Injury is one of the toughest blows for climbers, especially the training climber. Climbers spend so much time taking care of themselves: warming-up before a session, stretching before and after a session, and doing cool-down exercises in and out of the training room.
With so much time dedicated to preventing injury, perhaps even more frustrating is injuring oneself while not even climbing.
Nicole Myers — BKB Routesetter, Instructor and leader of our Women’s Climbing Series — experienced a major setback earlier this year when she broke her arm while arm wrestling a coworker. While the incident was a complete accident, the results were nonetheless disheartening. I chatted with Nicole about her injury, and her resolve to come back from it even stronger.
AG: Can you describe what happened?
NM: Well, I borrowed my coworker Tory’s massage ring without giving it back. One day she saw me using it and jokingly claimed that I had stolen it. I said I wouldn’t give it back because too much time had passed and instead, some sort of contest involving brute strength was necessary to resolve the issue. That meant arm wrestling match.
I know my strengths and weaknesses as a climber. I know that I’m powerful, being mostly a boulderer, and that Tory has endurance, being mostly a rope climber. So my thought was just to slam her down — use all my force in one move. So that’s what I did.
Suddenly, I heard two loud popping sounds and watched Tory slam my hand down in victory. I was stunned and quickly realized how bad the implication was — pop sounds in climbing usually mean broken tendons.
AG: Yikes, that’s a scary moment for anyone. Did you head to the doctor immediately?
NM: My coworkers gathered around and gave some field assessments. Consensus was that I should head to the hospital. I was reluctant to do it. So the first thing I did afterward was pick up my girlfriend for a date in Boston.
The date happened, but not at a nice restaurant. Think Salem Hospital’s Emergency Room. They gave me an X-ray, painkillers, and referred me to a specialist for the next day.
AG: And, any good news from the specialist?
NM: Well, going to the specialist was honestly one of the scariest moments in my life. As an aspiring sponsored rock climber, injury was like the worst thing that could happen. I was thinking that after spending so much time training all summer, one stupid bet might have ruined my future.
The doctor asked me what I do. When I told him that I’m a rock climber, he didn’t seem to know much about it. I didn’t even hear what he said was the problem. All I could squeak out was, “Will I be able to rock climb again?” He said he’d re-assess me six weeks later after I’d been in a hard cast.
AG: Climbers know that even a week or two off the wall can feel like an extreme setback to progress. Six weeks minimum must have really stung.
NM: Oh definitely. You know, at first I was totally devastated. Getting in a cast for 6 weeks is like saying, “Yeah maybe you’ll be able to do the thing you love again, but we’re not really sure.”
AG: So how did you stay mentally strong while in cast?
NM: I certainly went through a process afterward. At first I felt completely defeated. Later though, I had a realization:
This doctor doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know what I am capable of, and I can make a decision to climb again by doing everything in my power to get there. Feeling sorry for myself wouldn’t help anything.
After my cast was put on, I resolved to heal as efficiently as possible.
AG: So the injury happened over this past summer. When was your splint removed?
NM: I got it removed on September 16th, 2014. That’s when I immediately began physical therapy, and the challenge began.
AG: 365 to V10?
NM: That’s right. I’m giving myself three hundred and sixty five days to climb a V10 outside.
AG: That’s a serious goal for anyone. And an awesome one I might add.
NM: Thanks. It is definitely a challenge. But I’ll train hard. I will focus. And ultimately I will show myself what I am capable of.
Stay tuned for training tips from Nicole including warm-ups, cool downs, injury prevention exercises and more, all on her road to climbing a V10.