(PhD) Life Wisdom from Bouldering. Part IV

Our posts on “wisdom from bouldering” have turned into quite a series. I’m surprised myself each time that bouldering has something more to teach me about life. But I guess you’ll always take away the insights you were ready to learn at that particular time. Today’s insight is about overgripping, fear and the need for control.

13) You have to take a real break to recover fully

Let me start of the story at the beginning. [At the time of writing this post which I had since forgotten, apparently around August 2021] I’m at my fellowship in Philadelphia (it’s the beginning of the end already). I climbed at two different gyms, Tufas Boulder Lounge and The Cliffs at Callowhill which I both loved (reviews to come). I have met great people at the Philadelphia Phlash Climbing meetings. I did mostly bouldering but also some auto-belay (which I liked more than I would have expected). But I also hurt my wrist. I don’t know how it happened, just that I felt an increasing amount of inflammation in my left wrist (which had been injured before I stared bouldering years ago). I tried just climbing less, giving myself more breaks, stretching the wrists, using mostly my right hand but the pain just kept getting worse. In the end I got myself a wrist brace (which I didn’t even wear that much) and found some more Youtube videos with some exercises which have helped me. In the end, maybe I just needed to take an extended “real break” for my wrist to start recovering. Maybe I tried climbing again too soon so I always interrupted the healing process (?). In the end, the “real break” was a lot less long and a lot less bad than I had initially thought. Maybe I just really needed it.

14) You can learn to use your energy more efficiently when running on low energy

Anyway. I have been bouldering twice in the last week so that’s great progress. I’m glad I seem to be on the mend because at first it seemed like nothing was going to help. Initially, there was no improvement whatsoever, no matter what I tried. I couldn’t even pin down (i.e. self-diagnose) what type of wrist injury it could be. My pain checked the boxes of different types but it wasn’t clear.

Anyway, when I was back at Tufas Boulder Lounge yesterday and my hand was better, I realized one thing: I climbed a lot better despite my wrist being weak. I just put more weight on my legs and I only gripped as tightly as I needed. I’m still avoiding swinging, weirdly janking around my wrist (which I had never before realized I do all the time), meat-wrapping, slopery stuff (gripping those is what causes me the most pain actually) and so on. I didn’t have high expectations and wasn’t stressed much. Things went pretty well. I didn’t dare try climbs which would greatly challenge me. But some climbs also came really easy to me which might have been challenging when I frist came to Philly. So I have made progress after all and that despite my wrist pain. Then I realized I was climbing well because my injury prevented me from over-gripping.

15) Avoid overgripping: Exerting too much control won’t take away the fear but will make you less efficient

We tend to overgrip out of fear. That’s not only unnecessary but also makes you perform worse (because you’re not at an optimum balance between energized and relaxed), it also puts additional strain on your body. Your body is not meant to handle constant stress without ever getting a break. Habitually overgripping will tire you out faster and affects me mentally too. I also realized that I’m no stranger to “overgripping” due to being stressed out and fearful in other aspects of my life. I have a tendency toward exerting way too much control over things. Especially things I can’t actually control directly (what a waste of energy!). That means I’m using much more energy than I’d need. And that I can never recover to my full strength because my muscles are constantly flexed and I’m on edge. That made me woner how much more effective I could be in my work if I stopped overgripping.

Think about it!

That’s it for today,

best,

S

PS: As a reminder, the wisdom nuggets from this series’ previous posts (one and two and three = Covid edition #ComeBackStronger) were:

  1. You don’t have to take bad holds.
  2. There is more than one possible path.
  3. You don’t need to reach the top the way the others did.
  4. Sometimes it’s a leap of faith.
  5. You have to try it again and again.
  6. Keep moving!
  7. Cool down.
  8. Sometimes progress isn’t visible immediately.
  9. Failing the first time around can mean that deep inside, you were still preparing for something greater.
  10. Doing something else (but related) is not a waste of time.
  11. Alternatives are nice but no “happy talk” can make an alternative exactly the same as the real thing. It’s ok to admit that.


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