Injury Prevention for Advanced Climbers
Own it. Only you are in charge of your happiness.
Common does not mean “Normal.” Never confuse the two. You will talk to many climbers with similar injuries, especially in the upper extremities. We start to see said problem as part of climbing. It isn’t. The difference between elite athletes in any field, and recreational athletes is NOT that elites learn to “tough it out.” They learn to be smart about getting help, injury prevention, and listening to their bodies. Pay attention to how your body is coping. Don’t ignore it; this is a losing battle. It will win by shutting you down if it needs to stop an activity. Pain is a warning.
Self-Care: It takes a village! At this level, you probably own nutritional supplements, self-massage tools, rollers and trigger point balls, rehab tools, strength toys, cups, heat, ice, compression devices, gym-yoga-fitness and float tank memberships, and whatever the latest trend is in your climbing cohort. You have read tons of nutritional blogs, posts, books, and sampled several trendy dietary changes. You own half of the climbing books ever published. You have seen hundreds of self-help and video workouts online.
That’s a great start! Sadly, none of it replaces the expertise of seeing a professional. You are unique. Each half of your body is different. Every injury is slightly different as we age.
Ask your fellow climbers who climbs AND practices treatment of climbers in your area. Find clinicians that relate to you and your needs. Nothing replaces having someone assess you in person, as you move. Even better, have them assess you in a gym! Many of us provide that service and are happy to travel! We may also be in your area climbing, so don’t hesitate to reach out!
Common Issues for climbers at this level is that there is a bit of accumulated injury. Body parts that have previously been injured and rehabilitated require a lot of maintenance to stay healthy. Previous injuries are remembered by your nervous system and can become reoccurring issues. Body awareness is key to staying competitive for as long as possible. If something feels off, it is! Just because a clinician can’t find it doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.
For example, I watched a close friend work her project last year and she couldn’t see why her efforts in the crux were not improving. I could see that her right leg wasn’t firing properly. She felt strong but was unable to connect with what I was seeing in her body mechanics. Several weeks later, she was shut down by crippling back and hip pain. She had a severe lumber disc issue radiating down her right leg.
More range of motion available, means a longer muscle from which to recruit strength! Healthy motion means more strength, not just more functional, healthy tissue. Strength and flexibility DO NOT compete with each other! To have one is not to sacrifice the other. We need both for optimal movement as athletes. Your strength work should not be limited to mid-range motion. Go full length to fully recruit your muscles.
Shoulder and hip mobility was covered in the first section. Spine in the next section. You should go through the self-assessments for all of these to identify areas at risk for injury. At an advanced level though, it truly does help to have a clinician assess your movements both on and off the wall. I provide this through the many online video apps available. You can also send video of yourself on a crux or project.
Balance & Joint Stability
Floss only the teeth you want to keep. Strengthen only the joints you want to keep.
Incorporating balance into your strength training is simple and time efficient. Unless you are doing heavy lifts, it’s easy to use an unstable surface to progress your proprioception, joint stability, and balance at the same time.
For example, while using pulleys, bands, or TRX, stand on a BOSU or soft mat. I love sneaking this work in and watching how your core activates without having to think about it. I used this for decades in Physical Therapy with spine and general ortho patients.
A simple balance progression to determine what platform you can use during light resistive exercises:
- Wide feet on stable surface (should be waaaay too easy)
- Narrow feet, stable (should also be way too easy)
- SLS (single leg stance) stable (should be easy)
- Repeat 1-3 with an unstable surface that you cannot feel the ground through. (should be able to stabilize in 3 attempts if you have never used one)
- Repeat 4 with eyes closed
- Repeat 5 with head movement.
EAT to maintain strength. EAT to stay healthy. The advice I give my clients couldn’t get simpler. Our bodies are made of the air we breathe, everything we put in our mouths, and everything that absorbs into our skin. With what are you building your body? Make nutrition simple. Eat actual food. Every calorie counts; what nutrition is it delivering?
Ideally, we don’t need to read labels. In fact, If the thing you are putting in your mouth has one, it made not be food. “Edible” does not mean FOOD.
You don’t need me to tell you that cigarettes, alcohol, and food without expiration dates doesn’t make for healthy climbers. Do you?
Train smarter, not harder… The wisdom of a “lazy” climber.
Looking to keep yourself accountable as you work on progressing in your climbing? Contact us at ATHENA where we specialize in injury prevention, massage therapy, strength training, climbing assessments, core training, and sports nutrition. And be sure to follow us on social media at Athena_massage.