A few months ago, I injured my ankle in a bouldering competition. I didn’t let it get to me. I had been through this before. I decided I was going to train hard, because training doesn’t need to include feet, and get back to where I was before faster. I went to the gym a few times a week to use the hangboard, work out core, use weights for shoulders, etc.
I admit it was a little hard because right before this injury I had broken through to my best grades ever. I was really progressing fast and far. I felt strong and was doing really well. I knew then and now that it is really important not to let time away from climbing get the best of you. You must keep up confidence, stay strong, and stick with it. The negative feelings only hurt you. I sucked up any moment of doubt and worked hard. Finally, my injury started to get better. Though to be honest, it does sometimes still hurt. I am currently doing ankle exercises to help it. I was to a point where I could do easy climbing though.
I had trained hard to keep all my strength up, but I knew that I still needed to get back to where I was in terms of technique, climbing skill, and route reading. After an injury, there is a lot of fear around protecting what was injured. Even if it is not physically changing your climbing, your climbing tends to change as your body’s way of preventing further injury. I was dealing with this by being careful, top roping, doing things under my limit, and building up confidence. It was working well. I was able to get on climbs that were close to where I left off. With joy I thought I can get right back to where I left off. This didn’t last long.
For about a month I was getting back to where I left off, and then I got sick. I took time off hoping the rest and treating myself well would get it to move along quickly. For some reason, it just didn’t. I had been sick for over two weeks and have not been able to climb. As I started to feel better, a couple days ago, I went to start climbing again. The next day after a session of climbing, I woke up to very sore and painful tendons from my fingertips to mid forearm. It hurts just to flex my fingers in simple tasks like folding laundry.
After everything adding up, and seeing my time away from climbing growing, it can be very hard to keep confident. However, I still believe what I said before. It is important to stick with it, stay confident, and do what you can. Since being sick stops both climbing and training, in that sense, I have to deal with my losses. There is not much else that can be done. If I wait until I am fully healed, at least I know what training works. I will have to start back from the beginning, but I have learned a lot and it will move faster this time.
As anxious as I am to get back into it, I’m taking time away to make sure that pain and aggitation do not turn into full injury. Sometimes it is better to let things rest instead of risking something serious. This is soreness now, if pushed could it lead to a pop that needs surgery? I don’t want to find out. I can still do core work outs, ankle strengthening work outs, and shoulder work outs. I will likely come back to climbing fuzzy on technique, but I’m watching videos and trying to mentally absorb all I can learn.
The point is, that coming back from injuries is hard. Time away from climbing is hard. It is especially hard the longer it gets. You might feel out of touch with your friends. They may be progressing past you. You might feel dissapointed because you were so close to your goals or advancing so far. No one will argue it feels good to miss out. However, you can come back. We can all comeback. We can embrace that come back strongly, confidently, and with a positive attitude.
At this point, I have lost the idea of coming back to the same level I left climbing at. However, I will come back. I will slowly build up my training, from the beginning, because jumping back into it where I left could cause injury too. I will climb a lot at lower levels and practice my technique. In the end, I could come back a much better climber.
Time away might erase what we had worked up to some degree. It might also give us a chance to come back free of bad habits or poor technique. It also gives us a chance to come back with a solid plan and knowledge of what works. There are some merits to starting over. I will be so excited and fresh getting back to it, it will return all that passion and awe of just starting. It will help me find the intrinsic loves of climbing again. The enjoyment of the movement, the feeling of little accomplishments, etc. I will start slow and listen to my body, but naturally I should progress faster because I will know how.
Time away from climbing is inevitable. We all get sick, injured, consumed by work, or needed by family. We all will have to take time away at some point. How we use that time and the attitude we keep about it are the important things. Remember what we can keep doing to help us stay strong. Remember how we can motivate ourselves, stay involved, and stay positive. We love climbing and at the end of the day, no matter where we are, we will always want to come back to it.
It looks like more starting over, but it will only get better and better.