By Chrissy Vadovszki
As a climber transitions into more challenging sport or trad climbs, the need for better habits and tactics around optimal resting on routes arises. These thoughts and ideas can be applied to longer boulders (not to exclude the pebble wrestlers among us), as well as onsighting or flashing climbs. However, we will be focused on better resting while attempting to send a project that has already been attempted in this article. In the words of Adam Ondra, “It’s easy: I’m either climbing or relaxing.” If we take these words to heart, we can really focus on becoming more effective at both our resting, as well as our climbing while working on any project. Here are three thoughts and associated tips to consider while working to improve how you rest on the wall.
1) Develop a process to create a plan.
- Analysis of the climb as whole: There is a ton of information-gathering that can take place on and off the wall. Begin to analyze your climb for rests and where they are needed. Consider the total time you are on the wall and how you are using that time through each section of the climb. Where are you resting? Which rests are needed and which are unnecessary? How long are you staying in each of them? Are you resting too little or too much? Where do other climbers rest (are you missing important information about the climb)? An easy tool here is to take a video of yourself on the route. This way you will not overthink while climbing and can assess an attempt afterwards.
- Analysis of rests: Consider how you feel in different sections of the climb, as well as at different rest stances. Are you able to recover at some rests, but not others? What is the quality of each rest? Which are the best rests? Which are okay rests? Categorize each:
- No hands - You could stay at this rest for an indefinite amount of time.
- Amazing/good - You are able to recover, but you are still engaging some part of your body to stay on the wall. This is a rest where you would want to stay for 3 or more minutes.
- Poor/okay - You can rest here, but question if it is best to rest at all or keep climbing. Think 30 seconds to 1 minute of resting, or just taking a few long breaths and collecting yourself for the next section of climbing.
- No rest - There is nowhere to stop in this section of wall, but you still feel you need to manage the pump. This might be a good place to choose to punch it and climb quickly, or employ some micro-resting as a specific tactic while climbing through this section.
- Note: Rests are relative! Depending on your strengths and weaknesses as a climber, some rests may feel useful to you that do not to others, or vice versa. Anthropometric measurements of an individual can affect the usefulness of a rest. Kneebars will fit different sized legs uniquely. Relative position of foot holds can make some stances impossible to use for shorter climbers and incredibly uncomfortable for taller ones. Reflect on resting positions for yourself and be prepared to allow yourself to make decisions that are best for you, and not based on what others tell you to do.
- Make a Plan. Based upon the characteristics of the climb, quality of rests, how you feel in different sections of the climb and where you feel you need to rest, come up with a plan. Strive to become more intentional with where and how long you are resting, and choose to follow this plan on route. In addition to optimizing resting, this process will allow you to reduce inner dialogue around second guessing on when and where to rest while you are actively climbing. This will additionally help to improve focus and overall efficiency on route.
- Let’s think of an example of an athlete who is very close to sending on a short-term project. Each attempt on this route takes a relatively long amount of time for each attempt: 30+ minutes on the wall for one hundred feet of climbing - for a second tier route for this particular climber. This route can be divided into clear sections as follows: The first four bolts is the crux sequence followed by a poor/okay rest. The next short section is an engaging, but not as difficult portion of climbing followed by a very good rest (the best one on the route) about midway (50 ft.) up the route. The second half of the route offers no clear rest through sustained, technical climbing and a thin (easier) red point crux a couple bolts from the chains. This climber was becoming fatigued/pumped on the redpoint crux towards the end of the climb, climbing very slowly through this section, hesitating and attempting to rest their way through it. It was possible to shake on most holds through this section, but the climber was not getting much back and simultaneously getting very tired by doing so.
- After discussing the route, the plan was made to spend about 1 minute at the first okay rest and fully rest (3+ minutes) at the best rest in the middle of the climb. For the second half of the climb, we discussed the options of a) eliminating much of the resting that was taking place on the later half of the climb by choosing a few key spots to briefly shake at, or b) striving to eliminate resting completely from this section of climbing and only incorporate micro rests as they climbed.
- If your plan doesn't work: reflect, re-evaluate, and make a new plan if necessary.
Having a plan in place is a great place to begin with resting. Next, we can now consider ways to improve the tactics and efficacy of our resting and stances while in the moment and at each location.
2) Improve Efficacy of Resting:
- Relaxation. Relax your body. Listen to your breathing. (Count breaths or utilize a breathing technique if helpful to you). Lower your heart rate. Release the tension in your shoulders. Allow yourself to grip only as much as you need to. Relax not just the upper body, but the lower body as well.
- Straight Arms. Find stances where you can take advantage of straight arms and minimally engage your most needed muscles. The best body position is going to be highly dependent on the holds, the person, the type of rest and the type of climbing ahead of us. Find the best body position for you in that moment.
- Alternate arms. When you arrive at a rest, it's common to naturally alternate which arm you are holding on with to allow the other to recover. At first, it might only be possible to rest on one arm for 2 seconds. Slowly extend how long you are shaking on each arm. Perhaps you rest 2 seconds per side, then 4 seconds per side, then 6, 8, 10. Counting between shakes can be a useful tool in also gauging your level of recovery.
- G-tox Technique. Use this recovery technique at rest positions on difficult routes. Alternate the position of your resting arm between the normal downward, dangling position and an above your head "raised-hand" position to increase recovery rate. Important note: It is more beneficial for recovery to lower your hand below your heart rather than to the side while shaking.
- Find unique rests: Are there kneebars? Is it possible to body smear your hip or leg into the wall? Maybe there is a heel or toe hook? Let the crack climber in you come out and take advantage of hand jams on a sport climb! (I have more than once sent a route at Rifle with a single hand jammie on! and am not ashamed.) Perhaps there is a perch for your feet you can really get your weight over. Get creative with this.
- Consider your finger and grip positions. Can you open hand rather than crimp? Can you alternate which fingers you are using? Will switching grips help or hinder you on the next section of climbing?
- Brush rest holds. The better these holds feel, especially for a less comfortable rest, the more confidence you will have there and after.
- Calm your mind. (Last, but definitely not least!) As we are being challenged to send a hard for us climb in that moment, it's easy to allow the mind to distract us from the goal (of sending!)
- Become an observer of your thoughts and feelings while resting (and while climbing), especially if they are not directly helpful to you at this moment. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Are you dwelling on the past or how you felt up until this rest? Is this affecting where your focus is now? Are you judging how you are feeling or climbing to predict how you will perform on the next section of the climb? Are you nervous? Are you afraid of failure? Accept these thoughts and feelings and let them go, as fixating much beyond acknowledgment will not help you succeed in your goals.
- Improve mindfulness of the moment. Focus on your breath. Relax. Listen to your body. Hell, look around and enjoy the view! Soak in this moment. It's beautiful. You are in a beautiful place, with beautiful people. YOU are beautiful, alive, breathing and doing something you love. This is it! Love it deeply, every moment you can. Feel that joy inside every cell of your being.
- Focus. Rests are an opportunity to direct your mind and prepare for the next section of the climb. Visualize the next sequence. What needs to be done next? What needs to be remembered? What is most important? Eyes on the prize and time to get down to business.
- Press a reset button. Visualize a button to reset your mind. Picture the colors and textures of the button in detail to bring it alive. Physically or mentally press the button when you are ready to climb. Everything that happened before does not matter. This is a blank slate to perform from. (This one is courtesy of Chelsea Rude.)
Positive Self Talk. Practice it! You can do this. Right now. You are capable. You are prepared. You got this. 110%. Say it in your head. Say it out loud. “I am capable. I can do this.”
Not sure where to begin?
We have training plans available for any level athlete!
3) Subtler Considerations:
- Pace and efficiency of your climbing is going to significantly affect how you feel on a route. When we are climbing at a level that is close to our current limit in ability and strength, small adjustments can have a huge impact on our success.
- Micro rest! “Micro-rest” by flexing your fingers and wrist between hand movements. Intentionally open and close your fingers or flex your wrist between holds. This small movement helps generate blood flow through the forearms and helps reduce overall pump through difficult and sustained sections of a route.
- Practice Resting! There are a number of resting drills that can be incorporated both indoors and outdoors
- Practice Resting: Inside or Outside - pick a point on a climb (route or boulder problem) to rest for an allotted amount of time. It could be the start, it could be in the middle, it could be at the end. Increase duration of rests over time.
- Get comfortable with being slightly uncomfortable.
- Practice Resting before clipping. Hang out a little. Relax. No need to rush.
- Have your partner/friend tell you where to rest while on route or a problem.
- Intentionally work on any of the above mentioned skills/tactics above.
Resting is just one piece of the bigger picture of how we climb. Think of all these micro adjustments and nuances adding up, slowly bringing you closer to greater mastery. Find satisfaction in the process. Each fractional win in any area, big or small, is one step in an upward spiral of improvement in your climbing and one to be celebrated and to find joy in (and also help you send the current rig).
ABOUT CHRISSY VADOVSZKI
Chrissy is a high-level and dedicated rock climber originally from New Jersey who resides in Colorado, and has been sport and trad climbing for nearly 15 years. She holds a Masters of Science in Physics, an M.A.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, is a Certified Performance Climbing Coach as well as a Level II USA Climbing Coach. Chrissy’s passion for climbing has led her to travel as far and wide as trad climbing in Arapiles, to sport climbing in Kalymnos and alpine in the Bugaboos.
Chrissy has coached all ages of climbers from the competitive youth circuit through accomplished adult athletes, and takes her athlete’s training and success as seriously as she takes her own. Her nerdy past causes her to spend great amounts of time researching strength metrics for climbing, training methodology and movement analysis.