Resting Profiles: Habits of Female World Cup Climbers

Research > Data Collection > “Resting Profiles”

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Introduction

How long, and where, do female World Cup competition climbers rest over the course of a hard onsight route?  Like pacing, and as exemplified in the above picture with the top two elite climbers from my data set, resting shows significant distinctions between individuals and isn’t necessarily similar even among the best climbers.  Skip to the end for some practical workouts.

We often take notice of distinctions in beta, or pace, or particularly graceful movement.  These distinctions are sometimes thought of as stylistic.  However, what we think of as “style” may be an important indicator of the technique each individual employs as it relates to their strength.  I’d like to show you some distinctions in style, starting with two of the top climbers which will hopefully give you a sense of the differences. Notice the distinctions in the (a) size of the spikes, and (b) the location of the curve in relation to the rest of the route.  Please note that this will be a mostly qualitative and creative analysis of quantitative data.  Jain Kim’s profile is in blue, whereas Mina Markovič’s profile is in orange.  This particular route is a good indication of Jain’s “style”: she pulls onto the route and rests on the second hold.  I can’t remember the last time I did that.  She rests three times before moving past hold 5.  How often do you do that?  Mina’s style on the other hand may be a little closer to what we think of as “normal.”  She blows out of the gate and rests once at hold 15.  Mina finishes the route four moves higher but it takes her a full 2 minutes and 20 seconds less to climb to her high point.

If you google “Kranj 2014 world cup climbing final” you’ll see the actual climbing which the data is from.  Specifically, jump forward to 1:40:30 for Jain and 1:49:10 for Mina.  You’ll notice Jain’s resting pace also pairs well with her steady, oft-called “poetic” movement.  Mina’s resting pace on the other hand pairs well with her body tension-oriented, quicker style of climbing.  Watch Jain’s center of gravity and you’ll see it in a different place than Mina’s, who tightens up next to the wall like a board, often not only to progress her hands, but also to progress her feet.  Watch Jain’s trailing, or non-dominant hand, and you’ll see at times that it’s not replaced on the wall after a rest.  She has a habit of very fluidly generating momentum with it off the wall, similar to the more well-known foot “pogo.”  Mina on the other hand usually replaces the hand after a rest, and often uses both hands to generate.  She has developed a beautiful ability to raise her elbow to generate downward force on her trailing hand as she raises her center of gravity higher.  Other distinctions abound including the part of the foot they tend to use, the exaggeration of their hip positioning prior to movement, and their trunk rotation.

Two quick points before we get back to resting.  First, similarities also exist.  If you look at each of the non-linear curlicues indicated in the graph on the right, you’ll see what appears to be a similarity but is in actuality yet another distinction: Jain’s habit of retreating to rest, and Mina’s habit of “retreating” by placing her hand back on the wall to generate movement.  Second, but beyond the scope of this article is something I’ll leave you with a taste of: a concept in strategy I’ll call “clustering.”  In other words, what would happen if one of these characteristics were altered?  How would it affect the other characteristics?  These clusters may help us better absorb why climbers are distinctive in spite of recent research suggesting there are optimal ways to improve your energy efficiency.  We’re so used to thinking of “weaknesses”, that we don’t always pay attention to characteristics that are “mutually reinforcing.”

This resting data highlights individual climber strategic resting profiles and makes use of “resting lengths” as a part of the analysis.

  • Strategic Resting Profiles:
    • Based on analysis suggested by (1) clusters and outliers of (a) rests and (b) grabbing, (2) head and tail of the resting curve (i.e. beginning, middle, end) of the route, and (3) the mix of resting length types (i.e. micro, macro, mod) used.   Let’s call this Cluster type A (rests) and B (grabbing), Area, and Mix.
  • Resting length:
    • Resting time length categorized by Micro, Moderate, and Macro resting Micro rests on this route were always characterized by no chalking.  Longest micro rest timed was 1.6 seconds.  This timing distinguishes micro from moderate resting.  4 second distinction between moderate and macro resting appears to distinguish types decently.

The character of resting on a route is balanced against the climber’s predilection toward a specific resting style.

  • A successful resting strategy may be different both throughout the route (strategic resting) and hold-to-hold (tactical resting).  Similar to analysis of grabbing pace, a case study of Mina Markovič and Jain Kim highlights the potential individual variations in resting which can be used for successful attempts in an Onsight format.
    • Similar to pacing, differences in resting are likely based on the route itself, climbing style (technique and climbing economy), training (bioenergetics, strength/power), and base morphology.  They may also be learned to some degree.
    • Further analyses should compare the same climber across different routes and seek to identify whether strategic resting profiles hold constant.

Strategic Resting Profiles

  • Strategic resting profiles involve analysis of where a climber rests on the route and how much.
    • Clusters / outliers of rests and the head / tail of the curve.
    • Three dominant profiles identified: reactive, situational / sporadic, and preemptive
      • Four hybrid profiles identified: Reactive Icarus; Reactive with Suggestion of Preemption; Reactive situational; and Preemptive Situational with sub-types based on which resting type predominates after moderate resting (micro vs. macro).
      • Important: these profiles are based off a single finals route.  I have not yet analyzed my other data to determine whether the profiles are common across different routes.
  • Climbers with different strategic resting profiles employ distinct resting mixes, clustering patterns of both rests and grabbing, and location trends.
    1. Reactive climbers cluster resting around particular holds, adjacent or subsequent holds, or sections of holds, especially near the middle-end or end of the route.  Their majority of resting trends toward the back-end of their progress on the route, or when they plateau progress but still move (e.g. down-climbing, re-positioning, resting, etc).  They primarily employ a moderate resting mix.  However, their interaction with the route makes it likely they will need to employ macro resting.  Reactive climbers on this route were Maja Vidmar, Anak Verhoeven, and Yuka Kobayashi, who also showed preemptive resting (holds 11-17) in spite of the fact that it was reactive in nature (Hold 17).
    2. Situational / Sporadic climbers tend toward continuous climbing punctuated by sporadic resting points.  Their cluster type for rests is major gaps between rests with no indication for grabbing.  Their majority of resting trends toward the middle of their progress on the route.  They primarily employ a “mix” of moderate (with some hybrids employing macro) resting, and secondarily employ micro resting.  Situational climbers include Katha Posch, Akiyo Noguchi (who shows some early large preemptive resting toward the middle of her progress), and Mina Markovic (who rest-reacts between holds 22 and 34 and also shows some early pre-emptive large rests).
    3. Preemptive climbers tend toward earlier resting compared with the rest of their progress.  They primarily employ a micro and moderate resting mix, and secondarily macro resting.  They primarily cluster rests around adjacent holds, but not as long as in the case of reactive climbers. Preemptive climbers include Jain Kim, who shows some elements of reactive climbing later on in the route, and Jessi Pilz, whose early progress shows situational / sporadic rests punctuated by climbing without break.

Note: I have changed Y-axis maximum bounds in order to show the areas of resting more clearly.

Type: Reactive

Reactive

Primary Category: Reactive (Rest time preference(s): Mod, Macro) – Minimal rest start, and follows trend toward (1) peak then fall, or (2) peak, drop off of resting, then fall.  Clusters of resting either in terms of similar holds, or up-down climbing.

Hybrid Sub-category: The Reactive Icarus (Rest time preference(s): Micro, Mod, Macro) – Similar to reactive, but makes halting upward progress, and pursues excessive resting combined with up-and-down climbing.

Hybrid Sub-category: Reactive with Suggestion of Preemption (Rest time preference(s): Mod) – similar to reactive, but shows elements of situational resting at the end and element of preemption at the beginning.

Type: Situational / Sporadic

Situational

Primary Category: Situational (Rest time preference(s): Mod, Macro) – Resting happens sporadically.  Note: I have primarily categorized Akiyo and Mina into situational due to their resting in the middle of the route, and differentiated them based on

Hybrid Sub-category: Preemptive Situational (Rest time preference(s): Mod, Macro) – similar to situational, but shows elements of early resting and (in Akiyo’s case) one long rest.  She also shows elements of reactive resting around hold 32 but is classified as situational preemptive due to the location of the early rests in relation to how far she gets.  Of interest: Akiyo N. is primarily known as a boulderer.

Hybrid Sub-category: Reactive Situational (Rest time preference(s): Micro, Mod) – similar to reactive, but shows elements of situational resting at the end, element of preemption at the beginning, and long tail.  Micro-Resting may be reactive when combined with strong body tension. I have classified her as reactive primarily due to the continuous resting cluster between holds 24 and 34.

Type: Preemptive

Reactive2

Primary Category: Preemptive (Rest time preference(s): Micro, Mod) – Resting begins early and either maintains consistency or falls off quickly, but does not appear to increase.

Hybrid Sub-category: Preemptive Situational (Rest time preference(s): Micro, Mod) – similar to pre-emptive, but is far more discerning about resting choices.  Element of reactive climbing (up-down climbing).

Preliminary Conclusions and Application

  • It’s important to note that this data does not necessarily mean that preemptive resting is helpful, or that reactive resting is necessarily bad.  First, remember from our first graph that Mina Markovič actually won the competition, yet I have her categorized as a hybrid (see the article on my website for more details) situational / sporadic rester with some resting early on in the route and elements of reactive resting due to what I would call a strong understanding of how to mitigate “risk” during a route (risk will be a future topic).  Second, both Mina and Jain show elements of reactive resting if we consider Jain’s constant rests, her plateaus and Mina’s clustering of non-stop rests between holds 24 and 34.
  • Variation of world class climbers’ resting habits (approaches and mixes) is based on a number of factors, not all of which are easily associated with success or lack thereof.  Preemptive and situational resting may be better associated with success than reactive resting, mainly because reacting suggests a negative connotation, even though the climber may simply be adapting slowly (note Jain Kim’s constant resting style may be (a) a counter to slow adaptation, or (b) she may be inappropriately categorized).
  • Situational and reactive resting are likely associative rather than causative.  Situational resting may simply be associated with climbers who are “stronger than the route” and/or “try to defeat the pump”.  In other words, it may be more of an effect.  Reactive climbing is likely a cross between a choice to “milk” a rest spot and concern about upward progress – either of which may be indicative of success or failure.  Preemptive resting may be nothing more than early situational resting, but may also be intentional choice.
  • I couldn’t find a distinct trend which paired a strategic resting profile conclusively with a preference for rest lengths.  Moderate resting was clearly consistent across all and I would say that micro-resting was emblematic of preemptive resting (Jessi, Jain, and Mina) but less so from some hybrids (Akiyo and Yuka).  Different profiles can do well with different types of resting length mixes. However, there is some evidence to suggest that climbers (on this route) who get higher tend to also use more micro rests.
    • Note: this is based purely on the final route.  I will have a subsequent exploration of data across a wider data set which shows that micro resting does not necessarily associate with better climbing on a semi-final route.  This will be explored in a future post.
  • There are pros and cons to each profile. 
    • Situational / sporadic: Though I haven’t yet analyzed my data for prevalence, my preliminary conclusion is that most climbers prefer a situational and/or sporadic resting profile.  You hit a good hold relative to the rest of the route and you may decide to stop to chalk.  However, you may not train well enough to take advantage of the few rests you do find, and as you climb you may not necessarily train to “see” the rests that are needed.
    • Reactive: reactive resting may be entirely choice-related even as it relates to a climber’s physiological ability to take advantage of recovery.  It appears to happen in clusters and may represent an area of consideration or indecision (on an onsight route, this is probably different on a redpoint route).  The unintended side effect of training this may mean you “Icarus” (see Anak V.’s profile), whereby you potentially rest too much and never commit.  However, the data does not, and cannot, show whether she (or you) would have done any better had she attempted to commit to moves without recovery.
    • Preemptive: this style of resting may be habitual.  However, in spite of preemptive resting appearing to be superfluous, it may be linked to physiological needs (to say nothing of the character of the route), such as a need to increase the timing of the interval between contractions early on in the route (e.g. due to a hard move, the body’s physiology, etc.).  The con is that some climbers may not be able to take advantage of it, or it may negatively affect either (a) their own individualized pace, or (b) what we know about the science of bioenergetics and the timing of different energy systems.
  • The total resting time is primarily made up of moderate resting, even while different climbers employ different mixes of resting.
  • Use of these types and sub-types is considered a creative way to approach profiling, but should not be indicative of the only way to approach this data.

OTHER THOUGHTS:

  • Resting one hand more than another doesn’t appear to affect falls.
  • Methods need to be sharpened to identify relationship of resting with cruxes.

Practical Application: Strategic Resting Profile Workouts

We know from research at the Beta Angel research inventory that intermittent grabbing (as opposed to a sustained grab) helps us maintain our ability to grab hard, and that as climbers, we adapt really well to an intermittent grabbing routine.  From a practical standpoint, the research also shows that better climbers have improved recovery, that the aerobic energy system really helps us improve our ability to recover, and we also know that where you shake your hand impacts recovery.  But we still have a lot to learn.

I really enjoy coming up with novel exercises to train technical concepts.  When it comes to resting, I build my exercises around (1) the methods I use to explore the data, (2) a concept called “habitual priming” which turns resting (or anything else) into a habit, and (3) that based on the research the body will be challenged to take advantage of resting unless it does it regularly and in specific ways, which is directly related to (4) an understanding of energy system training (I recommend either the full Eric Hörst 5 part energy system training podcast series or the cliff notes you can find below each podcast).

Explore each major category of resting on its own to determine the extent to which it (a) fits with your style currently, but also (b) consider how it can be trained in the long run so that you can take advantage of each profile as the situation (no pun intended) changes, and your body develops to preempt (ok, pun intended) or react (sorry) to the situation.

  • Situational Resting: Since moderate and macro-resting tend to predominate in this profile, attempt to differentiate both identification of rest points and also resting in more awkward situations.
    • Identification Practice: (1) Set a 5-minute timer for route preview and only focus on recovery positions. Try to find all the obvious ones, and all the not so obvious ones. When you jump on the route, try to rest on just the not so obvious ones.
      • This is one strategy for “making” more situational rests.  Another option is to get more out of good rests.  I’ll have more exercises in an upcoming article on resting mixes.
    • Awkward situations: (1) Jump on a route you have a 90% chance of Onsighting and attempt to rest on 5 holds you would not have rested on otherwise (note: avoid micro crimps and pockets). (2) Identify six holds (3 for each hand) that you would never consider resting on. Attempt to position into a resting position and try to unweight the hand.  Attempt on top rope for safety.
  • Preemptive Resting: Use one of the non-traditional (micro or macro) resting length types for 60-80% of moves on the first half of a route. Then switch to a situational resting style thereafter. Start 1-2 grades under Onsight ability.
    • Variation: Identify 6 holds before the mid-way point of the route and rest for 2-4 seconds on the first half of the route, only.  You can either try to fire to the top from the midway point, or only employ micro-resting to the top.
    • Variation 2: Rest as much as possible, as often as possible for first half of route, then no resting until top or fall (recommended on top rope).
  • Reactive Resting: Go to a climb you have previously onsighted or redpointed but found challenging. Identify 2-4 crux positions. Climb the route as before, only this time, “react” to the cruxes by down-climbing to rest prior to committing to the crux move.  Of particular importance is noting what types of mitigation tactics you’re using to reduce the impact of the reaction.
    • Variation: experiment with micro-rests during these down climbs
    • Jain Kim Variation: (a) whenever you rest one hand, you should re-position one move lower to rest the other hand, and/or (b) force yourself to consider the next 1-2 moves at every position.  Resting more may help you feel more “Jain Kim-like” and will probably annoy your belayer.
      • Variation on the variation: make a game of attempting different re-positionings.  Test yourself for 1, 2, and 3 repositions prior to your crux.
      • Funny side-story: in implementing this regularly on two youth females, a faster climber did in fact end up switching to a slower style, but a slower climber ended up climbing faster.  I have reason to believe she simply refused to rest whenever I didn’t make her.

Cautionary note: be careful about the amount you choose to train resting on crimps or pockets. Every time you take your hand off a hold, you end up subjecting more force to the opposite hand, possibly for a longer period of time than you would have normally. Also be careful about how much you choose to train on lead until you’re comfortable with these workouts.

Data note: Please note that as with most of the work I do with data, the results are not causative and are meant to be “hypothesis-generating” only.  In other words, the data itself won’t tell us definitively whether anything we see is helpful, only what happened.  That’s why the exercises are primarily designed to explore each parameter I’m investigating in order to take advantage of your individualized needs.  Additionally, data like this will require more rigorous methods and/or arguments to confirm/deny.  Thanks to Aleksandra Dagunts and Joe Johnson who helped me collect observational data using video of World Cup lead climbing.