The Ten Commandments of a Rest Day

Climbers will forever debate the virtues and costs of resting.  How many days on?  How many days off?  Is it rest if I run, bike, crossfit, climb slabs, boulder, or “just work out”?  These questions have been circulating and staying hot on the lips of climbers here in Kentucky, as prime Red River Gorge season has arrived.  Blake McCord and I are here for a chunk of that magical season, and have spent months preparing our resting schedule, poring over exercise science journal articles, researching alternative rest therapies, uncovering ancient rejuvenation practices, and have developed our Ten Commandments of a Rest Day.  Here’s what to do (or not on your rest day)…how many you choose to take is up to you, we have our program, but some secrets can’t be given up so easily.

The Ten Commandments of a Rest Day:

1. Thou shalt have no other hobbies nor activities before climbing.


Doing other stuff is great, but only if it allows optimized rest for climbing.  Running and all team sports are out of the question.  High-octane, energy demanding sports such as badminton, canoeing, trail walking, and bicycling must be avoided.  Some sports may be physically exhausting and mentally grueling, but provide some sort of oppositional training or honing of the mental edge needed for climbing.  These include bocce ball, ping-pong, lazy-river tubing, and hacky-sack, and may be used with caution.

2. Thou shalt not enable thy partner to climb upon his or her own rest day.DSC_0670

The willpower of any single climber is easily overwhelmed by the psyche induced by watching others climb, smelling chalk, seeing large pebbles, hearing the words pump or send, and thinking about climbing.  The power of the resting climbers lies in their unity, all for one, and one for all.  Take whatever steps necessary to keep your partners off the rock.  Hiding shoes, locking cars, duct tape, and changing alarm clocks are all fair game.

3.  Honor thy hard-earned, twig-like figure by resisting the temptation to fill thy rest day with overeating.DSC_0647

Many a socially awkward, obsessive rock climber will find himself unable to occupy his time on a true rest day.  The deadly sin of gluttony is a near-irresistible temptation for most climbers.  Be especially wary of easily consumable containers such as jars of peanut butter, whole bags of chips, pizzas, and any food item requiring no preparation.

4.  Thou shalt not create nor hang by any graven image of rock for the purpose of training.

Hangboards, really cool holds on a mid-hike boulder, door frames, pullup bars, tree branches, garage rafters and the ilk call to the climbing-starved rock addict irresistibly.  Hanging by these or any similar contrivance is forbidden on the day of rest.DSC_0654

5.  Remember thy rock shoes, but let them not adorn thy feet.DSC_0662

They may seem an innocent addition to the pack on a pleasant rest-day hike, but the rock addict will often subconsciously enable by bringing shoes and “just happening to stumble by the Madness Cave”  on a rest-day hike.  Remember thy rock shoes, and remember to leave them in the car.

6.  Avoid the temptations of climbing media as these may overwhelm thee and lead to climbing.


Reading guidebooks, spraying on Mountain Project, and watching Dave Graham tweak out on V14 may short-circuit the brain of a rock junkie, overwhelming the “rest-day mellow” and sending the climber into a full-on bender of pullups or dynos.

7.  Thou shalt not covet they neighbors climbing objectives, nor his sends, nor his post-send celebratory beers.

Upon hearing neighboring climbers returning after “heinous epics”, “third-pad mono-crimpers”, “almost-onsights”, and “gasto-cling dyno”- laden sends, the climbing addict may begin to internally fester with envy and covet his neighbor’s day of climbing.  This is forbidden on the day of rest.DSC_0721

8.  Thou shalt consume beers in number up to but not exceeding the number of pitches climbed the day prior.DSC_0680

Insufficient consumption of beer may lead to an irritability or restlessness, preventing the proper development of the “rest-day mellow”.  Care must be taken in applying the formula for proper beer consumption, as excessive indulgence may degenerate to belligerent slab soloing, impromptu tree dynos, and dirt mantling.

9.  Upon the day of rest, no chalk may be applied to thy hands, no matter how sweaty thy palms may become, rather,moisten thy skin with healing ointments of myrrh, frankincense, grass-fed butter, or Climb-On.DSC_0697

Skin care is the highest priority for the resting climber.  Most of the rest day should be spent either applying salve, filing micro-calluses, or making sure all parties within earshot know how skin-dependent the “proj” is and how shredded your tips are.  Other useful tips for preserving the all-important tip-skin include avoiding all contact with water: no dishes, no showers, no hand-washing.  Use of any tools or implements with the hands… pretty much out of the question.   Want to play it safe?  Apply salve, don latex gloves, wait until rest day is over.

10.  Thou Shalt Not Climb

The stone-crazed climber may try to rationalize and justify any number of climbing-like activities including but not limited to: hang-dogging, bolt-to bolting, soloing, bouldering, route-bolting, gym climbing, and campusing.  For the purposes of a rest day: THESE ARE CLIMBING!DSC_0398

One thought on “The Ten Commandments of a Rest Day

  1. Hi! Your title reminded me of a Climbers’ Ten Commandments I typed out (no word processors in those days) for all my climbing friends many years ago. The commandments were adapted from The Helicopter Pilots Ten Commandments which had been published in, I believe, Helicopter and Hovercraft World around 1960 or so. They are just as relevant today.

    1. He who inspect etch not his equipment give the his angels cause to concern him.

    2. Thou shalt not lead the way without first ascertaining thy length of free line.

    3. Let infinite discretion govern thy movement on the rock lest thou dash thy feet against a stone.

    4. Thy nylon is thy staff of life. Without it thou shalt surely perish.

    5. Thou shalt not make a trial of thy centre of gravity for the means of thy destruction are numerous.

    6. He that examineth not the rock for security shall make restitution.

    7. Stand thou well from the rock that thou mayst observe thy way to the heavens.

    8. Thou shalt not let thy confidence exceed thy ability, for broad is the way to destruction.

    9. Take care whilst affixing thy knots and belay lest, on the morrow, thy friends mourn thee.

    10. He that remember etch not the Laws of Newton curse the his children and his children’s children.

    Frank Bean (Onetime member, R.A.F. St. Athan Mountain Rescue Team)

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