The secret wisdom of a sleeping cat, resting to get stronger

I have about a dozen cats.  I’m not proud of that fact. 😔  We live in the country, and so cats are a necessary part of life.  They keep the mice and rat population at bay and provide exercise for my dog (why he keeps chasing them when he knows they are within a few bounds of a tree is beyond me).

There is one thing I find fascinating about our prowling hunters though.  Cats can sleep almost anywhere, and often in the most unique and twisted positions. I have found our kitties snoozing on in our chiminea, on tree branches, while squatting on the top of a four by four post, and most recently with the whole group of them sleeping on each other in a cardboard box (looked like one of those clowns in a VW bug tricks as they kept jumping out one by one).

I’ll usually walk by and yell something like ‘Hey, I pay you guys to hunt, not sleep.  Lazy bastards!’

And yet, despite all this laziness, they are some of the most amazing and strong creatures for their size on the planet.  If I had their strength, core control, and coordination, maybe I wouldn’t be falling off everything I try to climb these days. 

Which begs the question: is there something to all of that rest.

Over that last year since Bliss has opened, I have seen so many come in who had never been in a climbing gym and get crazy strong in a very short period of time.  Early strength and technique gains are so exponential that they are almost addicting.  

With that I have also witnessed a number of overuse injuries. A common question that I get then is what to do about sore muscles, joints, or tendons. I wrote a previous blog on antagonist exercises (which are critical to preventing these), but the other half of the treatment is . . .  rest.

The problem is that our minds tell us that rest = weakness.  We fear our gains will all be lost.  But actually, just the opposite is true. 

When the body exercises and stresses muscles (trains), micro tears occur in those muscles.  The body reads that as a sign that those particular muscles aren’t strong enough for whatever they were doing, and so in response wants to repair that damage and begin building new muscle to make us stronger so that we can do the activity that caused the strain.

That is obviously a very good thing.  It’s how we get stronger.  However, for the process to work, the body needs time.  If we jump right back in the activity before the repairs and gains have been made, we really don’t see those gains.  As a result, our training is limited to where we were before the last work out (or even worse) and we start over. In other words: our last training session was for NOTHING!

This process is called super-compensation, and it occurs in the 24-72 hour period after a workout.  The amount of time depends on the severity of the work out, the individuals personal fitness and nutrition level, and our age.  

In other words, if you are a 5.13, 23 year old, fit climber who does not happen to be hung over at the time, you could probably climb every day for a number of days on non-project routes and then take a 2-3 day rest and go at it again.

On the other hand, if this is your first day in the gym, you’re 38 years old, and you jugged yourself up a dozen routes to impress your girlfriend until your forearms felt like jelly, you probably need a good 4-5 days of rest before going at it again. 

The best way to know though is just by how you feel.  If your muscles are still sore, then they are still super-compensating. Let them heal.  Also, if you notice you are way more sluggish than your session last night, it may be a good idea to do something else.  

Which brings up the topic of active rest.  There is nothing wrong with using rest days to work on other parts of your fitness.  While pushing yourself to exhaustion on a treadmill probably will slow your overall recovery, doing some moderate cardio that doesn’t involve the sore muscles or even working on your psych or attitude would be totally cool.

The bottom line is: take a hint from the feline kingdom.  Chill a bit. 😎 Oh, and never be more than three leaps from a tree. 

Climb hard, rest hard and  . . . 

Follow Your Bliss,


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