Training Day

I haven’t climbed outside since last Wednesday – four days off due to inclement wacky spring weather, which has included rain, snow, wind and sunshine, per the usual. Seeing this forecast, I planned ahead for an indoor workout on Friday. After writing all morning, Christine and I warmed up with a dog walk, and then headed into the bouldering gym.

As I expected, I couldn’t really get excited about bouldering inside. These days, I usually feel like unstructured indoor bouldering sessions are not the best use of my training time and energy, not to mention that they’re also a colossal waste of skin. I’d rather let my skin heal up for the next day of outdoor climbing and focus instead on specific training exercises that work my weaknesses and encourage more overall balance in my being.

So after about an hour of warming up in the bouldering gym, I headed back to my basement gym for my first strength-training session since my return from Spain a couple weeks ago. It felt like the timing was right; my numb spot on my left hand has faded so much that it’s barely noticeable, and I probably wouldn’t even notice it unless I knew to feel for it. My energy levels and pace of recovery have been good; my body aches from sitting on the plane seem to have largely dissipated.

I started with testing out how close I am to a one-arm pull-up with our cool pulley set-up that takes weight off down to the pound. I was psyched to find out that both arms tested stronger than when I left for Spain: I only needed 9 pounds off for my right arm, and 20 for my left. When I left, it was 12 for the former and 30+ for the latter. I think the nerve thing is partly to blame for this imbalance, though my right side has always been a bit stronger than my left in terms of max pull power – something I historically haven’t noticed in climbing, but that I have definitely struggled with through the whole nerve impingement situation, during which my left side has felt insanely weak and uncoordinated.

After this, I went through my whole standard weights program at an adaptation level, just to rebuild my body’s base slowly and cautiously, as is always smart when embarking on a training protocol that hasn’t been used for a while (or ever). I was delighted to find out that I can actually perform reverse wrist curls and shoulder raises on my left side again; I couldn’t do either of these exercises even a month ago, not even with the lightest of weights. For the pressing exercises, like military presses and bench presses, I used ridiculously light weights, since these types of motions could potentially stress my nerve. While I don’t want to reinjure it, I can’t live in fear and avoidance forever, either, so a guarded and conservative approach to these exercises seemed in order.

I felt awesome and energized throughout this workout, so I finished it with some finger curls – but I cut myself off before I hit exhaustion or torched myself. I finished my workout with a long stretching session and some self-massage, followed by an awesome meal. I often feel fantastic during and for several hours after workouts like this; it must be the endorphin high, and it’s one of the danger areas for anyone who trains hard. If your body doesn’t feel sore or achy in the moment, you might question whether you’re training hard or long enough (I often do). But I’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t get pain/tiredness signals in the moment from your body (as I don’t), it’s important to develop a working knowledge of when and where to cut yourself off from doing more exercise, or you may find yourself paying the price later with an overuse/overtraining injury or even just depleted energy stores requiring a prolonged recovery time.

Observing how I felt yesterday and now this morning, it appears that I judged my workout intensity and duration correctly and appropriately. I was sore and tired yesterday, a feeling that peaked around mid-afternoon and then diminished through the rest of the day. This morning, I feel some residual tiredness and achiness, but it’s much less marked than yesterday. Today is my one day of total rest that I take each week (yesterday, I walked the dog 10 kilometers and did a lengthy stretching session), and I’m guessing I’ll feel refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to climb outside again tomorrow, just in time for the return of some better weather.

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