A Break From Climbing?

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Every year I take the month of December off from climbing, but a hectic holiday schedule (why does everyone wait until December to throw a party?) is not the only reason to break. Overtraining can take a toll both physically and mentally – you might need an extended break if you’re experiencing some or all of these signs:

  • Fatigue or physical exhaustion
  • Soreness that won’t go away
  • Dreading your workouts
  • Poor performance
  • You’re not able to progress in your workouts
  • You feel unmotivated or bored
  • An injury or illness
  • You can’t stand the thought of exercising
Now, I take December off as a matter of routine even if I’m not experiencing any of the above symptoms.  As many of us know, a conditioned athlete will almost always be dealing with some sort of nagging injury possibly not bad enough to prevent climbing but annoying enough to affect performance. It’s these minor injuries that I seek to repair every year following our climbing season. Use the break to reconstitute your desire as well. The drive to perform is at least as important as the physical training itself and without it your climbing is sure to suffer. So do something else for awhile and come back to climbing with a fresh craving for success.

For kids the problem is even more critical. The American Academy of Pediatrics says ”athletes should take time off from one sport for two to three months each year. Taking a break from a sport allows injuries to heal … It also helps kids take a psychological break, which is necessary to avoid burnout, or overtraining syndrome.” Coaches take note: For the long-term health of your climbers give them some time off each year.

Completely curtailing an activity will necessarily cause a deterioration in fitness. However, there is some evidence that suggests that exercise of once per week can maintain your level of fitness. If you don’t want to completely stop climbing then maybe just reduce your volume to one moderate workout per week. At that level injuries can still heal, your desire to perform can recharge, and at the end of the break you’ll be ready to begin a new round of performance improvement.

Good luck and happy holidays!


9 Responses to “A Break From Climbing?”

  1. DouglasNo Gravatar says:

    For those who worry about loosing fitness during the break, I think its worth noting that if you were fit going into the break it may only take a few weeks to regain previous fitness levels.

  2. colinNo Gravatar says:

    Hey Guys, I’m liking the blog. I check it regularly. Keep up the great work. After a great fall season, I’ve got some niggling little finger injuries that could use a solid month to heal up, and I’ll be taking off most of December too. Happy Holidays.

  3. lzNo Gravatar says:

    nice to find this post seemingly right on time. i have been dealing with a constant finger niggle for a couple of weeks with no improvement. the problem has always been that the pain goes away when i climb so it has been hard to think about a longer break when firing so well. time for a break!

  4. Dan HagueNo Gravatar says:

    lz, we would refer to an injury where you don’t feel pain after warming up as stage 1. This is normally a minor injury that the break should help you heal. If the injury progresses to stage 2 in which you experience pain while climbing after warming up you’d need to take more aggressive measures.

  5. lzNo Gravatar says:

    thanks for the reply dan! in your experience can you throw out a rough time frame for healing stage 1? its slightly swollen and really only hurts when palpated.

    i have been enjoying the new blog. i look forward to picking up your book. any chance of getting a signed copy?

    thanks again!

  6. DouglasNo Gravatar says:

    Chiming in with my 2 cents I can’t emphasize enough the importance of using ice on finger injuries. Its a great way to get rid of inflammation. Its also important to get some idea of the nature of the injury, is it a tendon, pulley, joint capsule, or something else? We need to understand our injuries in order to have the best chance of healing them.

  7. Dan HagueNo Gravatar says:

    lz, I can ship you a copy of the book from here. Just call my shop at 434-845-7625 and we’ll mail you a signed copy.

  8. DanRNo Gravatar says:

    I’m keen on using the winter to catch up in all around fitness, especially in areas that might help prevent climbing injuries. Intuitively, I’m thinking I need to do some “pushing” motions like bench and military press, and dips, but I’m not certain this is correct. Do you have any recommendations? I feel like I need to balance out my shoulders (especially since I just aggravated my rotator cuff dancing at a wedding), and I want keep various “itus’s” at bay.

  9. Dan HagueNo Gravatar says:


    Yes some pushing exercises will help especially those emphasizing the shoulders rather than the triceps. For example wide stance push-ups (hands outside your shoulders) and military press.

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