Monday, April 2, 2012

Misplaced Muscle - April 2012

By Kreg Dobzinski

Suddenly, that hold seems closer than before and you know the move is within your reach. All you have to do is just try a bit harder. Push it just a little. Your fingers crank down hard on that mere sliver of a hold, your feet scramble, you forget to breath and then - SNAP. Searing pain shoots through your hand as you land with your back to the mat. Yep, you’re injured.

If you have been climbing for even a small amount of time, it would be surprising if you have not yet experienced an injury related to the activity. In fact, it would be suspicious and you should probably determine if you are human with a certified medical professional. Speaking of which, I am not one myself. Although, I have certainly had my fair share of ailments and have also partaken of a slew of suggested or researched remedies.

One great resource I’ve found is Dave MacLeod’s blog. He is an extremely talented British climber who has done all sorts of impressive ascents in the UK and abroad - of which you can read on his main blog. A recent interesting injury discussion deals with complete rest or gradual limited climbing as a better method for treatment of pulleys in the hands. He has a well articulated argument:

"In the earliest stages of injury rehab, where the tissue is extremely weak, inflamed and possibly swollen, even the lightest use risks further damage. However, this stage is extremely short - a few days or weeks at most. After this, lay-off is actually contributing to loss of tissue health. Even moderate activity tends to be enough to maintain strength in muscle or tendon. But inactivity causes it to lose strength rapidly. When the tissue is immobilized, the rate of atrophy is positively frightening."

Of course, this is what every climber wants hear, but he is not suggesting rampaging back up the V-grades using the same methods that got you into this predicament in the first place. Instead, very simply - climb different. This method of climbing while hurt actually requires more concerted effort than laying-off it for a while completely. It necessitates a change in habits and a real push to tackle known weaknesses. Also, suck it up and call a proper doctor who would really know what to do with the typical climber’s misshapen limbs and torso. It is entirely possible they would be able to discover the physiological source of some of your muscular imbalances.

Once you get healthy, how do you stay that way? Well, in my own experience a real effort toward warming the tendons up completely and staying hydrated has gone the longest way in preventing injury. Additionally, I have noticed that most of my injuries occurred when I was simply not paying attention to what my body was trying to signal. Again, I am no expert, so I jaunted over to where they also have a section dedicated to injury. I mean, it is the least they could do since they probably sold you the holds that you hurt yourself on in the first place.

" 1. Don’t climb to exhaustion. Many acute injuries occur toward the end of a day of maximal climbing: Do you really need to lap (or flail up) that “training route” or project again?

2. Don’t climb and/or train more than 4 days per week. Overtraining will get you injured, so plan your rest days: Taking enough rest days is a sign of a mature climber.

3. Maintain muscle balance by training the antagonist muscles of the arms and upper torso: Two days per week of light “push muscle” training is a great insurance policy. Stretching is also vital, particularly pre-climbing stretching of the forearms and shoulders.

4. Regularly vary the type of climbing to vary the wear and tear on your body. Specialists tend to get injured most often: This is especially true for beginners who focus on a single type of climbing (e.g. bouldering, steep sport routes, or what have you). Diversifying your climbing is also a great investment in your technical abilities–you’ll become a better climber for it.

5. Focus on improving technique over maximizing strength: Obsessive training will end in injury (see Tip #2). Conversely, improving technique will enable you to make the most of the strength you already possess. Do you climb more like an old Buick or a Honda? "

All of the great suggestions above have a common need for discipline. Most of the time your injury is the result of inattentive climbing or glaring neglect in a certain aspect of your training. Undoubtedly, there are times when it could not have been avoided due to natural forces or frail holds, yet this only further underscores the need for both avoiding injury through both a well-rounded training routine and a regimented recovery program when the inevitable does occur.
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