Trying to rest ‘actively’ is quite difficult

On Saturday, I published a blog about the importance of rest, and the signs of over training. After reading through them and noting that I’m really eating crap, not performing well, a bit crabby, and generally meh, I decided to take a rest week. However, as all my friends were still coming to the Foundry on the Wednesday, I figured that after 2 days of  full rest, 1 day of active rest wouldn’t hurt.

Well, wasn’t I wrong on that? I was so very tired. After doing about 2 moves on L2s, and 4 moves on L1s I needed to rest. The problems looked really fun and because I hadn’t had a chance to play on them I *may* have pulled harder than I ought. This meant that I worked a couple of L2s instead of puttering around on the L1s, actually listening to my body.

On the plus side I topped 2 of the L2s. I had to work on one to get the sequence and the flick to a hold. The other, I had a sordid battle, but topped it on the flash. In hindsight, this wasn’t a great idea. Clearly I was tired, everything felt hard. I totally misread the sequence and had to use strength and thuggery to get up it. I lost my feet a couple of times and really wrenched my shoulder. In fact, I finished climbing after that because I felt so rubbish.

What I did learn, is that active recovery can’t be interpreted as pulling hard on L2s because they’re new. No matter how gently I want to try them, I will pull strong. Instead, come down, have a chat and don’t feel bad about not doing anything!

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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!