Are you doing everything you can to excel as a climber?
Wondering what you can do to decrease Injuries and have more fun?
Usually with these posts I like to focus on the detail surrounding specific injuries (such as Tendonitis) but instead this time I’d like to take a step back and look at the big picture with you. Burn-out and anxiety about injury itself are big risks for climbers, especially if you aren’t new to the sport and have been forced by injury to look at the future of yourself as a climber. Let’s hit my most common basic reminders for you to think about while you bring the best of YOU out to shine.
1. Learn to control your water content.
Staying hydrated has a large bearing on how much damage is done within your tissues. Thinking on a small scale, as we are mostly water, increasing this fluids volume inside of us mitigates the risk of having your tissues (such as muscle and tendon) truly rub on each other due to dehydration. Less friction means less scar tissue production and less overall damage. Hydration also helps your body to detox and heal from oxidative stress and to clear chemicals from your body.
To judge your urine color, don’t look at the toilet water color but at your urine STREAM. If it is light yellow, fantastic, you get a gold star. If it is moderate yellow or dark, you might begin to focus on getting more water in on a regular basis. Clear urine means you might have drank too much water, or it could be the result of caffeine or alcohol consumption.
2. Don’t make it a habit to go for broke.
The average climber pushing to exhaustion and feeling broken at the end of a climbing session is heading toward the red zone without guidance. Miss this point and risk missing the entire season.
Signals to respect:
-Sharp pains and/or deep cramps
-Your ‘pump’ lasts longer than a few minutes after climbing a problem or route
-You’re still achy on your first few climbs of the day
-You’re pushing daily and there’s not a training goal in mind
-You don’t have an easy day on the horizon
-You get the feeling that something could tear or pull
If you have any of the above symptoms, you are pushing your body too hard or too quick! If this is you, It’s time to re-evaluate. For a variety of reasons, your symptoms might merely be related to a lack of training or it could be as complicated as metabolic overload. Despite the reasons, listening to your bodies needs and heeding it is the best things you can do for yourself. Don’t worry, these symptoms and this timing is temporary. Heeding the warnings and working to correct them will quickly get you back on track.
If you are feeling signs that you’re body isn’t as stoked about your climbing as you are, consider ending for the day OR picking a few easier climbs to get your body back to recovery level. A rare hard day is fine, but if this is you more days than not, we need an overhaul.
I myself went through a few years of severe cramps while climbing and running and my legs burned in a way that I just couldn’t understand. Only later did I hear that it was related to a metabolic issue (and in my case, liver phase 2 detox issues) and that these symptoms were part of a larger issue at play. I didn’t know why I needed the rest at that time, but I”m glad I gave it to my poor overburdened system.
3. Climbing hard isn’t always bad!
Some of you are training hard for real improvement (with coaches and peers)... Climbing hard every time you climb (and by every time, I mean every day), you aren’t giving your body enough time to heal can be a great way to make large improvements but it does put you in the risk zone. Be sure its worth it and ensure success.
-Pattern your climbing with easy days and weeks with high and low load
-It’s OK to push every now and then BUT pick your battles.
-Let your body tell you when it’s fresh and wants to go hard.
Building your body up can also be thought of as mere avoidance of those days when your body isn’t feeling at its best. We aren’t all perfectly functioning machines all the time but we can build on our strong days and work with our body for maximal success. It isn’t a weakness but a strength to work on our bodies timelines, however varied they might be.
3. Variety. The healthy spice of climbing.
The very specific goals on which some of us fixate may increase your injury risks.
Widening and adding variety to your goals will ensure less injury prone repeats. By adding more varied surfaces and movement patterns, your body will thank you. Those who mix up their climbing styles and techniques not only become better problem solvers overall but they also learn and understand more advanced movement patterns and decrease their injury risks as a whole by applying their body in constantly rotating climbing styles.
Wondering how to get started at this? Trying different problem types, or swapping from pinches, to crimps, to gastons, to manteling gives your body time to heal and your mind time to see your overuse injuries with a fresh perspective.
4. Keep it fun.
If you are in too much pain to have fun, or you’re on a regimen that is so specific it’s becoming labor intensive, consider overhauling it with fun in mind...You can work on a different goal with every climb OR give yourself bonus treats after your climb if you accomplish something you’ve been NOT excited about doing (such as preventative shoulder and finger rehab). I give myself chocolate if I make it up a hard climb without bitching and I get to eat out at my favorite restauraunt weekly IF I get in my 3 sandbag exercise workouts every week to earn it. Keep it fun, let creativity rule in designing your reasoning behind why you climb and rehab.
5. Listen to your Calling.
I’m sure you’ve passed up a climb that really sounds like fun to do something a buddy wants to do. My climbing partner HATES off-width where I’d rather not see a featureless chimney ever again. We are all different and our growth as a person and as a climbing should depend on these interests.
It is likely that IF your interests have changed, you are in for a much needed change. Every few years I swap sports or training styles. Last year it was yoga, this year I’m stoked about sand bag exercises. Next year, perhaps it’ll be parkor style training...Nah, I'm way too into vertical stuff.
Don’t beat yourself up with doing things you’re not really that into. It’s really that simple. If you love to boulder, go out and do it. If ropes don’t call to you or you’re always injured bouldering and are considering quitting climbing over it, don’t. Perhaps pinches aren’t for you, you might leave working on them for another year. If you’re hating climbing outside because your partner only does chimneys or loves to do climbs that you are petrified of, you might consider making a change. Even the best climbers have hit the ‘disinterest’ plateau in regards to improving technique and dealing with chronic injuries. Swap to a new style of spoils and don’t forget to reward yourself for being on TOP of your care instead of treating it like another job. Climbing is a gift, so is health. Keep on the happy side and the creative side of redesigning your climbing and your body and you’ll be set with a better attitude and a higher probability of success.
Like what you read? There's more in my book Climbing Injuries Solved including information on self-care, understanding your mental response to your injury and its chock-full of advice to help even the most stubborn climber find out WHY they are injured in the first place. Available through this website and on Amazon, my goal is to return to you climbing injury free and with more fun free time on your hands. Climb hard, stay healthy!