Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Injuries, Cheese and Contentment

Here we have the second article in a series of guest blogs. Injuries are common in sports, maybe more so in climbing. They sadly come with the territory of pushing our bodies to their physical limits.  
Below Ellie Pygall gives us a little insight into her recent injury crisis and lays out a few helpful tips, that those unlucky enough to acquire an injury, can do to pass on the downtime and hopefully turn something negative into something more positive. 

 Injuries, Cheese and Contentment
By Ellie Pygall

Since my first foray into the strange world of online writing... www.nectarclimbing.com/words/sex-barriers... where I attempted to grapple with some of the issues of gender involvement in sport, it would appear that a misogynistic deity has struck me down with injury. First, my finger - resulting in being advised by the hand therapists to take three months off climbing. Now, I'm writing this sat in the A&E waiting room with a potential loose body in my elbow which crippled my arm last night and resulted in my long-suffering other half having to help pull my trousers up after I'd been to the loo. Oh...and we're supposed to be on holiday.

So...at the risk of being more cheesy than the brie that would be curdling on our dashboard if we had made it to Font, I feel that a piece on injuries - and gaining that difficult sense of perspective when you have experienced an injury - is rather topical. One of my personal barriers to overcome in this situation is a serious case of hypocrisy. I work as a physiotherapist, which essentially involves counselling people on injury or functional decline for 40hrs a week. I think that I know all the right things to say and do, but when the situation is reversed it feels very difficult to swallow my own carefully crafted nuggets of compassion. However, I believe that this is a common ailment...the old adage “it's easier to say than to do” springs to mind.

Any form of loss, including injury, generally results in us experiencing a chain of emotional states. This is the K├╝bler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. This sounds all too familiar. How do we push through these stages though, and break into the realms of acceptance, contentment and...is this pushing too far?...happiness?

Essentially, the situation is shit. This is a fact. No-one chooses to be injured. It's painful, functionally debilitating and can come with a host of other psychosocial issues: influence on jobs, relationships, social life, mood etc. etc. etc. But the show must go on, as I can't see a high BMI lady (or lad) singing anywhere. Over the last three months, my search for happiness and contentment has led me to (in no particular order):

Red wine
My road bike
Yoga (and my first ever headstand!!!)
My walking boots
Studying Buddhism
More time with friends and family
Learning about permaculture
My kitchen (not merely for eating the peanut butter out the jar with a big spoon during low points) – tons of new recipes and ideas on nutrition.

I'm trying to think if there's anything I've discovered during this process that I can share with you now...so here are my top tips that I'm trying to stick to! (Health warning: if you have a cheese allergy then please handle with care. Also cannot guarantee free from nuts, chocolate or general wiffle-waffles).

1) Happiness comes from the inside
Even with all the wealth, belongings and power-to-weight ratio in the world, it is still possible to be a miserable git! Regardless of our situation, true happiness starts from within.

2) Take enjoyment from other people's achievements
It sometimes feels like the last thing you want to do when you can't join in, but going out to the crag or talking to friends and loved ones about their sporting achievements can make you feel genuinely great once you have the right head-space and have been able to shake off the green shackles of envy and resentment.

3) As one door closes, another opens
An injury can give you the chance to do all those other things you've been meaning to, but can't quite fit in when you spend every night of the week after work training. A friend actually said to me “sometimes I wish I had a non-serious finger injury or something so that I had a valid reason to take a rest from training”!! There is so much time in your week when you don't climb, and if you don't know how else to fill it...then taking a break from climbing to discover the answer is probably healthy for you too.

4) Time with friends and family
Enough said. Dose up on extra time now, because when your injury has resolved you'll want to be back training 24/7.

5) You have the power to change
You might think of yourself as bad at dealing with injuries - often impatient and frustrated. But that doesn't have to be you. Turn things on their head:

Be patient and positive:
Use the experience to learn more about your body. The injury will have happened for a reason. If it's an overuse injury, then consider how you will change your training and climbing. If it was an accident, is there anything that you could learn from it?
Instead of frustration, think motivation!
Channel your energy into whatever you are doing. If it is rehab, set yourself small, achievable goals. If it is another activity – fantastic, enjoy the refreshing change!
You can actually come out of this a better climber
Take the time to analyse how you climb. We all have bad habits or areas that we could work on. Why not use this time to do just that? As you are returning to climbing, you won't be climbing your hardest, so try to use this drop in grade to focus on technique. It won't be wasted time!

Finally, remember...

Looking forwards through injury seems long, but looking back at recovery seems short.
Try not to think of the end goal. Create smaller, achievable targets. Don't compare yourself to your pre-injury state. Enjoy every day.

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