Back to Basics

On January 8, 2013


The board had a meeting and decided that I had to do more conditioning before I was ready for climbing again. What the board says happens. Ph. Ben Finley

The board had a meeting and decided that I had to do more conditioning before I was ready for climbing again. What the board says happens. Ph. Ben Finley

As ever I am hopeful again that I am almost mended and able to start bringing physical exercise back into my days. So I will start writing a new sentence in this jigsaw of a blog entry. Writing when you are injured is really difficult! Your feelings about the situation swing so much from day to day and even hour to hour. It often makes it worse when you sit down and think solely about the situation. There is so much unknown and insecurity about it. You are not in control and you don’t understand your body anymore. It is hard to see your muscles reduce in size and a Christmas belly push out behind the inactive core muscles.

I am unfortunately seeing into the hard world that many of my close friends have lived through as well.  I am approaching 2 months of no training and less than a hand full of climbing days. If I get it right then hopefully I can avoid much more of a saga. I want to reach out to Kitty, Shauna, Ailsa, Eleanor Hopkins, Jacob Cook and all the other fantastic climbers that are struggling through or fighting out of an injury. This is my first real injury and I am still trying to work out how to deal with it. A back is a difficult one as it has affected everything I do!

I first noticed the pain when larking around waiting for a train in Slovenia I struggled on the Slovenian Granit boulders over the next week and was more and more aware of a discomfort in my lower back. I eventually started backing out of the bouldering sessions in the gyms that week. The next weekend I had my final international competition of the year. I found I physically could not pull on the steep powerful section of the first route, spitting me off low down.

The Austrian phsyio kindly looked at it, she was confused about the relation of the problem to my core. Carol Hayes has been fantastic at looking over it and I am very grateful for her time! I have been for 3 sports injury massages, the in-house physio at the Depot Leeds, Rory Holliday is fantastic, a Chinese back wack was dubious. I am lucky to get a couple at home from my sister (she is small enough to walk up and down your back, magic a swear!) and my dad has done a course on back massage so this has been great.

The problem as I have been told so far seems to be caused by anterior shearing of a left Facit joint of the lumbar spine with possible agrivation of a Sacro-Iliac joint. This might be combined with an inflamed disk membrane. The supporting muscles of the inner core have de-activated and the bigger muscles have stiffened up, the body’s inbuilt response to the pain.

In reality my back has been ok, I have done no way near the damage of the horror stories I have heard. There is a surprising number of bad back casualties in the climbing world, family and friends. The scariest being unable to get out of bed, constant severe pain and several years out of hard climbing! It seems ether 2 weeks, 4-6months or 2 years has been the most common recovery time for people. The majority of the time my back has felt ok, I only get direct pain when I lean backwards or forwards, flexing or extending the spine quite far. Half of the days it feels like it might be better but a bad habit of regularly checking by bending over proved there still to be a problem. Tiny things have the habit of aggravating it for another couple of days, a foot slip going down the stairs, moving a chair around, dancing and frustratingly most of the sessions where I try and do some rehab work on it or condition other parts of my body.

I hope I have done everything right and am giving it the best chance to get better. The agony of not knowing is really hard. I obviously want to be doing as much to help it recover as possible. Going out power walking, doing pelvic floor exercises and vertical traversing are some of the many. It is very difficult not to think about the reversibility of all the training I have done but also the thought of having a bad back for 2 years is pretty desperate. All of this is happening just as I have got super motivated for following a high level climbing career and finally made the commitment in my head that I should do follow this dream. I have already missed 2 weeks booked bouldering in France and I have a month trip to El Chorro and Cataluña fast approaching!

The next sentence of the last paragraph was going… I can’t run, I can’t…, I can’t…, I can’t…, I can’t… The most important thing is that I can take a step back from my daily life (you might say climbing is my life) and look at what I have made it into and where I want it to go, what’s important to me and what I want to achieve. How will I resume if I can start climbing hard again and what life has for me if I can’t. There is so much life has to offer all of us. At a time like this I am looking around me and almost overcome with the possibilities I have. Often I have to remind myself that it is the single opportunity in front of you at any given moment that is all that matters but this time away from a focused lifestyle has given me new perspectives and more direction something I really needed the time for.

I have given and received more time with my family at a difficult time for us. We have needed each-other as love, fear, desperation, life and death has rippled through our foundations. I have done some maintenance and fresh sculpting of the precious bridges that I have to my old school friends. Ailsa and me studied in the workshop of life and the built the beautiful sculptures of the passions of life in our mind, we are understanding the hand of the artisan ever more (maybe one day I will try and share these amazing metaphors with you!). I will hopefully spend a week with my gran giving time to those who are too old to care for themselves at St Michael’s hospice in Basingstoke and the Allotment organization will be ready for the new year of student organic food growing.

I hope to be back to basic full health for my Spain trip, onsighting a 8a and redpointing 8c within the year, inspiring the highly motivated to be the best they can and giving the unmotivated the desire, confidence and skills to do the same. I want to set international standard and difficulty routes for British route climbers and be at the top of the scene. I will share my passion for a happy sustainable future, without which we have nowhere to go.

Yesterday my back felt better today it feels bad. We have to enjoy what we have in-front of us. Give to life what we want to receive from life. Happiness is outrageous the secret is contagious!

2 Responses to “Back to Basics”

  • A really good read. Honest, impassioned, thought provoking and inspiring. I hope your back continued to improve and you are back training and climbing soon.

  • I hope you get your fitness back soon…stick with it as 2 months is really only a very small blip in the grand scheme of a training life..

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