I have recently started to take my climbing training a lot more seriously. Over the last six months I have competed in the Open category of many of the local British Columbia bouldering competitions, and have been consistently ranked somewhere in the middle of the pack. I found through, competing, that I have several weaknesses in my climbing style, technique, and my overall strength and fitness that I wanted to see a lot of improvement in, so that I could perform better in the next event. I have always been extremely competitive, the thrill of the chase, the thought of others around me all striving to reach a goal greater than anything they have ever achieved before is extremely inspiring and helps me get psyched to do my best! I knew from the start of the season after competing in my first competition that I wanted to do better than I was at the time. I wanted to become as good as the guys standing there on the podium, and this meant I had to start seriously thinking about training for climbing.
Never before have I found a sport that i enjoyed to the extent that I actually want to train and get better at it. Many of the sports I’ve enjoyed in the past have been for just that, enjoyment, but nothing that grips my imagination and inexorably draws me to it. Because of my limited experience in actually knowing what to do when it comes to training, I had no clue what I was doing, where to start my journey, or even really what I could do about it. So began the process of considering what I wanted to do and putting in the research time to learn about this strange world of climbing training. Sadly, before I was even able to really get started at this process, disaster struck.
Unfortunately during the last competition that I competed in (one of the Sport Climbing BC bouldering competitions at The Edge Climbing Gym in November, 2015) I injured the tendons in my right arm and hand pulling really hard on a massive under-cling sloper with really high feet. I know now in retrospect that full extension of the wrist, with all my bodyweight and the force from holding the compression in my feet, all bearing down on my one hand, was not a good idea. However at the time I was pushing myself to do things I couldn’t and perform the best in the competition. That’s when I felt my tendons go. There was a slow sliding feeling under my skin, followed by a really bad pain flowing from my fingers and into my wrist and arm. I immediately fell off the climb and went straight to the first aid booth, not being able to move my hand without pain. The medics and veteran climbers checked me out and, to my relief, came to the diagnosis that I hadn’t fully torn any of my tendons, but that they were partially torn in my hand and wrist (I was extremely lucky now that I think back on it). The worst part about the whole ordeal though was that I knew I would need months to recover from an injury like this, although in my heart I really wanted to climb and train, that wasn’t going to be an option. Sadly this forced me to stop climbing for about three months because of the pain and the fear of completely tearing the tendons all the way through and resulting in a much longer healing time than necessary.
During this period my focus drifted away from climbing all together, I didn’t go to the gym or exercise for weeks at a time, and life just started to slip by without me noticing. Every now and then I would try my luck at a local gym wherever I happened to be at the time (this was over Christmas, lots of travelling involved), however always left quickly after entering as my wrist complained at the strain. It wasn’t until mid way through February of 2016 that I was really able to get back to the gym. My wrist was a dull ache at this point, and was healed enough I could start rehabilitating it with some easy climbing and light exercises. This was probably the worst part of the entire process, in the end I purchased a set of “PowerFingers” stretchy elastic type finger exercisers in order get some sort of life back into my hand. I cannot express how amazing these things were to work with, I still use them today for some finger training even after recovery. During the early days of my rehabilitation, I could barely squeeze anything, hold a cup, peel a banana, or put any force on my fingers in any direction. Having to start somewhere after a few months of rest, the lightweight PowerFingers bands were great. They offer a chance to still exercise and use my fingers, helping to build back the tendon and muscle, while not applying a large and painful amount of pressure to my joints, tendons, and ligaments, all the while being so flexible and re-configurable that you can exercise in any way. The other great thing about them is that you can get a visible sign of your progress towards rehab. Since each band that comes in the set is slightly harder than the previous one, I was able to really see that my hand was healing and get ready to hit the gym again when everything felt good once more.
At this point it’s time to hit the gym again, luckily I have a number of great climbing friends who are always encouraging when we climb together, unluckily however they were all un-injured and climbing harder problems than ever before, meanwhile I’m working through V0 climbs again… Anyone who has been injured climbing before knows the pain of going through this process, and seeing all your friends climbing hard routes, sticking epic moves, and having a great time. Sadly it’s not a process you can just skip right to the end of, but more of a challenge set in front of you to get back to that point.
If there is anything that I have taken away from this process at all, it’s a better understanding of my body and the physical limits that we can withstand. Although I’m now training to get stronger, faster, more precise, and all the rest of it, there are still constraints that I have to work within as a human being, and limits that my body can withstand no matter how hard I wish I could exceed them. I have definitely learned to respect my body more when climbing, rather than trying to fight through pain I have to work with it so as not to push myself too far. Climbing is always about balance, whether it’s on the wall, in the mind, or any other aspect of the sport. I’ve now learned to respect another part of that balance and incorporate this new knowledge into my training and climbing from now on. More next time on my training with Christian Core, stay tuned!