Post-Climb After Care
A topic that doesn’t get discussed too often in climbing (and indeed, most fitness circles) is the concept of care and upkeep of your body after climbing sessions. The fact that this topic doesn’t come up with more frequency is alarming, but armed with the knowledge and advice contained in the article below, you’ll be right-as-rain in no time and ready to commit. Aside from avoiding the obvious health issues such as abusing drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, the in-between maintenance and upkeep should prepare you well for the next session.
Nothing feels quite as good as the pleasant exhaustion after a good climbing session, yet for some, the next day hurts just as much as the first session. While this makes sense to some, the fact of the matter is that the body develops strength during “rest days”, while climbing days are actually causing muscle to weaken and break-down. This is the cycle of muscle-growth and expansion, and it’s only natural that the body experiences some level of discomfort in the hours or days after a particularly solid climbing session. Ways to shorten the duration of muscle aches and bodily pains after climbing are fairly simple, and should be rather intuitive.
- Drink plenty of water – Stressing the importance of hydration over sugary “sports drinks” and milk should seem like a no-brainer, but people still have skewed ideas about hydration and what it really means to be well-hydrated. Drinking water before, during, and after climbing sessions is key to aiding muscle growth and conditioning, as nutrient uptake can be hampered by being even “mildly” dehydrated. If your lips are dry and the inside of your mouth feels tacky, get a glass of water and drink it slowly. Not only does it help hydrate your body, it also helps digestion which thereby helps improve nutrient absorption and uptake.
- Stretch – Stretching parts of your body that are stiff even during rest days can help your body maintain flexibility and overall strength in the joints and ligaments that make bodily mechanics work. If you sit at a keyboard all day as part of your job, the importance of stretching or “rolling” your wrists every half-hour or so to maintain flexibility can mean the difference between a positive grip on a crimp or sloper and a quick fall. Keep flexing and your wrist will maintain flexibility well into your life.
- Sleep – Trying to climb without having slept properly is just as difficult as trying to drag yourself out of bed at 5am to do bench-presses at the weight gym down the street. If you haven’t gotten 8 hours of sleep, you’re probably under-rested and that could affect you overall performance.
- Moisturize and Trim – This is probably one of the most important topics for climbers of all skill levels, as skin damage, long nails (in-grown nails are made of YIKES), and thick callouses can be detrimental to the advancement and completion of projects and sending “just one more”. Using moisturizing products such as Climb On or Badger Balm on your off-days will help to soften callouses and make them adhere to the skin-bed a bit better, but the best way to prevent “flappers” or skin-peeling is to trim the skin either by using an emory board or a nail file. While it feels odd and it may be less-than-optimal, it prevents callouses from becoming overgrown, and can often prevent further skin damage.
The day after a climbing session is sometimes difficult and sometimes pretty amazing. Experiences can feel wonderfully-new and strange after practicing coordinated static or dynamic movements, and in some cases, climbers have said that they are much calmer and more methodical when engaging in other activities. Keeping the mental focus and/or edge between sessions can be difficult, but it’s not as hard as it could otherwise be.
- Watch others climb – This is probably the single most invaluable method available to climbers of every skill level and ability. Being able to watch the the techniques and strengths that each individual climber puts into practice against similar (or completely dissimilar) routes, the climbing styles involved, and even taking note of the exertion required to execute particular moves, can be extremely valuable in figuring out what to work on next or what kind of strengths or technique you may need to develop or improve.
- Find a climbing partner or group – Nothing is as empowering as finally sending that project route in front of a bunch of your best friends, and there’s little else that makes the entire climb worth it than impressing both yourself and others by committing to that sketchy move that you’ve dreaded since starting the project. Finding partners or groups can be difficult, but most climbers are fairly friendly and take well to both small-talk and climbing talk (even if it’s just to ask for some “beta”). Get out there and meet people!
- Climb the routes in your head – If you’re having a particularly difficult time with a route or you’re just getting to see a new route for the first time, get a good look at the wall and give it a quick run-through in your head with how you think you’d climb it. Over time, you’ll be surprised at either how much you under- or over-estimate your strengths and weaknesses, and you’ll be better at on-sighting routes that would traditionally take at least a few days to climb all the way through.
Using these points of advice, you should find yourself ready to take on the wall and send that next project, whether its indoors or out.