Rehab after the injury
Photo: Alex Messenger
Coming back to climbing once more… I have never spent so long off my arms. Since I started climbing at the age of four the worst injuries I have had have been knees or legs, so I have always been able to use my arms. I have had a few niggles in my fingers but never enough to keep me off the wall totally. I had two weeks off when I went on a family holiday once and I think that’s the longest rest my arms have ever had.
So after 15 years of climbing I had my first serious finger injuries. I got a pair. Always best to do things properly and not just half hearted eh! I have had a lot of questions, messages and emails about my injury, the rehab and coming back to climbing. So hopefully I can help some of you out a little in this blog.
I hurt my finger two days before leaving for the USA. Going on a climbing trip with a fresh finger injury truly sucks! To make things worse I stupidly gave in to my desire to climb on the beautiful sandstone whilst away, it was so teasing, with a delusion that my finger wasn’t that bad. It inevitably got worse. So my first piece of advice would be to listen to your body! When something hurts do not just ignore it!
My second piece of advice would be to get professional help as soon as you can. When I landed back in the UK I went straight to see GB team physiotherapist Rick Webber. He was massively helpful and gave me a diagnosis and a full rehab program. I think it can be really hard to find a good understanding physiotherapist. Climbing is still a small sport, in comparison to many others, so a physiotherapist with good knowledge of climbing injures is not so easy to come across. I would definitely recommend Rick Webber. I also got sport massage treatment from Rich Hollingsworth. He is really understanding and works on most of Sheffield’s climbing community. It’s people like these who keep me working so I can keep training and pushing myself. Thanks you!
After a few weeks of rehab, standing under a fingerboard slowly increasing the amount of weight I could bear through my fingers, I was able to begin doing pull ups. Incredibly slow and totally in control which actually made them feel really hard. Something I found really hard during my rehab was deciding what pain was pain and what was just discomfort. I was lucky enough to have Mark my coach with me throughout my rehab, he really helped guide me as to what I should be doing, but I still really struggled with deciding how things felt, as only you know how much pain you are in. I think it is also really important to remember that not every step you take will be forward. Some days I felt tired or I had a cold coming on and I would feel like my injuries were getting worse. Exercises that felt easy would be painful again and my motivation would dip. It’s easy to forget the progress you have made when all you want to do is get back to being totally fit and at your best. My third piece of advise would be to keep things around you that help you stay motivated, be that a coach/friends or pictures of your latest project.
Over the last year I’ve pushed myself harder than I’ve ever pushed myself before and I’ve really begun to realise there is a very fine line between training and injury. Pushing your body hard can be painful and the important thing is knowing the difference between training pain and injury pain. Once you’ve been injured a few times its easy to become scared that you might do the same again when climbing and training. The voices in your head questioning every time you feel a little niggle or something starts aching. The important thing during this period, and my fourth point, is to do the rehab you’ve been given and keep doing it. Don’t second guess yourself, trust in what you and others know works. For me to do this I make regular visits to Rick and Rich to keep me reassured and help me to learn more about how my body works. I also do as many sessions as I can with Mark so he can tell me to press on when need be and equally to back off when I’ve done enough.
My final point is to stay positive. Just like breaking my leg, tearing a tendon did not mean I had to stop training. Running, press ups and core could all be done with a finger injury and even slab climbing too! So over the past few months I have been able to focus on different aspects of my climbing that I otherwise might not have had the time to do. Climbing is a fascinating sport with so many parts to explore. Injuries like these whilst frustrating, always seem to open up so many things that I can work on in my climbing which I think is super exciting!
This past week has been really busy. I have visited my sponsor Craggy Island down in Guildford and coached some awesome people. Coaching definitely makes me realise how much fun climbing can be and how many different ways there are to enjoy our sport. I also attended a press event for The BMC. Chatting to journalists and doing some filming for channel 4 which was lots of fun.
Fran Brown, Molly Thompson-Smith and myself at BMC press event. Photo: Alex Messenger
This weekend is CWIF and three weeks after that is the first round of the IFSC Bouldering World Cup series. My last serious bouldering competition was over eight months ago. People keep asking me if I am nervous, worried, scared… But honestly I am just really excited and can’t wait for the season to start again. I have been making massive progress with my climbing and my injuries are feeling good, bring on 2013!
As a recap this is my list of things to remember when injured…
1) Listen to your body.
2) Get help.
3) Stay Motivated.
4) Do what the doctor/physio says and keep doing it.
5) Stay Positive.
PSYCHED to be back climbing and feeling like myself on the wall again! Photo: Alex Messenger
Photo: Alex Messenger
Photo: Alex Messenger