by Steve Bechtel
A little while back, I wrote an article about Recovery Training, where I tried to underscore the idea that you should take your recovery as seriously as you do your climbing and training. We all love to add and add and add to our training in hopes that somehow the throttling will make us better at the sport, but many of us slip-up on the recovery part. Ideally, you’d add as much recovery to one side of the “see-saw” at you’d add training on the other.
Performance, often, is limited when training volumes get too high. We simply run out of natural recovery pathways like eating normal meals and sleeping average amounts. If we want to train harder, we need to support that on the back end. In the last couple of years, I worked with the youth national team athletes in the US and Canada to enhance their performance – not through training harder – but through helping them handle harder training by recovering well. We wanted the athletes to know that there was more to recovering between training sessions than pizza and sleeping late – and most of all that it can be enhanced. In order to help the athletes understand recovery, we put forth a list of recovery modes and session types, and assigned each a point value. The training list looked like this:
Bouldering, 1 hour: 10 points
Hard Route Climbing, 1 hour: 10 points
Weight Training, 1 hour: 10 points
Easy Climbing (@ OS level or below), 1 hour: 5 points
Speed Training, 1 hour: 10 points
Other sport activities, 5-10 points per hour determined by intensity
The athletes were simply guided to add up as many recovery points as they had “spent” in training before they could climb or train again. As anyone who coaches avid young climbers, it’s really hard to keep them out of the gym! The recovery points were as follows:
Sleep, hours before midnight: 3 points per hour
Post-training meal, at least 200 calories within an hour of session: 2 points
Drink water (WATER ONLY!): 1 point per liter
Napping: 5 points per nap
Walking or easy cycling, 30-60 minutes maximum per day: 2 points
Cold Shower (5-10 minutes): 2 points
Hit protein goal (usually 1.5-2g/kg bodyweight): 3 points
Foam roll or stretching (15 minutes): 1 point
So, say an athlete bouldered hard for 2 hours. The climber would then need to get 20 recovery points before they could do the next session. So, we can:
– Go to bed at 9 (9)
– Eat post-training (2)
– Take a walk (2)
– Take a cold shower (2)
– Eat enough protein (3)
– Drink 2 liters of water (2)
A youth athlete might very well be recovered sufficiently by the next day after a two hour session. Longer sessions naturally force more rest days. These numbers can vary athlete-to-athlete, but the general principle works very well for keeping serious competitive youth seriously competitive.
For athletes over the age of 30, I add 50% to the point value of each training session, so a bouldering hour would be 15 points, weight training 15 points, etc. Over 45, we add another 5 to each hour of activity. I will highlight that I believe older athletes can train very hard…they just need to exploit their wisdom and patience to be sure they recover well in-between.
Points can be assigned as a team early-on in the season and then adjusted for the individual as the coach sees fit. For athletes that are chronically underperforming, the coach should work toward frequent conversations about recovery training and guide the athlete away from the “+more” mentality.