Resting, over-training and climbing: sometimes you just need a break

My training plan has included quite a few rest days. this is in part because I’m terrible at listening to my body and having a rest to let it recover. I didn’t feel great on Sunday after having my climbing session at the Climbing Works. Even though I did a quite easy circuit that didn’t really tax me, I was pretty shaky and very fatigued by the end. So, I decided to not climb on Monday (and missed the final Foundry Winter Bouldering League comp). Instead, I started to watch the Good Wife.

I made this sound more appealing by planning to climb on Tuesday evening, therefore still getting in 3 sessions this week. On Tuesday, I still felt pretty crappy. I didn’t climb. I haven’t run since last Thursday.

Stopping and actually listening to my body is really difficult. I get worried that I’m going to get weak, fat and unfit for Font. Clearly this is all nonsense, but it’s very easy to fall into that trap. In fact, there are loads of websites on how/when to take a rest week and the key signs that perhaps it needed quite badly! I think I’ve got some of my own signs as well:

  • I really crave refined carbohydrates (in the last two weeks, I’ve eaten more cake, bread, batter and pasta than I have done in the last 4 months. And felt guilt about it.)
  • I am so very tired
  • I don’t feel strong
  • My old injuries are starting to niggle

Surfing the web, these line up with what Runners World label as the 10 markers for when rest is necessary. Clearly, running is more endurance than climbing, but I think some of the markers are just as relevant:

1. Body Mass

2. Resting heart rate

3. Sleep

4. Hydration

5. Energy level

6. Mood state

7. Wellness

8. Pain

9. Performance

10. Oxygen saturation

Clearly, I can’t really test some of these (oxygen saturation/body mass), but I certainly have had trouble keeping my resting heart rate down, my hydration is shocking at the moment, I’m not particularly bouncing with energy and I have definitely been cranky! Furthermore, my last 2 runs (last week) have been pretty poor, and I didn’t have that great a climbing session on Sunday. In sum, I think I need a rest! I also probably need to eat more healthier too.

So, why does resting help? After scouring the internets, and from conversations that I’ve had with a number of different sources, here’s what I’ve found out:

  • Most dedicated athletes are compulsive – they hate taking a rest day.
  • It gives time for muscles to recover, rebuild and strengthen. By resting, the body can adapt to the stresses that bouldering or climbing makes on the body – which are very specific and often quite alien from the muscles original purpose.
  • It allows the body to replenish energy stores
  • repairs damaged tissue
  • replenishes fluid loss

Some ways to avoid over-training is by including ‘active’ recovery into training plans. I have tried to do this by piggybacking intensive sessions with lighter ones, or a different form of exercise. The benefit of active recovery is that it can reduce muscle lactate levels faster, it improves relaxation and assists in blood circulation which in turn speeds up muscle recovery. However, the body still needs longer periods of rest. These are just as important for strength and energy than actual training.

So, how should you take a rest/week off? Some suggestions include:

  • Take a week off – don’t go near a climbing gym. Try yoga or something else
  • Reduce training load
  • Aim to include a rest week every 6 weeks

I am less than half way through my rest week and I’m starting to worry that I’m getting fat, feeling ‘flubbly’ and generally a bit miserable. But these are all signs that I really quite need a rest week. If I kept running and training, as I have been I’d simply extend the length of recovery I’d need in order for my body to regain it’s energy. I have decided to try and be kinder to my body.

I am going to Northumberland on the weekend, and will start more active rest by limiting the length of time I’m out on the bike. As much as I love logging distance on Strava that would be the worst thing to do right now. Instead, I’ll listen to my body and cut the distance short. That way I’ll be able to jump back into training next week and continue to improve for Font!

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Recovery climb at the Climbing Works

I woke up on Sunday with a bit of a sore head. It was our 7 year anniversary on the 14th February (such a cliche, eh?), so to celebrate, we did the usual Saturday night routine: cook some really yummy food and watch Take Me Out (mainly to annoy the OH). I was a bit fuzzy headed the next day, so quite pleased that my aim for Sunday had changed somewhat from my training plan and my aim was to do a more endurance/volume session. Even better, the Works was quite quiet for a change.

I warmed up traversing and doing some one-legged climbing on some of the reds and greens towards the back of the Works. I’m finding the little kiddy play area great for easy traversing and luckily there weren’t any kids around, so I could play to my heart’s content. After starting to feel somewhat more the thing, I started at problem #1 of the Pinkles (graded F5+). It was lovely and straightforward, but also highlighted that I really hadn’t quite warmed up yet, so I threw in a couple more reds and greens for good measure.

I zoomed around the Pinkles as much as my head and the other climbers would let me. I had a couple of rests because I really wanted to do the problems in order as I often forget which numbers I have missed out on and then fail to complete the circuit. In the end I did all 36 problems, and only failed on 4 (#2, #7, #29, #14(?)), one of which I had done on Friday. A few of them took more than 1 go, but no more than 3. I was working quite hard during this session, and was in Zone 3 for most of it. For Sunday that was exactly what I wanted – something to make me work, but not to expend too much energy as I wasn’t feeling that great (self-induced, I know!).

I also aim to climb on Monday at the Foundry as it is the last of the Winter Bouldering League, so once I finished the Pinkles circuit, I cooled down, had a bite to eat and chatted with my friends. Running around doing endurance does not lend itself to social climbing, so it was nice to catch up with people at the end of the session.

By the end of the session I felt that I had accomplished my aims. I probably should have warmed up a bit more before starting my training proper, but I was keen to get cracking and I could warm up as part of the endurance circuit. I don’t think that I climbed particularly efficiently – I think I used more strength and thuggery to top some of the problems than body position and finesse. Diane said that she often climbs easy problems again when she thinks that she hasn’t climbed them particularly efficiently. I think I might start doing that, as it would force me to use better body positioning, balance and grace than simple thuggery. Maybe I’ll integrate this into my training plan too.

My general aims for the next week are quite broad. We’re going away for 4 days, so I’m aiming to climb Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. There is a comp at the Foundry on Monday, and I’m tempted to go and have a play on the new problems, or if not that psyched, go and do a steep terrain session on the 45 degree board instead. On Wednesday, I plan to do another easy circuit which means climbing all the L1s at the Foundry. On Thursday, I’ll be playing around on insecure holds again. Not a bad training week eh?

Here’s the grading of the new Pinkles:

The new pinkles circuit at the Climbing Works. Photo: CanadianKate

Valentines Day at the Climbing Works

I went training at the Climbing Works on Friday. Coincidentally it was also valentines day and I saw quite a few couples climbing together. Did I climb with my OH? Nope. He climbed with a mutual friend and I had training to do! Diane did keep me company which I apprecidated. Training can be lonely at times.

When mulling over my training aims for Friday, I realised that I have overly focused on steep terrain, at the expense of my other weaknesses such as moving from insecure holds. To redress this, I decided to work on this on Friday. After warming up on some of the new pinkle set (the OH completed it and said it was ‘fun’), I started back on the yellows and whites.

The key mantras that I have running through my head pretty much every session are these:

  1. Remember that trying really hard on moves that I ultimately fail at/fall off on will make me stronger!

  2. Some days will just be harder than others, especially in the middle of a training programme

  3. Focus on the aim of the session rather than the grade of the climb

These were certainly on my mind on Friday! I find the yellows and whites very hard – and so they should be as they’re towards the top of my level.

I worked about 6 different yellow and white problems. A couple I had tried previously (as they covered both steep and insecure holds), and a couple I had not even bothered looking at.

The first problem that I tried was a yellow problem that I had tried previously. It involved some good starting holds and then a pop to a ball shaped hold, getting feet sorted and another pop to a fairly good hold. At first I couldn’t even get to the ball, I didn’t have enough pop off my foot to catch it. After doing some foot faffery, I figured out a way to reach up and get the ball in control. I then had to use tension to keep my foot on and quickly move my hand from the starting hold to a good crimp about my chest height. Once my hand was there, I could ‘easily’ move my foot to the starting hold and give a good shove with my foot. I actually managed to get to the next hold on the lip, but I couldn’t latch. I didn’t have enough tension to really catch hold of it. My shoulder started to fatigue so I decided to move on.

The next problem was also a yellow, but on a slab this time. It required a balancy high step and I kept barndooring off from. Eventually, I managed to get my toe on the hold, while standing on tip toes in a rather precarious position, but I could not get enough weight transferred to my toe in order to keep myself on. In the end, I called it a day and moved on to something else. I had progressed on that move but, it was not to be!

I tried a couple of more problems, including a white one which was mainly a horrid, horrid grapple with some huge slopers. I could hold the two starting holds, and get my heel up, but I couldn’t hold the position to get my hand to the next hold. But still – I held some holds on a white!

I did top the final problem of the session. It was a yellow with a good sloper hold and some pinches thrown in as well. I felt really good and confident on it, and according to my friends, I climbed it in fine style! By the time I topped it and came back down again I knew that I was done for the session. I was pleased with my effort. I kept my psyche up, even though I didn’t see particularly concrete signs of improvement i.e. topping out. However, I could keep the aim of the session to the foreground and remember that I wasn’t necessarily going to see massive improvements, but the small ones such as being able to catch holds and move between holds, are still important.

I think I might do an easier session next time in order to top things and be able to move efficiently between holds. One problem of working hard moves and to the top of my ability is that it gets a bit bitty at times. I’m looking forward to my next session already!

Some stats:

  • Warm up: cross-through traversing, L-R and R-L; some pinkles
  • Main session: using insecure holds. Worked 6 problems in the yellow and white circuit. Topped 1; progressed between yucky holds on 3/5. Added an intermediary hold on 1 problem, and then were able to progress even further.
  • Cool down: dynamic moves between green holds. Some popping and some skipping holds

Exploring the footpaths and bridleways around Crosspool

In between the horrendous weather that the UK is having, I managed to go for a run in sunny and not so windy weather. Once again, my Garmin decided obtain signal about a km into my run, but I suppose that was my warm up anyway.

I decided to explore some of the footpaths between Crookes and Crosspool, so I ran towards the Bole Hills and then looped back through some allotments. Because I was not feeling particularly great still, I aimed to run around Z1/Z2 and really level out on the inclines. I think I kept to that for the most part. I didn’t feel like I expended that much energy and my pace certainly suggests that I was taking it easy! My average heart rate was right in the middle of Z2 and I often was in Z1.

It is quite frustrating running so slowly, and feeling like my cardio fitness and running pace is slipping backwards, but I made the conscious decision to focus on climbing and try to maintain my running. I’m still completing 2 runs per week, and my distance has not decreased that much during a 1/2 hour run. I also think that I’m fighting a cold or virus because I’m feeling a bit drained.

On the plus side, I’m slowly putting together some shorter routes that are off-road almost straight from my house, which is great. As much as I enjoy street-running, I do miss off road. Now that I’ve found some footpaths and bridleways very close to me, I’ll actually be able to get off-road more easily and quickly!

Some stats:

  • Distance: 4 km
  • Time: 36:57
  • Pace 9:23/km
  • Elevation gain: 187 m

Year-to-date

  • Distance: 97.9 km
  • Time 11:50:00
  • Elevation gain: 1876 m
  • Runs: 17

Zone 2/1 Run around Crosspool

I didn’t feel too great on Monday. I think I was starting to fight a bug or a virus, but still fancied going for a run. In hindsight, it probably was not the best idea in the world. I decided to take it very, very easy and stayed in Z1/Z2. It still felt pretty hard so instead of keeping to one of my circuits where I’d want to put in a good time, I decided to go for a bit of an explore.

After running through Crosspool, I turned off onto a footpath which I’d run past a number of times. I probably hadn’t got the best shoes on for running down muddy footpaths. It was a bit more of a slip and slide rather than a run and it certainly lowered my pace! After getting to the end of the footpath, I turned back up hill and started to head home. I didn’t feel that great by this point, so I lowered my heart rate down to Z1 for the remainder in the run.

Some stats:

  • Distance: 4.2 km
  • Time: 36:00
  • Elevation gain: 101 m
  • Pace: 8:56 min/km

Year-to-Date

  • Distance: 94 km
  • Time 11:13:00
  • Elevation gain: 1689 m
  • Runs: 16

Steep climbing at the Climbing Works

 On Sunday, I was supposed to do an easy Zone 2 circuit. Because I had done one on Friday, I was pretty felt pretty strong and wanted to see what I could do on the competition problems on the Comp Wall instead. My aim was to see if I could top out at least 2 of the problems on the Comp Wall.

I topped out on two problems on the Comp Wall (a 6a yellow and a 6a+ murple) and turned to something harder. I made a number of attempts on the 7a pinkle going up the main overhanging wall. The first couple of moves were quite straightforward, but there was one move which was really quite strong. It required a deep Egyptian and a slap to a not particularly good hold (it was a good hold, but turned the wrong way). This was a pretty hard move for me because it required dynamism, a bit of strength and being able to latch the sloper. I almost managed to hold it once, but I started getting lower on the move so I decided to change problems as I was fatiguing. 

The next problem was even harder – at least for me! It was made up of the toothpaste volumes that I never get on with. The problem is graded 7a, and I didn’t get anywhere on it! It’s really not my style. After trying different things for a good 5-6 attempts to get off the ground, I moved on. I was getting bored of the Comp Wall, so I decided to try some of the yellows and whites in the rest of the Works.

In the end, I didn’t get up anything but I did manage to link some moves on steep stuff, which took me a couple of goes but I achieved it. I was super stoked about being able to link a white problem opposite the reception. It included two finger pockets and quite a hard cross over. I figured out how to hold myself in when making that cross-over, but it was a very strong move so I started to fatigue quite quickly. I started to warm down (dynamically) and get ready to head home.

Exploring the Climbing Work’s Mini Works

Friday’s training aims were nice and straightforward:

Warm up: traverse no matching, L-R, R-L, cross-through where possible

Main session: Recovery circuit (Z2), easy effort

Warm down: easy problems, missing out holds

As luck would have it, the Climbing Works had reset their green and pink spotties across both the main wall and the mini-works. Because it was a recovery/endurance circuit, I thought this would be a perfect circuit to play on. I tried not to have too many rests between problems, and luckily it wasn’t too busy so I didn’t have to wait for problems. I did have a short rest catching up with some people who I’ve not seen for a long time, and then I had to walk to the mini works after completing the 20 problems in the main wall. I’d still like to believe that I was doing endurance work.

The problems were really straightforward and not particularly difficult. I think they’re roughly font 4 and that was perfectly fine for me as I was supposed to be in Z2. I probably could have gone up a circuit, but the holds are so grotty and dirty on the pinkles that I really didn’t want to. I did feel quite tired towards the end of the session. The last 3 problems did feel like effort and I had to drop down to the level to complete.

Green/pink spotties. Photo CanadianKate

The spotties were graded 3-4 by the setters.

It was the 2nd time that I had been in the Mini Works and it was certainly overrun by children. However, the mats are still rock hard and super painful to jump down on them. This kind put me off throwing for things because my back is a wee bit niggly at the moment and I really don’t want to aggravate it. I think they should have one of the indoor comps in the Mini Works – or get a whole bunch of adults in there jumping up and down on the mats to soften them up a bit!

Friday’s training aims were nice and straightforward: Warm up: traverse no matching, L-R, R-L, cross-through where possible Main session: Recovery circuit (Z2) (easy effort) Warm down: easy problems missing out holds. As luck would have it, the Climbing Works had reset their green and pink spotties across both the main wall and the mini-works. Because it was a recovery/endurance circuit, I thought this would be a perfect circuit to play on. I tried not to have too many rests between problems, and luckily it wasn’t too busy so I didn’t have to wait for problems. I did have a short rest catching up with some people who I’ve not seen for a long time, and then I had to walk to the mini works after completing the 20 problems in the main wall. I’d still like to believe that I was doing endurance work.  The problems were really straightforward and not particularly difficult. I think they’re roughly font 4-5 and that was perfectly fine for me as I was supposed to be in Z2. I probably could have gone up a circuit, but the holds are so grotty and dirty on the pinkles that I really didn’t want to. I did feel quite tired towards the end of the session. The last 3 problems did feel like effort and I had to drop down to the level to complete.  It was the 2nd time that I had been in the Mini Works and it was certainly overrun by children. However, the mats are still rock hard and super painful to jump down on them. This kind put me off throwing for things because my back is a wee bit niggly at the moment and I really don’t want to aggravate it. I think they should have one of the indoor comps in the Mini Works - or get a whole bunch of adults in there jumping up and down on the mats to soften them up a bit!  After I completed my circuit, I wandered back to the main wall and contemplated climbing some more. I felt quite tired and couldn’t really be assed, so I did some easy problems with a bit of dynamism to cool down and then got changed.  I’m nearly at the end of my 2nd week of training for Font and I feel like I’m getting somewhere. My footwork is getting better and I feel like I’m happier on my feet. It’ll still take me a while to get happier on using insecure holds, but I think after 2 sessions I still feel like I’ve improved.  Bring on next week!

The Mini Works have some lovely problems for adults too, but my god are the mats hard!

After I completed my circuit, I wandered back to the main wall and contemplated climbing some more. I felt quite tired and couldn’t really be assed, so I did some easy problems with a bit of dynamism to cool down and then got changed.

I’m nearly at the end of my 2nd week of training for Font and I feel like I’m getting somewhere. My footwork is getting better and I feel like I’m happier on my feet. It’ll still take me a while to get happier on using insecure holds, but I think after 2 sessions I still feel like I’ve improved.

Here’s the

Bring on next week!