How to Make the Most of a Climbing Rest Day

At this very moment, I’m holed up at the Food Ranch outside of Joe’s Valley in Utah. After two solid days of projecting my current obsession, Kill By Numbers (V5), I gave the bouldering problem just a single attempt this morning before realizing that my body was wrecked beyond the ability to send. Thus, I am taking a rest day.

I’m hell-bent on sending my project before heading to Moab by Monday, so I sought to find some tips for making the most of a climbing rest day online – and was pretty perplexed that the information was spread far and wide. Since it took me about a dozen website’s worth of digging to find what I was looking for, I thought I’d compile my findings into a single post for climber’s looking to optimize a day of rest.

Working the beta on my current nemisis, Kill By Numbers (V5) in Joe's Valley.

Here are my tips for a successful rest day from climbing:


One of the most important parts of a successful rest day is making sure you get enough sleep. The consensus seems to be at least 8 hours, but I’d snooze for as long as your schedule allows. Getting in enough hours of sleep will let your body tackle some serious tissue repair, helping your muscles recover. If you can, fall asleep as early as your body tells you to, and sleep in as late as it will snooze. Rest naturally. Sleep does the body good, period.


Staying properly hydrated seems to be an ongoing issue for many folks on climbing trips, myself included. While you should always been maintaining an optimal daily water intake, it is vital to ensure you are adequately hydrated on a rest day. Drink at least two Nalgenes worth of water, and if your dirtbag budget allows, splurge on an electrolyte-pumped drink like Gatorade.


Protein should be a staple in any climber’s diet, but it is especially important to consume protein during rest periods. If you can fill your belly with a load of protein right after your last climbing session, even better – your body will make the most out of protein within an hour of finishing your final burn on that burly boulder. When you’re asking your body to crank out some gnarly strength, you ought to supply it with plenty of protein to make that send a reality.

Psst: Don’t forget the carbohydrates. Complex carbs like fruit, pasta, bread, rice, and potatoes are also key ingredients in the recipe for a successful send. Right before you hop back on your project, snack on some fruit to keep your energy levels strong.


If you’re suffering from a massive pump, give yourself (or bribe your climbing partner to give you) a gentle rub down to sooth your aches. However, from my own experience, too much massaging will leave you feeling even more sore the next day – which is actually beneficial in the long run, but is something to keep in mind if you’ve only got one day to send. My favorite new discovery is BioFreeze, a fantastic roll-on gel that chills your soreness and offers a bit of healing. During your rest day, stretching out your tense muscles will greatly benefit your body in preparation for hopping back on the boulders.

And this was after a 'light' day of climbing, yikes.(5) HEAL YOUR SKIN

For me, one of the telltale signs of a dedicated climbing session is a few torn up fingertips. During this particular bout of projecting, I’ve earned three pink, raw, fingertips that feel like I’ve got massive splinters in my skin anytime I touch something (but hell, I’d gladly take these blistery tips over flappers any day). My solution? Rubbing my ClimbOn balm all over my hands, multiple times a day, and especially before bed. I’m also sporting a slathering of scratches all over my ankle and lower calf from stretchy heel hooks, and ClimbOn is excellent for helping those little cuts heal too.

I’m no expert, but these five steps seem to be the key to helping climbers during rest days. Ideally, your body will recover best with multiple days off the rock – but let’s face it: sometimes, you’ve got to work with a limited window of sending opportunity. By resting right, hydrating and refueling properly, and soothing your aching body, you can help to optimize your next session of crushing climbs.

Do you have any tips for recovery from climbing in just a day?

What are your favorite rest day foods to fuel recovery?

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