My relationship with resting has been something of a battle over the years. In the first few years of my climbing I rarely rested, convinced that too much resting would result in a loss or stagnation of progress. After a lifetime of various athletics, I was no stranger to day after day abuse, and the rate at which I was improving kept me coming back for more. For the first three years of my life as a climber I would regularly climb 6 days a week, and aside from one three week break (while traveling), I never rested more than 3-4 successive days. Even on rest days I would run 6 miles, or mountain bike 15, or do yoga, or play frisbee, or hike a mountain, etc. I could probably count the number of days I did nothing active, during those three years, on one hand.
It was not until about three years ago, shortly after a major milestone in my climbing (doing my first 5.14, 'Sarchasm' 14a) that I began to better recognize my body's growing need for recovery and chill out a bit. I trained at a new level to send Sarchasm - aware that it's elevation (at over 12,000ft) and it's approach (2.5 hours, 3k vertical) would require mega aerobic fitness. I was so addicted that even the day I finally sent, I rewarded myself with a hour long bike ride. The following year however, I would come face to face with some different challenges. My next projects would also become major milestones, but would require a different type of strength. As I began training power, I quickly recognized a greater need for rest (i.e. on day 4 I would be essentially incapable of climbing). I compensated by climbing fewer days per week, but I continued to train aerobically on my 'rest days'. If you've ever seen a panting cyclist, sitting up and rehearsing beta while changing lanes in traffic, it was probably me.
probably a 'rest day'. circa 2005
rest day. circa 2010
For quite a while I continued training on 'rest days', and I also noticed very little improvement in my climbing. I finally tried out taking a sit-on-your-ass-do-nothing rest day and was shocked by it's effectiveness. Who would have thought... right?
Over the last two years or so, I've finally come to terms with resting (almost). My goals have grown exponentially, and my training has changed accordingly. Through much trial and error, I finally discovered that during periods of intense training or projecting, I see the most gains and greatest performance when I increase the potency of both my workouts/climbing days and my rest days. Nowadays, on rest days, I freakin REST.. and it feels GLORIOUS. Even so, in the last three years I've had a whopping 5 successive rest days, once, and it was not voluntary.
Until now.. This time it's voluntary, and much appreciated. While I could never expect to succeed at, well.. basically anything, if I were to train and (not) rest like I did five years ago, I feel strongly that it was an important time in my development. Now, I recognize the value of rest and I am in tune with my body's demands, which have changed dramatically.
Today marks day 6 of my almighty 2010 week-o-rest. This break has been just as valuable mentally as it has physically.. and more than anything, I'm excited to see how I feel when I finally start climbing again. Will the dreaded days of rest prove detrimental and result in extreme performance loss? or will a couple days off be the missing ingredient to supreme crushing abilities? THE SUSPENSE IS KILLING ME!
OH, and one more important thing that rest is good for; NOT climbing. As much as I love the pursuit, it's important to be a human every once and a while and spend your time and energy elsewhere.. if nothing else, it will likely boost your motivation.