I might need to re-define the term “rest.” It definitely does not mean zero-activity. A huge part of the healing process is to not let muscles and joints become stiff. Depending on which part of your body is trying to recover will determine the types of activities you can do as well as those you’re limited from doing. If you sprained a wrist, go outside and run. If you’ve sprained your ankle, or maybe are experiencing shin splints or rip-roaring tendonitis in the patella, work on your upper body. More than likely, these areas that you are forced to refocus your energy and time toward could use the attention anyway (there is a reason so many male climbers have beautifully sculpted arms and backs but are supported by chicken legs).
Day 1: It’s actually okay, and understandable, to feel some sort of remorse or frustration at the fact that your primary outlet source just got taken away for an indefinite amount of time. When you find yourself thinking, “I wish I had injury y instead of injury x so I could still do activity a” it might be time to put things in perspective. I’m off all forms of climbing for a solid month, and I dared ask my PT how long it might be before it’s safe to specifically boulder again. “Climbing is one thing, but don’t think you should go near bouldering for a good 12 weeks.” All I really did for the rest of the session was think. As much as I miss going hard now, I’d rather have a better chance of going hard again in the future than risking a worse injury that might lead to a permanent injury.
Day 2: I’m not really sure what it is about certain forms of activity, but depending on what I’m doing determines what time of the day I do it. I hate lifting and doing cardio in the evening (I’m not saying I won’t), and I would much rather do them in the morning before my first class. So the past week I’ve started getting to campus by 8:30. I know part of it is a subconscious desire to not have to do what feel like “boring” exercises later in the day, but on the flip side I like knowing that I have for sure done something that day.
Day 3: Eventually you become ready to make the most efficient recovery you can. The fracture just needs time on its own, however the sciatica definitely has the potential to be alleviated in a shorter amount of time. Dr. O’brien prescribed some dry-needling to release some of the tension. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t do well with needles, even small ones. However, the practice of dry-needling fascinates me. Of course it’s been practiced in eastern cultures for decades, but has only just recently started to gain attention here in the U.S. I’ve only realized how relatively new it is in western culture just by talking to people about it: it seems that most people who aren’t in the field of rehab are unfamiliar with its technique, or it is often mistaken for acupuncture. Though it uses the same needle, it is a much deeper invasion, going through the muscle to find those trigger points that are causing whatever pain or discomfort is being experienced. Upon hitting that trigger point, an involuntary contraction occurs. I won’t say that it hurts, but more or less mild discomfort, almost like a mini charlie horse. Like I said, I have a bit of an aversion to needles in general, and unfortunately started getting a little nauseous on needle number two…oh well, there’s always next week.
Day 4: If it is solely a physical break, it is so important to not alienate yourself from what you are taking a break from. Qualifiers for USA Climbing ABS Open Nationals is took place in Madison, WI this weekend. There is no better way to keep your head in your own game than watching some of your favorite pros do what they do best. For me this involves watching, via Louder than 11 TV, some of the nation’s strongest male and female boulders competing for the top place. For those unfamiliar with climbing, it requires a different kind of physical strength that is so hard to appreciate if you’ve never physically tried it. But the rush that I and my fellow climbers get from watching other superhumans basically defy gravity is like a mega sugar rush without the sugar. It’s similar to a basketball or football junkie watching a highlight reel of the best plays of the season.
Exceptions are part of every “rule”, but sometimes they are necessary, as long as they aren’t putting you at risk for more injury, more or less just enough to satisfy a craving. Even just four days away from climbing is challenging, just like four days off from running would be challenging to a cross-country runner. My lovely friend Sarah was in town for the weekend, and I met up with her for just a bit at the tail end of one of her training sessions to do a few routes. Nothing strenuous, but a few non-impact routes was enough to keep my head level, plus I got to see one of my best friends, so a win-win situation.
Day 5: One of the first things you realize is that other areas in your life that needed some organization or attention are finally getting that time. It’s not a bad thing that something like climbing takes up a good chunk of your life. When you love something that much it’s inevitable. But when something like that gets taken away for an extended period of time, other areas receive more attention that they haven’t in the past, and it actually starts to create a little mental breathing room. The farther along I get into this break, the more I’m realizing how important it is to utilize this breathing room. I’m strengthening my lower body more, I’m wanting to give a little more time to my school, more time to my relationships with the people in my life that I care about, more time to do things that my brain has been unknowingly missing for a while. I won’t lie, the first day getting back to doing weights was a little humbling, and pretty exhausting. I’ve been so used to climbing with nothing but my body weight, so making my legs do all of this extra work suddenly is taking a little getting used to. More importantly it’s made me realize that I’m fortunate I can at least do this, and have some form of cross training as an outlet. Five days down!