Improve Your Sport Climbing (15): Injuries, Part 8 (HARD)

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So I’m Injured, Now What? (II) – Physical Training

Assuming your injury is serious enough to warrant a diagnosis and treatment plan from a healthcare professional, get a timeline from this trusted source to help you plan your recovery period and to take the fullest advantage of your time off from climbing as you can in terms of physical fitness maintenance or even potential gains. Ask for an assessment what you can do, given the parameters of your injury. If you don’t like the answer, consult with several more specialists. Ask for healing markers that will indicate if/when you should be doing certain activities, as well as what you should not be doing. Follow the guidelines but don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Above all, do not do anything to make your injury worse. This becomes your No. 1 training/climbing performance goal once an injury has occurred: to heal the injury and get back to 100 percent as quickly as possible. This means not making ill-advised in-the-moment decisions that will impact you negatively for months or even years into the future.

Informed by your healthcare professional’s advice and treatment plan, create a physical training/rehab plan that respects your body’s need to heal. Use the time as efficiently and effectively as possible, understanding that sitting around feeling bad about not being able to climb and concurrently severely decreasing the amount of physical activity you’re doing can contribute to injury-related mental-emotional health issues (topic of next entry), as well as making your comeback harder. Bodies that are used to a high level of physical activity can undergo severe withdrawal on many levels if the customary activity level suddenly declines significantly or stops entirely.

If you can’t do anything at all related to climbing, then work to figure out what works best for keeping yourself fit, maybe another activity entirely. You may also have some mandated physical therapy/rehab exercises; these take top priority in any smart injury-recovery training plan. However, if you can and have the desire to, times of injury can actually provide a much-needed impetus to train specific areas that could use more attention but that fall by the wayside when you’re healthy. A few examples: an injured ankle can often allow for upper-body training, while an injured finger can often allow for core/flexibility training. Instead of fretting about and ruminating on what you can’t do, look at what you can do and do that, knowing that you will be grateful not only now to have something to do physically but also, as you come back to an uninjured state to have kept your physical activity level as high as you could without sabotaging your body’s healing process.

This multipart series of blogs and articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. My designation of each area as “easy,” “medium” or “hard” is purely subjective. I’ve arrived at the designations from my personal experience garnered from 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change. You also might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.

One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing and training!

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