Rethinking Recovery: Chelsea Rude on Why Rest Makes You Stronger
Most climbers think of recovery as a chore best left to rest days, evenings, or, better yet, after they’ve already sprained a rotator cuff or blown a pulley. Chelsea Rude says it’s time for that to change.
By rethinking the traditional approach to rest and incorporating a recovery mindset into every facet of her day, Rude has been able to snap back faster from hard workouts and heal from a recent shoulder surgery. But for her, that mindset didn’t come easily.
A professional climber based in Boulder, Colorado, Rude spent 13 years on the USA Climbing Team and has redpointed up to 5.14b ( Waka Flocka in Rifle). But she’s perhaps best known for her uncanny onsight ability—up to 5.13c.
“Onsight is a pure way of climbing. You have to choose your rests even though you don’t know what’s coming up,” she says. “Onsight, you have to get in the flow and be good at making decisions.” As Rude talks, she smiles often, her soft-spoken demeanor belying her strength. She’s that way on the wall, too. When she climbs, graceful and calm, every move looks deceptively easy.
Photo: Scott Crady
Then in 2020, on top of all of her training, she saw a need to help women find each other in the climbing community and launched a coaching and retreat business, She Sends Collective.
“Teaching women is really special,” Rude says. They start to feel really strong and believe in themselves more. That feeling tends to increase their confidence, and that confidence seeps into work, life, relationships, and everything else.”
She spent the last year hustling to organize small-group clinics, launch virtual coaching offerings, and grow the business despite the COVID-19 pandemic. As if that wasn’t enough, she also got surgery to repair a labrum tear in her left shoulder in January 2021. She’d had a similar surgery on her right shoulder three years prior.
That’s around the time when she really began honing in on her recovery strategy—something she hasn’t always been good at, she says.
“When I was younger, I always thought there was no time for rest,” she laughs. “I would spend hours in the gym. I didn’t eat all that well. Train more, eat less—that was the mentality.”
Eventually, Rude realized that that relentless approach to training wasn’t sustainable. She was exhausted all the time, underfueled and prone to injury. Her coaches started to catch on.
“It was actually a climbing coach of mine who literally dragged me out of the gym even though I felt like I could keep going,” she says. “He drove home the concept of less is more. Quality over quantity. And now I understand a lot more about the science behind rest. Rest is when we get stronger. It’s not your training sessions when you’re actually building muscle—it’s your rest.”
Photo: Scott Crady
Today, Rude says shifting her mindset has led to more productive sessions and a better relationship with her body. She now takes at least two days off climbing per week. Her rest-day activity of choice is hiking with her dogs (she has three). Post-hike, she usually unwinds with a hot shower or, if she has time, a bath. “My favorite thing is taking baths with a CBD Bath Bomb,” she says, followed by ten minutes of stretching, focusing specifically on her back, hips, glutes, and legs. Then, a little CBD Recovery Balm on both shoulders to help relieve any residual stiffness from her workout the day before.
CBD is something that she’s recently discovered—and she now relies on it to help promote higher-quality rest and relieve anxiety and soreness. “I started using CBD after my first shoulder surgery to decrease the pain and discomfort,” Rude says. “I was able to get off the pain medication within days, which was important to me because pain medicine just knocks me out. I’m also just not a big fan of pills or supplements in general.” The CBD she uses is from a local company called Miraflora Naturals, which grows its organic hemp on a family farm in Boulder County.
She’s also taken to incorporating CBD into her climbing-day routine as well. Take breakfast, for example.
“I have a smoothie almost every single morning,” Rude says. The usual recipe includes blueberries, acai packets, bananas, strawberries, mango, peanut butter, protein powder, and a few drops of Miraflora CBD Tincture, which she says reduces anxiety and helps her approach training workouts with a clearer mind. She’s also careful to drink plenty of water, which aids recovery by keeping muscles and joints lubricated and healthy.
Photo: Scott Crady
And if she’s climbing outside, Rude brings a jar of CBD Recovery Balm in her bag. As soon as she gets off her last route of the day, she rubs the cream on both her shoulders, boosting blood flow and getting ahead of next-day stiffness.
After climbing days and indoor training sessions, Rude is careful to eat plenty of carbs and protein. She also supplements with collagen and amino acids via Miraflora’s Sparkling CBD Beverage+Sport, or a protein shake. If it was a hard session, she’ll add a little more CBD tincture to her shake to further aid with recovery and relax her body for a deep night’s sleep.
Photo: Scott Crady
“Getting quality rest has been super important to my climbing,” Rude says. “It makes my brain feel sharper in terms of figuring out beta, and I’m able to really focus versus thinking about work or sending or my foot popping or anything like that.” The result: Better sessions and more sends.
“The biggest message for me is that it’s important to take care of yourself,” Rude says. “After all, this is the only body you have.”