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How To Recover On Route

Does the G-Tox method for shaking out on routes work? Any other advice for getting the best recovery in a strenuous position, without waving your arms...

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Does the G-Tox method for shaking out on routes work? Any other advice for getting the best recovery in a strenuous position, without waving your arms around like a nut? —Jim Fletcher | Sydney, Australia

In general there is very little direct research into climbing—however, this is one area that has been investigated. For those who aren’t acquainted, G-Tox is the term that has been coined to describe the technique of shaking your arm above your head for a second or two before lowering it. It is thought that the effect of gravity helps blood circulate through the forearm and clear lactate (the pump) more rapidly from the muscles. Luke Roberts, a friend of mine who was studying sports science in the U.K., carried out a survey on this subject in 2001. His study involved a group of climbers who were asked to shake first with the G-Tox method on one climb, and then without it on another equivalent climb. He measured blood lactate levels immediately post-exercise. The G-Tox method was measured to be slightly more effective in lowering blood lactate levels than shaking with the arm held down. However, he also noted certain limitations to the study and he felt that further research would be beneficial.

I first witnessed the G-Tox method being used by the French competition team back in the early 1990s. There was much hype about it then, but if it really was significantly better, you would think it would be practiced universally by now. You will hear mixed opinions on the effectiveness of this method among experienced climbers, and I’m not convinced it makes any difference. It undoubtedly makes sense to experiment with the G-tox method, but if you’ve already done that and you’re still not convinced, blow it off.

Here are some conventional tips for making the best use of rests. First, spot them—the best rests aren’t always in sequence with the climbing. For example, you may need to shift half a move to the side to rest off the holds. Similarly, on complex 3-D rock such as tufa or stalactite-infested limestone, there may be a hidden knee-bar or body-brace that won’t actually appear during the climbing sequence. You need sensitive visual radar to spot these rests. When you find one, quickly assess how good it is and decide whether it’s going to be just a quick flick of each arm or a half-hour shake-athon. On a steep wall, even if you have a jug for your hands, if the footholds are bad you may exhaust yourself by staying there too long. Monitor your breathing rate as well. When your breathing rate is no longer falling, press on. Keep your arms as straight as possible. You may need to twist-in with your hips on overhangs, but on vertical routes, simply bend your legs. Relax your body as much as possible and try to settle your weight on your feet. If your calves cramp, try using your heel on larger footholds to reduce the strain. Breathe slowly and deeply from your chest cavity rather than with rapid, thin gasps through your mouth. As you change arms, you will probably need to swap feet and reposition your hips to maintain optimal position for poise and balance. If the resting hold is positive, then try to hook your fingers over it and use friction to hang as passively as possible. If the hold projects outwards, cup your wrist around the side. A final tip is to look out for jams, which often save the day.