Monday, June 12, 2006

The limitations of human physiology

Let's face it, our bodies just aren't capable of withstanding significant forces. Impacting a solid surface at 10 miles an hour will in the best case scenario leave us stunned, and bring the speed up to a "mere" 25 mph, and some of us sustain serious injuries. A decent number of outdoor athletes enjoy walking that thin danger line. We get a thrill out of the fear chemicals released at high speeds and during close scrapes. As a result, we continue to demand more and more of our bodies. We get around these limitations by strengthening our muscles, and training our minds to react quickly and appropriately to avoid serious injury.

Statistics dictates that the chances of something going wrong increase with repeated exposure to risk. So, a good number of us eventually manage to bash ourselves up sufficiently enough to take us out of the game. Those of who really truly love our sport- understand how heartbreaking such an injury can be. For some, the patience necessary to heal comes naturally. For others, not so much.

I'm one of the latter types. I recently herniated a disk and though it is not as serious as it could be- I'm not doing too well with the patience thing. The kicker, is that I've been encouraged by my physical therapist to continue climbing- but I am under no circumstances supposed to fall. Not even on a toprope. At first I faithfully stuck to the rules, but as I heal, I find myself constantly testing the boundaries. "Maybe short falls are okay" or "Maybe I'll just make sure to absorb the impact properly so I won't damage anything". Sure- like that works.

Invariably I end up stiff and sore the next day, vowing never to be so stupid again. In the end, I've started swimming again, but nothing really does it for me like climbing. So I stick to endurance climbing- especially the easier trad lines of Little Cottonwood. And, to my surprise, my climbing has been improving. By forcing me to concentrate on aspects of my climbing that I typically neglect (in favor of shorter more bouldery sport climbs), I am bringing my weaker areas up to par.

So, for those of you who, like me, won't be getting after it quite like you had hoped- remember that focusing on something else for a while leave you better off than before that blasted injury.

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