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Injury Impedes Improvement

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Kristi and I have been in Colorado for three months, I’ve been climbing regularly for two, I am back in shape and it feels good.

I am tempted to throw myself into climbing again. To climb every day, or maybe every other day, and finish every session with training. But here’s the thing… I want to take the “long view” of climbing. I want to be climbing way harder in ten years than I am right now. I have every reason to think that this is totally possible, as long as I stay injury-free.

Injury Impedes Improvement

The biggest barrier to continual improvement is injury. We all actively avoid injury, but other than trying to not hit the ground too hard, I’ve never been systematic in this pursuit.

In taking the “long view”, I’m trying to think more in training cycles rather than just training.

Previously, I would climb every other day, or sometimes every day, and try to work hard (and haphazard) training into every session. I’d spend time on the campus boards until I felt elbow tendonitis creeping in. Next, I’d spend a few weeks on the finger board, and then back to campusing, and I’d always just move to the next thing when I had pain in one area of my body or another.

This method of training is a great way to get full-blown elbow tendonitis, or damage a tendon, or pull a muscle. Assuming we are all humans, we could get injured in two ways:

  • Overuse injury . Your shoulders, fingers, and especially elbows seem sensitive to tendonitis. We’ve all felt the onset of elbow tendonitis (some more often than others).

  • Too strong injury . As humans, we are quite adaptive to our environment. This adaptivity is usually great (Thanks, great great great great grandpa for living long enough to have some kids!) but if our muscles get stronger faster than our tendons get stronger, we expose our tendons to unsafe forces. (Our muscles have a lot of blood flow. Tendons have almost none. That should tell you that one can develop faster than the other.)

Cycles are your Friend

If your muscles can grow strong faster than your tendons, this allows you to plot out what your improvement could look like. Rather than being a smooth up-and-to-the-right line, your strength should look more like stair steps. Get stronger in a short period of time, and then remain at that level for a period of time, to give your body time to catch up. If you skip this “waiting” period”, you’ll just outpace your tendon’s capabilities by a larger and larger margin. Inevitably, you’ll be psyched on some move you can do that you couldn’t do before, give it 100% effort, and POP, something’s strained, at best, or, at worst, ruptured/torn.

I don’t want to do this. So I’m thinking a lot about what these cycles will look like. More to come.

Post-climb snack with Alex King at Eldo. Post-climb snack with Alex King at Eldo.