’t otherwise have time to climb after work, or write yourself a long to do list to keep busy. Getting all of your errands and chores out of the way in one day will not only prevent you from having time to hit the gym, but it will free up the rest of your week for training and climbing outside. Getting in a few extra hours of sleep is also a great use of your rest day and one of the best facilitators of recovery.
So whether you use your rest days to catch up on your favorite shows while foam rolling, drive to your weekend climbing destination after work Friday, or get all of your errands out of the way, remember that you are doing your body good by chilling out.