For all those interested in ankle strengthening, I have a little update from my first few days of trying the work outs.
First of all, the ones I recommend before with a resistance band, seem to work best with exercising rubber bands.
The gym I climb at recently purchased all new training gear and bands like the picture above were included. They feel sort of like a large version of the rubber bands put on lobster claws. My first two nights of trying the work outs were before these bands. I used a cloth resistance band that the gym had, since I wanted to see results and make sure I could do the work outs before considering any personal investments. Doing the exercises didn’t feel very effective and the next morning my ankle hurt. Not a nice work out soreness, but the wrong kind of pain.
The second time, I tried ones like the picture below.
These felt better in terms of the stretch they allowed. My ankle didn’t hurt the next day and I was able to do more. The problem is that since they are rounded, it is hard to get them to stay on your foot where you need them to for the work outs.
Then I tried the rubber band like ones. It made such a difference. It actually instantly built up my confidence. It must have given my ankles an appropriate warm up because they felt stronger right after. I know this doesn’t mean they are stronger and that I can take big falls again. However, to me this is a good sign. They felt worked, but not painful. They felt warmed up and it seemed like the right areas were activated. These would be my recommendation for doing them.
I also have been balancing on one foot for 10 seconds on a gym mat. This feels good because my ankle wobbles a little to balance itself which seems effective. I have built up the amount of seconds and use different surfaces to make this work out easier or harder. For instance, being on a gym mat is different than the hard wood floor and different from a carpeted floor.
It is still too early to be conclusive, but so far I am feeling good about these work outs. My ankles are feeling a little stronger, which helps me stay a little more confident.
If you are trying to get back into boulder after an ankle injury there are a couple other recommendations I have for confidence building and helping yourself. When you boulder, even if your ankle is starting to feel healed take precaution. I stack two pads and try to get a spotter to have a safe and well padded fall. Particularly since both my ankle injuries had to do with poor padding. One was when the pad was too flimsy and I bottomed out and the other was hitting the edge of the mat and not on it. The stacked pads help me feel confident and know that there is a nice pad wherever I fall.
I also take a lot of practice falls to feel more comfortable. When you are scared and fall, your body tightens up which makes you more prone to injury. The looser your body is, the more likely it will fall in a safe way by moving freely like it should. I climb to right below where the fear sets in and fall. Then a little higher and then a little higher. This helps me feel confident in the fall so I will be relaxed when and if I fall. It also helps me map out things that can keep me safe, such as a way to down climb out of the crux or get myself in a safe falling position. I can finish climbs feeling secure because I know what all the falls felt like and they all felt good. If they don’t feel good I think about how I can make them feel good or give up on that climb for the day. A climb that you’re only doing because it’s there and can be done, is not worth the risk. If it was a climb I was really drawn to, I would work more on making it safe and learning what to do.
I also try to find places to down climb instead of jump down. I map out easier routes around my climb that can be used for this. The higher you fall, the more open to injury you are, obviously. High falls can put a lot of force on ankles and knees. It is helpful to down climb if possible. Then there is no force. It also can be good to fully top out when you can instead of jumping down. Almost all outside climbs require this, few indoor ones do. However, when you can top out and down climb elsewhere, it is good too. In the gym, I climb to the top and use the top of the wall, which is always amazing to hold, so I can traverse to a safe down climb. Mine as well save yourself from all the unnecessary ankle or knee strain you can.
It is also good to remember not to land on your feet when possible. This is a lot of force on your ankles and knees. Try falling on bent knees so you land on your feet barely and fold into the fall. Or land on your butt instead as long as it is safe too. This can save some wear and tear.
As I said before, it is still a little early for conclusive progress, but I will continue to update with tips and great finds.