When it comes to climbing & boulderning, it’s very simple: if you recover faster, you will improve faster and be able to climb more and better. Here are the 15 best tips for a better recovery.
Why it is so important to recover faster and better:
- Less fatigue
- Ready to train again faster
- More training possible
- Faster and stronger muscle build up
- More joy in your climbing trip – more climbing
- Less prone to injury
- Climb more
- Climb better
15 tips for a quick recovery
- Fascia training
1. Compression sleeves for climbers
The runners have it on their calves and the climbers on their forearms. The principle is the same. Compression sleeves not only ensure less pumps during climbing (lower lactate concentration in the blood) but also enable a faster recovery after the climbing or bouldering session.
The sleeves also help with elbow problems such as tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow (epicondylitis). I’m assuming we’ll see more of these climbing compression sleeves in the future.
2. Fascia training – Blackroll and Co
Why do fascia training?
Fascia describes a thin connective tissue that protects and shelters muscles, organs, and muscle fiber bundles. They extend throughout the whole body and lose elasticity through hard training. Untreated they tend to harden and shorten.
Fascia training is about loosening tension and keeping the fascia and muscles supple, flexible, and well supplied with blood so that there is a good supply of nutrients down to the smallest cells.
f the fasciae are sticky, this leads to pain and a reduced exchange of nutrients, which has a negative effect on the recovery process after climbing.
- Tensions are loosened
- More flexibility
- Increased blood flow
- Faster and better recovery
Top 4 recovery exercises for climbers
The Blackroll and Blackroll Mini are just two tools that I use for my everyday climbing routine.
3. Shake properly (G-Tox)
It is said to have been invented by the American climbing guru Eric Hörst and it has the resounding name “G-Tox”. In this case Gravity (G) helps to detoxify the forearms (Tox / Detox) in order to get rid of the pump faster during climbing.
Switch the shaking movements from up to down.
If you don’t do it automatically, you should definitely try it out. This is done alternately for about 5 seconds, once above (overhead) and once “normal” below.
Short-term recovery for climbers
We all know how frustrating it can be when the forearms are completely pumped and the “pump” just wont go away – even after a longer rest.
Those who “shake” properly climb longer. And it actually works.
A study proves its efficiency
There is a 15% improved recovery rate that could be proven in a 2003 study. Conventional shaking was compared with the G-Tox method (alternating shaking). You can find the entire study at Effectiveness of “Dangling Arm” and “G-Tox” Recovery Techniques.
4. Climbing Recovery – Post-workout nutrition
Within the first 30 minutes after training (ideally immediately after training), the cells in the muscles are particularly receptive and the nutrients are absorbed very quickly. You should definitely take advantage of this “open window effect”.
After 2 hours the window closes and the absorption capacity drops by half!
Refuel on nutrients immediately after training
Choose the right ones. Two substances are important for optimal recovery after training:
a.) Carbohydrates in order to refill the emptied carbohydrate storages.
b.) Protein in order to repair the microtrauma of the muscles as quickly as possible.
If carbohydrates and proteins are consumed simultaneously, absorption is 40% faster due to the increased insulin response!
Ratio – carbohydrates to protein
The exact ratio of carbohydrates and protein are different for every single person but – basically, I would tend towards an approximate ratio of 2 to 1 right after training.
2 parts carbohydrates to 1 part protein.
Climbing Recovery – What should you eat?
With a Protein-Shake right after training i had good results.
Depending on the brand, they usually contain both carbohydrates as well as proteins. Alternatively, vegetable protein sources such as hemp protein powder or peeled hemp seeds are also suitable.
In my experience, dried fruits such as raisins or dates are very suitable as a source of carbohydrates.
If you have filled the tanks with carbohydrates and the repair protein within the first 2 hours, then you have laid the foundation for a good and fast recovery. Now you can devote yourself to your normal, healthy and balanced diet again.
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5. Sleep – The basis of fast recovery
Getting enough sleep is THE requirement for a quick recovery. If you make a mistake here, many of the other tips will not help you.
After a hard training session, every athlete needs more sleep in order to recover quickly.
There are people who can get by on 5-6 hours of sleep. But they, too, need more sleep after intensive climbing training. How much sleep varies from person to person…BUT we all need more sleep after a hard workout.
After an intense training session or on the day in which you are going to climb, plan at least 2 hours more of sleep ahead. If that is not possible, then have at least one undisturbed “power nap” of approx. 20 minutes.
9-11 hours are not uncommon
So it is not uncommon to sleep a maximum of 9-11 hours after a successful climbing session. Make sure you are well hydrated and sleep will significantly reduce your recovery time.
Sleep – after an intense workout
Be careful not to schedule your most intense workouts too late. It is often harder to fall asleep after a hard workout – even if you are tired. Plan at least 3-4 hours between the end of training and bedtime. (This only applies to very intensive training units).
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6. Cold – a recovery booster
Cold treatment is anti-inflammatory and promotes recovery.
Whether it’s a cold bath, a shower or a dip in the lake. In many sports, the cold bath (immediately after training) is part of the standard routine –it is used regularly by professional athletes.
If you look closely at the bouldering and climbing competitions, you can see how some professional climbers cool their forearms in ice water.
Why does it work?
The micro-traumas (inflammations) suffered in the muscles during the training subside faster due to the cold. Therefore, the application of the cold or jumping into the lake immediately after training is most effective.
Better blood circulation
In addition, the increased blood circulation leads to a rapid removal of toxins in the muscles (lactate, lactic acid). This, in turn, accelerates the recovery process.
Cold is an effective means of accelerating the recovery process.
Those who depend on a quick recovery (climbing trips) should not do without it. If you can accept the short-term inconvenience, then you will be rewarded with a guaranteed “accelerated recovery”.
An ice bath also works perfectly as a mini recovery between two training or climbing units.
Morning climbing – ice bath (+ power nap) – afternoon climbing
Additional advantages of cold treatment
Taking ice baths or cold showers are not only useful for a faster recovery, but they also have a few other benefits:
- Strengthen the immune system
- Boost your metabolism and burn fat cells…help you lose weight
- The cold toughens you up
- Skin tightening
- Strengthen or improves the heart condition (be careful with high blood pressure or heart disease)
If you want to learn more about the power of cold – I recommend that you get more information on the “Ice-Man” Wim Hoff. Here is a video about the multiple world record holder and worldwide phenomenon, Wim Hof.
7. Active recovery = Fast recovery
Active recovery leads to more blood circulation, which leads to a faster removal of pollutants and toxins as well as providing a better nutrients‘ supply. The result is a significantly faster recovery.
In theory, almost all endurance sports are suitable for an active recovery.
It is important to keep the intensity low. It is just about getting the circulation going so that the muscles are optimally supplied with oxygen and nutrients.
Running always works
Many of the renowned climbing coaches recommend running as the sport of choice, I personally agree. Running is easy and can be done anywhere, it burns a lot of calories and thus also improves the ratio between strength and body weight.
Take an active rest between climbing as well
The same principle also applies to short-term recovery between individual attempts.
There is nothing wrong with just sitting around to enjoy yourself and your life, but if you want to be extra well rested for the next route…then take a short walk between the climbing attempts and rinse the waste materials out of your muscles.
In addition, use deep abdominal breathing to fill your body with oxygen and destroy free radicals.
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8. Anti-inflammatory foods
There are a few foods that, because of their anti-inflammatory effects, help with the recovery process after climbing.
In addition, the foods mentioned here are beneficial for your general health. So it is worthwhile to incorporate these little helpers into your diet.
- Green vegetables
- CBD Oil
Recipe recommendation: bedtime shake
500 ml of water
30g Whey Protein (optional)
One teaspoon each:
– Black pepper
– Cocoa powder
Mix – drink – recover
9. (Sauna) – climbing and recovery
Sauna is widely known for promoting recovery.
However, I have not been able to find any concrete evidence and the opinions differ somewhat, hence this is why I put “Sauna” in brackets.
Nevertheless: Even if the sauna has no proven positive influence on recovery, in my experience it doesn’t do any harm, on the contrary.
Visiting the sauna has never stood in the way of my personal recovery.
Sauna and recovery – opinions differ
A sauna session ALWAYS includes an ice-cold shower or an ice bath, which is known to promote blood circulation, which in turn should have a positive effect on recovery.
On the other hand, the mini-injuries or inflammations in the muscle fibers caused by the climbing training speak against the additional heat effect of a sauna. In addition, the sauna is not only relaxation, but also strenuous for the body and cardiovascular system, which could get in the way of a fast recovery.
No sauna after high-intensity climbing training
It all depends on the intensity of the previous climbing training…anyone who has had an intense day of climbing or a hard training session until exhaustion – should simply avoid the sauna.
Sauna after “normal” or moderate training
After a light or a moderate workout session, there is nothing wrong with sauna. It is often better not to start the sauna session immediately after training, but to postpone it to the next day (rest day) and combine it with some active recovery training.
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10. Cooldown speeds up recovery
Every professional climber does it, and for a good reason. The lactate is removed much quicker from the affected muscles (usually the forearms).
Cool down works particularly well if you choose easy routes for yourself and climb them quick and dynamically. The more your system is stimulated, the better the unwanted pollutants are removed from the muscles.
This technique, combined with deep and conscious breathing, will allow you to lay another foundation for a quick recovery phase.
11. Stretching for climbers
Stretching the stressed muscles immediately after climbing or bouldering is counterproductive, as the micro-injuries in the muscles are increased.
A LIGHT, dynamic and activating stretching the next day makes perfect sense as part of an active recovery process. Stretching stimulates the metabolism in the muscles, promotes blood circulation, helps the muscles to relax and accelerates the recovery process.
If you buy a mat for stretching, etc., make sure that it:
a.) not too thin, and
b.) is not slippery.
This simple but functional mat is unbeatable in terms of price-performance-ratio.
Recovery stretching vs. Agility training
With recovering stretching, it is important that you do not stretch too much and do not hold the position for too long.
Stretching for recovery is primarily about activation in the sense of recovery and not about increased mobility. The mobility is trained in a separate unit (mobility training).
12. Massages support the recovery process
Massages help with recovery!
BUT it must not be too hard, otherwise the micro-injuries caused by the training are made even worse.
During a recovery-massage large areas of the muscles are stroked, therefore being activated and at the same time relaxed and thus, providing benefits to the recovery process.
It works because it promotes blood circulation, relaxes the muscles, and supports the process of restoring the cell structure.
13. Breathing – logical consequence
Breathing = oxygen. The more oxygen flows through the body, the better all vital processes function.
- Wound healing
- Blood circulation
- Digestive processes
- Build-up and recovery processes
- Breakdown of toxins (lactate)
A healthy and truly recovering breathing is deep abdominal breathing. If you can integrate deep and conscious breathing into your life, you will not only recover better and faster but also be healthier and have more energy.
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14. Recharging energy repositories – before climbing
The recovery process begins even before climbing. Anyone who has full storages of energy and consumed sufficient fluids before a long day of climbing or intensive training, will climb better and recover much faster.
Making hard moves with empty carbohydrate storages and especially in a dehydrated state create more pronounced micro-traumas in the stressed muscles. These “injuries” in the muscles are larger (compared to ideally filled water storages), and therefore it takes much longer to repair the damage.
Water and carbohydrates
Make sure your water and carbohydrate tanks are full before you start the training. It is best to start 2 hours before the climbing session. Once you get into a dehydrated state, it takes a relatively long time to recover from it.
15. Alcohol – Unfortunately NO recovery booster
I’m sorry, but alcohol is definitely bad for your recovery process! Those who do not drink alcohol recover much faster. The question that comes up is: how important is today’s recovery really 😉.
An alternative that might work for you is – alcohol-free beer.
Optimal time for recovery?
If someone asks me: how long should it take for me to recover or when can I go climbing again? Then my answer is always the same: it depends on the intensity and scope of the previous training.
The ideal recovery time is somewhere between 24 and 72 hours. Here are some tips for the correct duration of the recovery process.
- “Normal” climbing on easy to moderate routes – 24 hours.
- “Intensive” endurance climbing on moderate to hard routes – 48 hours.
- “Maximal” maximum strength climbing session on hard boulders, advanced training or maximum strength training – 72 hours.
There is no exact formula for the correct duration of the recovery, which is why it is so difficult to hit a sweet spot. Planning and keeping the correct recovery times is one factor that separates the wheat from the chaff.
Every world class athlete has perfected the timing of their recovery and this is one of the reasons why they are among the best of the best.
Faster recovery process = more climbing sessions
For all of those who climb or train 3 times a week or even more often, having a good recovery after climbing is just as important as it is for all those who are lucky enough to have a longer climbing holiday ahead of them. Because precisely there, the following applies: Those who recover faster can climb more and harder.
When is the recovery process complete?
If you don’t have a lab at home where you can measure your lactate and blood levels at regular intervals, you have to rely on how your body feels. If that’s not enough, I have two tips for you to follow your recovery process a little more closely.
1. Measure the resting heart rate
During the recovery period, the resting heart rate is higher than normal. Watch your resting heart rate and evaluate when it is back to normal after a hard workout session.
Although this is not a 100% exact scientific method, it can be very informative for a rough assessment of the current degree of recovery.
The resting heart rate is measured after waking up (before getting up).
Modern heart rate monitors (Smart Watches) not only calculate the resting heart rate automatically, but they also create a heart rate graphic. From which you can easily predict the best timing for the next training session.
My brother has been using these pulse monitors for 4 years and can predict quite reliably (due to the increased resting heart rate) when it is time to prepare for the coming flu epidemic. Luckily these watches are not that expensive anymore.
2. Digital Hand Dynameter
I got this tip from Steve Bechtel (climbing trainer and author of several climbing-specific training books). In a podcast, he mentioned how he used it to monitor the recovery status of his climbers.
A dynameter measures grip strength or finger strength. The measured value does not really give information about how “strong” someone climbs, but the current level of recovery can be measured.
Daily measurement of grip strength over several weeks draws a pretty good picture of the athletes’ current state of recovery.
This is a very helpful tool to all of those who want to time and plan their training sessions more precisely.
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The 3 phases of climbing – recovery
We roughly distinguish 3 recovery phases on the way to a so called supercompensation.
- Charging (10sec – 1h)
Moving along the route and ‘’refueling’’ between the individual attempts.
- Refueling (1h – 24h)
The storage in both the liver as well as in the muscles are refueled (food intake).
- Build-up (24h – 72h)
Muscle build-up and muscular adjustments take place (super compensation).
A brief explanation on supercompensation
During a training session, the muscles are stimulated and local inflammation centers develop within the muscles. In the course of the recovery process, hese small “injuries” within the muscles‘ fibers start to heal. If there is sufficient recovery time, what is known as supercompensation occurs, which means that the muscle becomes stronger and more enduring than before.