Climbing and training for it have been my “mainstay” for quite some time. Naturally, when I have to stay away from it, it’ll start affecting me in one way or another. Especially these last couple of years have been relatively tough in this sense since, naturally, due to COVID: I’ve had to stay away from training, mainly due to external restrictions, closed gyms, and so on. Unfortunately, alongside this, I’ve had to live with a couple of injuries simultaneously.
First, I had a nasty fall while bouldering outside in 2019. While the fall itself was similar to many other falls that I had already had during that day, this time, I just fell a little bit awkwardly on my pads and dislocated my ankle and had two minor fractures to it at the same time. Thankfully nothing too major that a cast, rest and some rehab couldn’t fix it. But the timing of this was really unfortunate since it was very close to all this COVID non-sense, which meant that gyms in Finland started to close down, which then affected my recovery a little bit since I couldn’t get back to my regular training. Thankfully I was able to recover from my ankle issues quite nicely, albeit mobility is still a little bit worse than in my other ankle, but it is usable, at least.
During 2020 and 2021, COVID in Finland was going in waves, so we had a couple of months with no cases around, and then a couple of months later, there were hundreds of cases around. So during these “good months”, gyms were open, so I could at least train a little bit. But since COVID was still very present, and the training was quite haphazard for me. Meaning during the “busy hours”, I often didn’t want to go to the gym since there were so many people around. So there wasn’t really any regularity to my training which was a shame until around the second half of 2021.
Then, of course, I had to stumble upon a new injury around the end of 2021. This time a pulley injury on my right ring finger’s A3. So again, I had to take a couple of weeks off. Again the timing was quite unfortunate since, during the same time, COVID cases were rising in Finland and gyms had to close down again. Which again hindered my recovery.
During the first half of 2022, I also moved to Berlin, so I needed to find a new gym which basically meant finding a new “community”. Thankfully, I could get back into the groove of training in the months I’ve been living here. Unfortunately, again, after a couple weeks of training, I had a minor injury. This time a minor tear/sprain on my right knee’s LCL. Thankfully this time, it should be slightly more minor than my last two injuries so it should be healed in a couple of weeks, RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate) and some physiotherapy/rehab.
Speaking only on my behalf (albeit I do believe that many other “athletes” feel the same), being on the disabled list definitely puts a toll on me. Mainly because while I’m injured, I can’t experience life the way I want. Why is it so? Of course, there are natural factors like pain and damage that will, of course, affect anyone experiencing those one way or another. Also, everything relating to those, like medical appointments.
But I would say climbing (alongside many other things like music) is part of my identity. So when I’m injured, I always feel that I’m losing some aspect of my whole identity. This kind of behaviour can often lead to a situation where the “athlete” tries to train through the injury, and often, making things only worse. Tied to this, being unable to do something that plays a significant part in your life can easily lead to hopelessness and loss of purpose.
Most importantly, I feel that connection plays the most prominent aspect in this. When “an athlete” is injured, they can often feel the loss of connection, especially if the community around your sport/activity is very tightly knit (like it tends to be in climbing, for example). So the fact that you need to sit out training sessions that you usually do with your “community” can significantly affect your mentality.
This one was especially crucial for me in these early months of 2022 since I had just moved to a new country, new town, without too much of connections (outside work at least). I already felt that I had become a part of the local climbing community, and after my injury, I already thought I couldn’t be a part of it. Thankfully in my case, the injury rehab and recovery time was relatively short, so I didn’t need to worry too much, but things could be worse.
But can you get away from this mindset? I think, first and foremost you need to respect your body and try to understand that even though you might not be able to take part in the activity that forms part of your identity, it doesn’t take anything away from it. Instead, try to focus your energy on healing and rehabbing so that eventually, when you’re healed, you can return even stronger. Also, when it comes to communal aspects of this, personally, I believe that isolating away from others is a big mistake. Instead you should try to champion others and give back to it as much as possible.