Staying injury free is my number one priority to stay sane. For the past eight years of eat-sleep-climb-repeat, I have been lucky enough to avoid the brutal sound of a tendon pop, the hassle of crutches, or the nagging of ever-returning past injuries. The following is my experience in keeping my distance from injury and what actions I recommend when the inevitable happens.
The holy grail of my injury preventative finds is the daily 20-minute injury prevention exercises from Dr. Jared Vagy’s Climb Injury Free, which I’ve practiced religiously for years. Including a love-hate relationship with the wall posture stretch, this daily ordeal might be the primary reason I’m only 40% hunched 70% of the time. These exercises keep my tendons happy (using the Metolius Gripsaver for “finger expansion” antagonist stretching) and my spine lengthened (by dancing my arms around while lying on a foam roller). I am indebted to Climb Injury Free for my posture and prosperity.
Aside from Vagy’s injury preventative exercises, I am a long-time user of the rice bucket and a newly-converted patron of finger-exorcism stretches. My rice bucket drills include martial arts and Esther Smith-recommended exercises, commencing with supination and pronation rotations and concluding by squeezing two fistfuls of rice in a fighting stance. I keep my rice bucket in the garage so it’s warm and somewhat broken in prior to jabbing into it. As for my new find, I am thrilled to be practicing professional climber Akiyo Noguchi’s finger care routine, where she folds her fingers back, pulls and rotates each finger, and massages both the webbing between fingers and the palm between bones. I was frightened at first, thinking my fingers wouldn’t be dexterous nor brave enough to pull it off, but after a few months of performing these stretches post climbing session, my fingers have felt healthier, flexible, and near spanking new.
Most of my injury preventative measures are basic and focus on the areas that are most likely to get injured, which means I have to be aware of injuries that my armor-of-antagonism won’t shield. When projecting my recent send of Hold the Doors v11 (in Mt. Charleston, NV), I had to pull off a strenuous heel hook that was necessary for five continuous moves, which sent a rush of pain to the outer side of my knee. To avoid injury, I added a new preventative initiative by forcing myself to rest a week between each session and performing knee strengtheners every day in order to barely make it through the next session. Thanks to Zack DiCristino’s knee exercises, featured in Issue 2 of the Gym Climber magazine, each Hold the Doors session got a little less painful and a little more send-able (without the worry of blowing out my lateral collateral ligament).
Despite spending a minimum of half an hour each day attempting to steer clear of injury, I did not have enough self-control when it came to Jabberwocky Direct v11 (in Red Rock, NV). In a determined rage, I continuously yarded to the crux pocket for a multitude of desperate sessions. Rapid firing at my limit eventually paid its consequence, and I spent the next two months recovering from a painful strain in my middle finger.
Dealing with an injury was completely overwhelming, and taking a climbing hiatus meant a broken soul. After bulk resting and research, I discovered an ideal and relatively quick rehab protocol (despite never fully diagnosing the injury). Using Esther Smith’s glorious hang-board pocket rehab, which I found on Training Beta Podcast’s “How to Heal Finger Injuries,” I steadily transitioned from zero climbing to occasional gym jugs to the hesitant return but ultimate slay of Jabberwocky Direct v11.
As a dedicated climber, my goal is to push hard and search for the max, which means injuries can be easy to find. Even though I took an injury-induced bouldering hiatus, both my regularly practiced injury prevention and staying in tune with my physical needs has allowed a decrease in potential-injuries. So with much debt to all the protocols I’ve found, including Smith’s rehab, I can safely and healthily say, all’s well that ends well.
Miriam Borgstrom has stood atop twenty-four double digit boulders and fourteen USAC podiums. She has been supported by Butora for the past four years and 8BPlus for three. She resides in Southern Nevada, carefully rapid firing.