Let me preface this blog post with a word of acknowledgement. I know my injuries (if I can really call them that) are not life threatening, permanent, or drastically altering in any way. I am not belittling nor exaggerating either my own experiences or those of people who have suffered far more than me. But nevertheless, my ‘suffering’ however small has affected me and changed my approach, and that, I feel, is just as important.
On the 9th February 2013 I injured my back rowing. I’d discovered a new sporting passion, found I was very good at it, but my body had other things in mind. A diagnosis of mild scoliosis and an over-rotated pelvis meant my body was just not cut out for the rowing motion, and several months of physio just about fixed it, but ruined my new-found sport. I struggle with the regret of trying rowing, because I know I can never continue it, but it didn’t stop me for long, and my I decided to shift my thinking.
10th February 2014. As I was climbing – something that I was very happy to be able to continue during my recovery the year before – I slipped a disc. At the age of 21, it was a frustrating incident which required more treatment with a physio I’d seen a few years before for a knee problem. It led to more months of pain, tingling sensations in my legs, limited movement or flexibility, and restricted climbing. I still get pain and stiffness now, and it’s something I’ll always have to be aware of.
But what changed was my focus on my body. I recognised what I could and couldn’t do at that time, and started to try to make things work to my advantage. Certain climbing moves don’t work for me as my hip muscles don’t engage (yet), so I have to think creatively of how to do it my way. I now go to Body Balance once a week to relax my back after days of tension, and slowly but surely renew the strength in areas of my body that have been neglected due to an odd skeletal structure. After just 8 or so weeks I’m already seeing improvements to my lower back, which is down to perseverance and the right sort of exercise.
My focus is not on the injury, but the recovery. If it’s sore, I stretch and take pain killers. If it’s strong, I climb harder and make the most of the respite. However I admit that this week, I’ve been somewhat tentative. I’m not a suspicious person, but I couldn’t help feel a bit wary of this time of year. But do you know what, I’m just fine. I climbed really well on Tuesday, regaining my confidence on lead and managing to warm up on grades that were at my limit just before Christmas. I might currently be sat at home with a fever fighting off some mystery bug (I blame the train commute and an office job), but my back is relaxed and pain-free.
Injuries happen. If you do physical activity, you may increase the risk of this. It’s an annoying part of training, something you’ll keep in the back of your mind, and it can lead you to have to change your way of life. Luckily for me, those changes haven’t been extreme or hugely negative. The key to take from it all is how you can improve. How you can prevent further problems, and ensure your body is as strong as it can be for as long as possible. I refuse to reach an age where I can’t walk due to inactivity – push through the physio, do the exercises, and just keep going.