Home // Blog

Residual Fatigue

In Uncategorized | on January, 07, 2012 | by

In climbers, residual fatigue is one the most common obstacles to improving one’s overall baseline level of ability. Not being able to recognize and identify when the body is sufficiently recovered makes it extremely difficult to know when it’s productive to physically stress the system again. Without stress there is no adaptation but without proper recovery there is insufficient resources to sustain both neurological and structural improvement (i.e. overall ability). Work-to-rest cycles do change as one’s ability improves, and it is in the deliberate manipulation of the appropriate ratios that intermediate and advanced climbers can most easily accelerate their rate of improvement.

The body is adapting to whatever environment it is subjected to. The Theory of Super Compensation is a useful model for visually understanding how the body responds to physical stress. The progression of Fig. 1 shows a dip in ability immediately after training. Following the recovery phase there is not just a return to one’s previous baseline ability but an increase in one’s ability to safeguard the body from future stress. The body has Super Compensated to a legitimate (and physically oriented) stress response.


Figure 1: This model can also be described in terms of hormonal activity. The legitimate stress response to training requires a 10%-30% spike in circulating cortisol. Usually inactive, cortisol is protein bound until plasma levels increase from training triggering the CMA response (chronic metabolic acidosis), which then triggers Human Growth Hormone and Testosterone. The spike in circulating cortisol corresponds with the suppression of resting serum levels of testosterone. Testosterone and cortisol are in dynamic equilibrium. When this hormonal axis is out of balance (from training) the endocrine system responds (during recovery phase) to bring them back into equilibrium. Full recovery (return to homeostasis) from a 10-30% spike in circulating cortisol results in Super Compensation (increase in one’s baseline level of ability).

To continue driving adaptation past the first of every climber’s first significant plateau–the intermediate phase–there is a simple remedy: learning to manage workloads on a weekly basis.

More on that process soon…