Dear web page, world, people who should be climbing but are wasting time on the internet: for those who don´t know yet, being injured sucks. But is doesn´t have to be all blues.
“You can’t climb, period”, said the doc after I tried to go dry tooling on an M5 route and it just destroyed my finger’ s tendons a bit more, so, almost back to zero, which means (almost) no climbing. “Period”. Although I was allowed to start getting back into it in January, the fact is that I can get back on the climbing gym but can’t really train – especially because right after going back I injured another finger, on the other hand. I know, stupid. Trying too hard and as usual being too intense about everything lands me in ridiculous situations like this.
I got back into strength training and endless laps on the traverse wall at the gym. During my rests I look at people working on problems and am so eager to get on them but I know that exercising patience now is the most important thing to do. So it makes me think: yup, being injured sucks, but what good can I get off of it? Dig and you shall find.
With tons of precipitation in the valley but not cold enough temperatures since early January and a flu that pinned me in bed for 2 weeks, it was pretty complicated to maintain my usual training regimen. Ice falls didn´t properly form in the valley, and I do not have the money or pass to go do 1 or 2 days climbs via cable car on dubious conditions. I cannot do anything steep with ice axes, running has been difficult with all the snow. I found a way to climb indoors without using the worst finger, but then it is just endurance training on big holds, open hands, no crimps, no jugs, no overhangs. Nothing hard. No fun. I´m bored already.
But what do you do?
Cry and eat a lot. Adapt. Fit yourself into the new situation. After three weeks on the endless traverses with 8 fingers I started noticing a gain. Dropped running from 80 km to 50 km weekly while keeping speed and having more energy for climbing. Got back into weight lifting and already seeing results transferring onto climbing. Is this ideal? I guess not, but it is what’s available right now. No climbing! “Period”. In the end it got me thinking, what better time to be injured than now? Winter is when I can actually structure my training perfectly to a routine.
Which is not to say I am happy. After a difficult year, I finally started getting back into it and then, boom, injury. Right when it happens is as if the world stops making sense, especially considering how wrapped up our lives are around our sports. I remember when I had to quit swimming in college I thought my life was over, because my life was swimming, and that is somehow how I felt in October. And you go through stages of denial, anger, and when you finally understand you have to stop and let your body heal itself, all the time you waste asking questions such as “why me”, you start using for more productive things. It also weighs in the age factor since I´m in my mid 30’s and every day I feel like I have less and less time for improvement, so I can´t really afford to have setbacks, and also the nature of my “hybrid” training for alpine routes on 6000 m mountains allows me for even less time for well, wasting time. That is to say, to me the mental aspect of it has definitely been the hardest part to deal with.
Having all this extra time because of the injury and the weather (I gave up mindless dating as well, best decision in many months) forces you to think about other stuff and occupy your time somehow. Aside from watching all the movies in the world, training climbing systems at home (how nerdy), I also become an expert in nutrition. Especially regarding the injury, it seems that when you finally accept it and stop caring about the part you cannot control, everything becomes easier and things start moving forward again.
So just because I am really nice and love sharing info, here are some articles that really helped me in understanding and being cool minded about it (especially the first one) regarding mental toughness in dealing with injuries:
It´s been now over 5 months since the first injury. Although at first I was completely lost as to the near future and climbing projects, I finally started using my time more productively, and of course, with people helping out, I now have a few projects lined up for the future – including filming a web series of life in the mountains (considering I´ve had unfulfilled new year´s resolutions for the past years of actually taking pictures of my climbs, filming is going to be a BIG challenge), and I can actually start drawing the training and planning for them, allowing for recovery time that I need. Finally the “you can’t climb, period” becomes a lot more bearable. It’s not the end of the world any more, it’s part of a new beginning.
And because I am even nicer, I compiled stories of elite athletes going through injuries as well. There´s tons of info on injuries everywhere on the internets but not so much on climbers going through injuries, so these are quite inspiring and refreshing. Enjoy!
- The Comeback: Recovering From Climbing Injuries
- Climber Renan Ozturk On Injury, Setbacks & Persistence
- Overcoming Injury: A Psychological Perspective
- Hazel Findlay – On The Road To Recovery
Update: as I publish this, the left finger is almost back to its normal shape and the right one improved tremendously, after I stopped thinking that I would cure it with my thoughts. Physiotherapy and lots of icing are doing wonders, and so is taping. On top of that, I’ve never used my feet so much in climbing, have improved my open hand grips and pressure a lot, and am finally more conscious about bringing my fat ass towards the wall when I climb. All of weaknesses are starting to be less so. Who would have thought it would take an injury to finally fix those things… now the countdown is to get back on rock… there´s only one more week of winter and three months to this year´s trip to the greater ranges. And yes, I did learn to ski and snowboard.