29 March 2010
Some of you commented from my last post asking if you could use light climbing as active rest between hard climbing days, and how to judge the intensity. Yes you can do this, but there are some obvious pitfalls. The first is obviously if the ‘light’ climbing isn’t light enough. It’s more of a problem if you are sport climbing than any other discipline. The routes have to feel really quite easy, so at the end of the session you should probably feel fresher than at the start.
Climbers on short (1-2 week) sport climbing trips often tell themselves they’ll just have a light day as active rest so they can avoid having to discipline a boring full rest day while staying at a dream destination. Tough as it is in the short term, the full rest day often works out better down the line. Most climbers standard goes steadily downhill during trips as they to more volume than they can handle and end up with hands and muscles so totally trashed they can hardly look at a route by the last day. So while on trip, when you are doing more climbing than you are generally accustomed to, full rest is often the best idea. But if you are climbing at home and especially if you know the active rest climbs/circuits you want to do, you will be less tempted to overdo it, and you might actually help your recovery.
If you are bouldering for some reason it’s a little easier psychologically to discipline yourself to an easy session, just focusing on movement, and jumping off anytime you hit a hard move or get pumped. It’s also easier to fit a very short session in, just ‘swinging past’ the crag to nip up a handful of problems in 30 minutes and then leave before breakfast/lunch or on the way to something else. Adventurous trad is by far the easiest and best active rest day for climbers. It’s great fun, and it’s not hard to find routes that will still feel engaging without being physically challenging. If you are up to it, free-soloing on easy ground is a nice active rest day that's definitely not for everyone.
Don’t get hung up on which grade would be the correct intensity - it’s a guaranteed way to get the intensity wrong. Just focus on how you feel. If you feel like you are recovering and feeling fresher as the session goes on, you’ve got it right.