Are you interested in learning about the resting habits of World Cup competition climbers? I wasn’t, until I realized I had a hard time explaining why the two climbers (South Korea’s Jain Kim and Slovenia’s Mina Markovič) who dominated World Cup climbing for almost seven years rested so differently. My protégés Aleksandra Dagunts and Joe Johnson helped me develop a few small data sets to help articulate insight into climbers’ resting habits. However, I stress that more rigorous methods – while using and building off of existing peer-reviewed research – will be needed to confirm or deny many of these insights.
What the data suggests:
- Some amount of resting is important (between 12% of your total time and 34% – a wide margin).
- The overall amount of resting varies significantly but may be less important among the top level of climbers.
- There may be some kind of association between more grabbing, more resting, and success.
- Either resting, hold exploration, or both, likely increase as the best climbers get higher relative to others.
- Resting increases inordinately faster as climbers get closer to falling.
- Methodologies such as “threshold analysis” appear to have some utility.
What I’m particularly interested in looking into further:
- Resting habits vary significantly and may be able to be further categorized based on: (a) time of each rest, and (b) placement of rests along the route, and (c) interaction with the route.
- Resting habits are likely not associated with “one true amount” of resting. Rather, resting habits may be closely associated with morphological distinctions and prescribed training habits amongst climbers, which we may be able to define.
- Climbers may mitigate increased amounts of grabbing by resting or may simply grab more as a result of resting more with implications for pace and route-reading.
- “Pre-emptive”, “situational”, and “reactive” may be possible resting strategies worthy of articulation.
- Can we differentiate between the relative importance of resting and exploration later in the route? How do these two work symbiotically?
What percentage of time on the wall do World Cup climbers rest?
The data set (above) incorporating a wide range of abilities from the 2014 Haiyang Sport World Cup Semi-Final suggests a trend for 21 climbers.
- Possible suggestion: Resting is important.
- However: Better climbers may rest more because:
- they get further
- they make it past a certain threshold of hold;
- it is a learned trait associated with some other variable (like experience)
- it is one among many other variables required to do well on a climb.
- One point of interest is the difference between the average (1.51) number of seconds per hold and the median (1.19), suggesting more prolific resters drag the average upward.
Does resting matter among the top World Cup climbers?
A Final route from the 2014 Kranj Sport World Cup and a Semi-final route from the 2014 Haiyang Sport World Cup suggest no trend of resting for the top 8 climbers based on placement (see above).
- Possible suggestion: Resting doesn’t matter. At top level, individual variation in (non-resting related) training and genetics accounts for differences in placement more than resting.
- Alternative possibility: Different successful resting styles exist and may be equally successful. However, they may need to be optimized based on individualistic climber fit (e.g. a climber’s “morphology”). Route configuration may also play a role.
- Note the interval: the top 8 climbers at both competitions rest between 12% and 37% of their total time.
Is it possible that climbers only rest when they get close to falling?
Setting two thresholds for the amount of resting provides insight into resting habits earlier in the route.
- If climbers rest based upon how close they get to falling, you may expect to see an inverse trend or a hockey stick trend. If those exist it’s not clear from this data.
- One possible explanation for the variation: perhaps better climbers “pre-emptively” rest irrespective of route interaction, or “situationally” rest based on positive opportunities, in addition to “reactively” resting based upon negative route feedback. This typology may be a basis for further analysis.
- The lack of any type of trend suggests the extreme heterogeneity (differences) in resting styles early on in the route as climber’s interact with the route. For example:
- Jain Kim either pre-emptively rests or takes a hand off regularly in order to recover (or both)
- Helene Janicot has no interest in resting early but begins to catch up by the second threshold (20).
- Haimi Cho is what I call a resting “Icarus” – someone who attempts to rest her way through the crux but fails.
Does resting increase inordinately faster as climbers get close to falling?
- It may look like there’s a trend here, but it’s not significant. In other words, my hope was to find out if the moderate level of elite world cup climbers significantly increased their resting as they got closer to falling. That does not appear to be the case.
- This may suggest that they cannot (or will not?) rest to recover or that they aren’t falling primarily due to forearm fatigue.
- The average for Threshold 1 (12.5) is .51 while the median is .44. The average for Threshold 2 (20) is 1.18 while median is .90, suggesting the trend of prolific resters dragging the average upward holds for the first two thresholds.
- Note: Helene Janicot showed no resting by threshold 1. As a result, her % change is averaged with the rest.
Does a climber grab or rest more as they get higher? Does it matter?
- The first thing to note about the graph on the left is that this is not the best data set due to the clustering – especially around the top climbers. However, it does offer an opportunity to analyze two groupings.
- Look at the “diffuseness” of the lower left cluster vs. the “tightness” of the upper right cluster. This comparison suggests that there may be a more consistent likelihood of grabbing more as you get higher.
- What does grabbing more mean? Practically speaking, it means that either (a) they’re resting more (hand off, hand back on), and/or (b) they’re exploring the route more.
- The right graph then suggests that resting may increase with the number of grabs per hold.
- Taken together, if you have a higher likelihood of grabbing more as you get higher, either (a) climbers may mitigate more grabbing (i.e. mistakes or exploratory grabbing) with increased resting, and/or (b) climbers may grab more as a result of resting (e.g. putting a hand back on the wall to generate force), and these may be associated with success.
Do climbers who do better rest more per grab of a hold? Does the number of grabs per hold increase based on success?
- Climbers who do better rest more per grab of a handhold (orange). This may suggest that (a) when mistakes are made, resting is an approach which better climbers use to deal with extra grabs, and/or (b) less accomplished climbers choose not to rest their way out of extra grabbing. While this was significant, there are likely a number of other factors which explain changes in success better.
- Even though the amount of resting per grabbed handhold is associated with success, the number of grabs per hold rises less sharply in this graph and correlates (positively) with success even less. In other words, if there is a relationship between success and the number of times a climber grabs, it’s not a good one.
- There is a very small positive, significant relationship between resting and grabbing. If this is accurate, then essentially climbers rest more as they grab more. However, what this graph shows is it’s much harder to say anything about what grabbing more per hold means with respect to resting and vice versa. It could be that better climbers grab more and rest more to accommodate that grabbing, while worse climbers grab more and do not rest to overcome their grabbing. It could also be (as stated earlier) that resting isn’t required until a certain threshold, and that excessive resting through a certain number of holds (from the bottom) isn’t required to alleviate the burden of extra grabbing. It could also be that the two populations grab equally for separate reasons. More grabbing could happen simply because climbers who rest more place their hands back on the wall to generate force, and those climbers who don’t rest as much don’t have any need to grab, position, rest, and then re-grab their handhold to execute movement. But they may grab more because they are having trouble reading the route and require more exploratory movement (see Orth et al. 2016). I welcome more thoughts to pursue this line of inquiry.