Reach for the Stars

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Competition season is upon us. Wait! Don’t run….

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A local competition is taking place at your gym, you

  1. Avoid the gym like the plague, too many people, and most likely you’ll be beat by a 12 year old. Better to head anywhere else that day.
  2. See who is registering before deciding to register yourself, after all, there’s no point signing up unless you are guaranteed to win.
  3. Eagerly sign up but ignore the grade categories and sign up in a category that you believe will suit you best, usually one category under your actual ability; after all, there’s no point in signing up in a category in which you are sure you won’t do well.
  4. Print the registration, fill it out, look at it from time to time, contemplate submitting the form, but in the end justify that “you wouldn’t have won, anyway” and walk away from the opportunity.
  5. See the advertisement, decide that the event is for “someone else (not you)” and promptly move on with your life. If you happen to show up at the gym on the day of the competition, you will be surprised that an event is taking place and probably leave.

Do any of these sound familiar to you? If so, you aren’t alone.

Audrey Competing

Audrey Competing

As a recent World Cup Competitor, I have seen indoor climbing competitions not get the same adult attendance as other countries, including Canada.   I’m writing to tell you why we should change this and what’s in it for you.

USA Climbing is working hard to get our sport into the Olympics.  They are already recognized by the IFSC, USOC, and the IOC as the National Governing Body for all disciplines of competitive climbing in the United States. One of the next steps is increasing our membership base to show that competition climbing is growing and has a strong foundation. So, what’s in it for you?

Other than the opportunity to have competition climbing represented as an Olympic sport…there is a lot to be gained by participating in competitions. You’ll learn something about yourself, you’ll learn something by watching other climbers, and you’ll develop three important skills: personal accomplishment,
performance under pressure/increased mental stamina, and the opportunity to have a great time with people of all ages doing the one thing we all love:
climbing.

I wasn’t always a competition climber and when I started, I was challenged much the same way I imagine most adults are today. For instance, I’ve been historically the oldest competitor in my field, competing against people more than half my age. It’s scary to put yourself out there and be willing to succeed or fail regardless of who is in your category. But, your presence can help make a difference for competition climbing in the future. If you are thinking about participating in a local competition and have any questions about the benefits of competing, competition strategy or whatever, I can help.

Visit the USA Climbing site to see what is happening near you.

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October 12th, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Get Out of the Gym and Into the Outdoors

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Fun Climbing Outdoors

Fun Climbing Outdoors

Did you know that 40% of climbers in the Seattle area never make it outdoors to climb? Seattle is not alone in this statistic. In fact, it’s a growing trend across the Nation. To me, climbing outdoors is what climbing indoors is all about. It is a means to an end, not the end in itself. For those who want to discover the lure, the excitement, the adventure, the challenge of the outdoors but don’t know where to start, I have 3 tips to help you:

1.     Find your local climbing meet-up. Meet-ups have become a thing these days. Lacking a partner, want to meet new people, explore areas you might not otherwise go, join the meet-up. Warning, quality and caliber of the climbers in the meet-up may vary. Don’t blindly trust everyone in the group or the leaders just because they setup the group. Ask around or ask the leader of a meet-up about their qualifications, first. Want to know specifically what to look for, ask me.Talk to your gym about classes, or outdoor events.

2.     Often, gyms will host some sort of outing guided by one of their employees. Classes will help you meet other like-minded individuals where you can start to network.

3.      Hire a guide or participate in an outdoor event. Guides are professionally trained to take climbers like you outdoors and teach you what you need to know to be safe and get comfortable with the experience. Likewise, various events around the country (Red River Gorge Rocktoberfest, Red Rock Rendezvous, etc) make it possible for you to meet other climbers, explore the outdoors in a safe and guide supported way. Money from these events goes to different causes, some are for profit and some are not. Most of them enlist a range of talented climbers to help support their cause, which makes the experience even more enlightening by allowing you the opportunity to participate in a class with them.

For example, I’m orgnazing an outing to the Red River Gorge November 4 – 6, 2011. Anyone can sign up. Read more here….

Do those endorphins really work?

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Make your workout session. When you commit to your workouts you will 1. feel a sense of accomplishment by doing something you set out to do 2. become more relaxed and in better spirits and 3. continue the progress on your fitness journey.

I’ve just had one heck of a week, and it’s only Weds! News that my shoulder situation could be a by-product of an inflammation of the brachial nerves has been a downer. Last week I struggled with lack of energy, shoulder pain, muscle failure, and a myriad of small but compounding work/life stresses. Working out was the last thing on my mind, but I dragged myself to the gym and made each of my physical therapy sessions. I had to reduce weights on some exercises like my external rotations. Instead of enjoying my new progression to 5# weights, I had to back off to 4#. Notably, it was not a week of progress or breakthroughs. In fact, it pretty much felt like a week of set backs. However, despite this notion, I found myself after each workout excited and even relieved that I had achieved as much as I did. I even very nearly sent a route in the gym that is hard for me, made a new high point, when I initially thought I could barely get off the ground! That was progress and I was happy.

What does this have to do with endorphins (hormones attributed as a mood enhancer that are released when working out)?

I was talking with a friend today who has been struggling to find the time to commit to working out. She’s not a climber but she recently did her first ’14er’ (peak over 14,000 feet). She recently started working out again and commented on how she had forgotten how good it feels. She’s been going through a lot with a friend in hospice and some work challenges, but this day, she was bright and bubbly. As she remarked on her need to work out more often, she was nothing but smiles. Clearly, working out helped her mood and brightened her spirits.

Whether it’s the endorphins or it’s simply the enjoyment of achievement, it’s been proven that working out has a positive overall impact on a persons demeanor. Contrary to what you might feel or think when the moment arises, getting yourself out and making a training session, will make a difference in your quality of life. The joy might appear short lived, but the health impact is long lasting.

Tip: Make a note after a successful workout (to yourself) about how great you feel to remind you on those hard to motivate days, why it’s worth heading out.

Goals, Intentions and Strategies to… climb Harder!

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We’ve all been there at some point in our life, asking ourselves how do I get to the next level? How do I climb harder, better, smarter, etc.?  The problem today is the vast amount of information on training and training for climbing. It’s easy to get lost or not know where to start. I’m an expert in training and here are 3 easy steps you can take to get yourself setup and on your way to climbing harder, today!

  1. Set a goal. Have a clear image or tangible achievement on your mind, in writing or on the calendar. This is a great way to motivate yourself and increases your chances of success at meeting the goal.
  2. Set an intention. Goals are great and coupled with a clear intention, you will find that the universe starts speaking to you. It’s like buying your first car and all of a sudden you feel that everyone owns the same model vehicle because it’s as if you just started noticing them on the road. Your intention will help attract what you need to make your goal. The clearer the intention the more able and willing people will be to help you get there.
  3. Define a strategy. I’m super analytical so I literally outline what I want or need to do to make my goal. Strategy doesn’t have to be that detailed, but it does need to be understood. A strategy helps maintain focus, commitment, and builds confidence as you progress towards your goal.

Finally, climbing harder means nothing if you aren’t out there having fun. Stay hungry, my friends! :)

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September 22nd, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Labral what? a look at opposition training for shoulders

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Physical Therapy has taught me the importance of training certain muscle groups that might otherwise be neglected if I just climbed all of the time. For instance, no matter how strong I think my rotator cuff is, it went from being strong to pretty weak really fast. At least, that was my impression. The reality is that I don’t do rotator cuff exercises everyday of every year. And, when I do them, I do them in a pre-conditioned way with similar weights/resistance and only at certain times of the year. Now that I am experiencing a shoulder problem and I am trying to treat it with the least invasive prescription I can find, I am learning a lot about shoulders. As a climber, this is an area to pay attention to since I rely heavily on them to get me up the wall!

For starters, I didn’t know that medical understanding of the labrum is relatively new. With the advancement of lab techniques and the ability to get better images with ever advancing imaging technology, it has become possible to study this structure. One of my Dr consultations warned me that people are quick to assert a Labral tear. Partly because active people can get injured and when it’s something non obvious (xray or MRI are unclear), it seems like the likely choice. And, partly because as we age, apparently this tissue structure gets more and more fragile, again, making it a likely option.

There is too much information on the web and opinions vary including amongs doctors. While doing my research, I learned that recent studies are frowning on taking surgical action on a possbile labral tear. There are findings that reducing the labral tissue (called debridement) or removing it can lead to degenerative or osteoarthritis. Therefore, the two options left to consider are either to repair the labrum or rehabilitate through physical therapy. In short, not all tears need surgical resolution.

But, how do I know if mine does?

The body is a complex structure and the shoulder has many parts to it that may or may not be contributing to the injury. Further, one person’s injury and rehabilitation is not the same for another. As much as I might be guessing what is wrong, my doctor might be ‘guessing’ as well. From one Orthopedic evaluation, I was told that the pain and ache would ease up over time as scar tissue developed. And, as long as I wasn’t re-injuring the tissue, I should feel normal again. However, with the restriction that I have in the shoulder, I needed Physical Therapy to help stretch things out and regain mobility. Well, as you can imagine, I can’t fathom not climbing and any downtime would be a hinderance to my goals. Therefore, I took the risk to keep climbing (conservatively) and do regular Physical Therapy to help with mobility. If conditions worsened, I’d have to rethink my choice.

The shoulder is not 100%, yet, and my climbing performance is still inconsistent, but I’m doing it…slowly…and my performance is coming back! Further, Physical Therapy has shown me that no matter how strong I think an area of my body is (like the rotator cuff), it can always be stronger. To counter all of the pulling I do in climbing, I am doing a series of opposition training like the following: rotation exercises, strengthening the lower trapezious, serratus anterior, triceps, deltoids, and lengthening the pectorals and subscapularis regions. This is allowing me to continue to train, climb and prevent further injury.

My recommendation to other climbers, if you aren’t already opposition training, start and start like me. And, if you do this type of training from time to time, you might want to rethink how often or at what resistance you are really training. It might be time to mix things up.

Disclaimer: I’m not a physical therapist or doctor, these are my findings through my own injury and recovery process.

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September 14th, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Hello DPM readers!

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Have you ever had a shoulder injury? What was it like and how did you make it better?

Well, I am struggling with a shoulder injury right now. I’ve had 3 different diagnosis and all I know is that it’s still injured and I have to be careful. Am I still climbing? You bet! I took 6 weeks off this summer to no avail. My experience (and this is in no means a recommendation for anyone) with injuries has been that unless it’s something major, there usually isn’t anything that can be done about it. Therefore, it’s better to blow something out and get it fixed than nurse an unknown and forego what you need to do in life, which in my case is work (I sit at a desk typing (or using Dragon) for hours) and climbing. Sometimes, the desk work is harder than climbing. You might think that odd, but I think it has something to do with the stationary position. At least when I’m climbing, I’m getting blood into the area by using it. I just have to be careful how I load it. :)

I’m in Physical Therapy right now, actually had it this morning and currently my arm is partially numb from the elbow down. It’s kind of annoying, but I’m getting some tissue work done this afternoon that will hopefully assist with any impingements. I’m eager to hear your story so please share something.

Cheers!