As you reach for the next crimp, you feel your foot slipping. Time slows down and begin to peel off the rock wall. Next thing you are flying in the air. As you swing into the wall, one foot braces to absorb the impact. A sharp pain shoots up your leg. Before you have even come to a complete stop you know what you've done.
You've just sprained your ankle!
YOU'VE GOT A CLIMBING INJURY- WHAT NOW?
Climbing injuries suck. Like other sports, they happen and are often always at the worst time. But if you are a dedicated climber it’s also the first time you may realise something...
Most of your friends are climbers. With your new injury, you may now feel alienated.
And worse. You may also worry how much progress you will lose with the time off. How many grades will you drop? How will your fitness fare? How will you manage without climbing?
I’m no stranger to climbing injuries. Spraining my left foot in a lead fall and then two months later having a rock roll on the other, it was terrible and really knocked me back in my climbing, both physically and mentally. I’ve also pulled muscles in legs, back and shoulder as well as an weird ongoing wrist pain that took 6 months to resolve.
So what can you do when an injury or setback strikes? How do you keep yourself sane?
Here’s my top tips to keeping your sanity and actually improving your situation!
TIPS ON HOW TO DEAL WITH A CLIMBING INJURY
1► Change That Mindset
Keeping your mind positive is the first step in making sure you stay happy. Start by accepting your situation. Yes you got injured. Yes it sucks. Yes you can’t climb for a while.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!
See the positives and get to work making sure you deal with those emotions. Sometimes injuries can be very frustrating to the point of affecting us emotionally. Just remember that even professional athletes have injuries and need time off to heal. If it sucks for you, it definitely sucks even more for them!
2► Have Backup Activities and Hobbies
By cultivating interests in other areas that aren’t climbing, you will have backup plans. This is best done before a injury but if you haven't, now is the perfect time to do so.
Think of other stuff you may have an interest in. Get into them and become involved. Being balanced is good anyway. Anything to move you in another direction is going to be great and keep your mind off the injury. You can’t climb, so find something else. The hardest step is beginning. Just do it and don’t make excuses.
3► Have Relationships Outside of Climbing
Before you injure yourself, you should already make sure you see your climbing buddies outside of climbing. This is especially important if all you ever do is climb. Go to the movies, have dinner, do games nights. It doesn’t matter what you do, just hang out with them.
Your friends will start realising you are open to things outside of climbing and become used to seeing you in non-climbing settings. If you haven’t done this before your injury, it may seem hard or awkward at first, but just keep at it and be patient.
4► Get Better at Other Things
This goes hand in hand with point number 2, but you can build on this by picking stuff you aren’t great at, and getting better at them. This can be writing, cooking, making videos or music for example. Do you know all your rescue techniques for climbing? Why not practice ropework? You’ll come back a more experienced climber if you work on these things. Most importantly, don’t procrastinate when choosing something!
5► Join Your Climbing Buddies and Support Them
Just because you pulled that tendon or sprained that ankle, doesn’t mean you can’t join in on the fun. This will vary from injury to injury, but if you can still belay, go for it and belay your friends. Keep the communication open with them. Let them know you’d know to join in when it’s possible.
And if the injury is a bit more severe, just join them as soon as you are able!
You can also take cool photos of your buddies climbing. Everyone loves getting some climbing photos of themselves, and in the process you are getting better at something!
Above all, it’s important to just be there with them. You’ll feel like you are still part of the action!
6► Get Fit!
When you injure one body part, you can usually still train the rest of the body in some way. Make sure to use common sense of course and follow your doctor's directions. Don’t push it if you need rest. Doing push ups or pull ups with a leg injury for example, or working on your core and legs with a damaged finger, can be a great way to keep yourself healthy, happy and fit. It’s always important to keep the body moving in some way even if its a short walk or some stretches.
If you are like me and are always ‘go go go’, having an injury can be a chance to get some much needed rest. Take a weekend off and just relax. Get some massages. Stretch or do Yoga. By putting special focus on taking care of yourself, you will come back refreshed and ready after your injury heals. This can often be hard for us adventurous types, but it is very crucial in our recovery and long term well being. We often forget to rest the body, so use the opportunity and force some rest.
While having an injury or setback is always annoying and frustrating, trying to see the positive side and emphasising recovery and the opportunity to grow in other areas, you’ll find it doesn’t bother you so much anymore.
Got your own tips on dealing with an injury? Leave a comment and let me know!