Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Frozen February

"You can't always get what you want"
That's what the song claims, and it's right, especially if you're a climber and you live in Britain. Sometimes that's not such a big deal though, and you get to do something else fun instead...

Frozen February from Alex Barrows on Vimeo.

Once again I went to Wales, once again I didn't get to try Pilgrimage. This time because it was soaked with seepage. The consolation was a weekend in the mountains - catching up with some friends I've not seen in a while, climbing the classic power endurance 8A Mr Fantastic and even pottering on some slabs in the warm sunshine once the muscles were too tired for anything hard.

After a couple of days being ill and shivering in bed I got inspired by Chris Webb-Parsons' antics and took an afternoon off midweek in an attempt to Super Size Me biceps and lats. I didn't get what I want(ed). Again the the gods of giving it a go stepped in with consolation prizes, like the kind soul who used to give you a present on your brother's birthday when you were a kid, just so you wouldn't feel left out. I got close, I iced Hurricane like a cake, and - the best bit - I really enjoyed climbing grit for a change!

OK, so I didn't quite enjoy it enough to stick with it for the weekend, instead opting for some limestone crimping including a return to Rubicon. Last time I was on Kudos wall was back in October and I was going pretty well then, this time I was just hoping I wouldn't have gone backwards. It seems I didn't need to worry and the winter's bouldering has paid off - I felt stronger on all the problems, managing a 7C+ and The Press Low Left, previously given 8A+ but downgraded in the new guide which I think is fair enough. Whatever the grade, it must be one of my hardest blocs and it was awesome to feel all the training paying off, damn I love sessions like that! It did bring home just how bad I am at genuinely hard moves though - 8 move 8A? No probs. 1 move 7B+? No chance. Something to work on..

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Golfers' Elbow - My Experience

I've had issues with golfers' elbow since last August. Having talked to a fair few others in person and on facebook about my experiences getting on top of it I thought it was worth jotting a few thoughts down for others in the same position.You only have to take a glance at the online forums to see how common this issue is amongst climbers! One thing which I think is worth noting is that despite some people on internet forums claiming that the onset of golfers' necessarily means weeks/months of rest, I've managed to get on top of my injury whilst also getting stronger and fitter than ever - there is hope!

At this point I should make it clear that I am not a physio, doctor, expert blah blah...

The problem:
Last August whilst I was on a trip to Loup I started to have issues with the inside of my elbow. I've had issues on the outside before*, but never the inside. The sector we were climbing at has limited easy routes, so my warm-up routine involved a quite a few chin-ups and attempts at 1-armers. Despite the early grumble from my elbows I didn't change this. Clever huh?
When I came back to the UK I took a couple of weeks off, but after that they were worse than before and things continued to decline. I started to look online, did the usual cheapskate climber self-diagnosis and made slow progress for a few months...

Now read this:
That will give you the background knowledge.
http://ukbouldering.com/board/index.php/topic,9343.0.html this thread is a long read but has some useful info.

Things which helped me:
Recently I've been making much better progress and feel like I'm really on top of my elbow issues, getting back to fingerboarding and so forth.

1. See a physio. I hate paying money for things like this, same as everyone else, but in my experience it was worth it. They will be able to (a) eliminate 'other' stuff as a cause e.g. back/shoulder issues and (b) identify whether the problem is the 'normal' (FCU) golfers elbow or the pronator teres one (see the pdf linked above). Answering (b) will tell you which of the eccentrics is the one for you (normal curls or the sideways twisty ones). I hadn't realised until I saw the physio that apparently doing both of the types of eccentrics is much less effective than just doing the right one for you. I've had much better improvements since I started just using the normal eccentrics following the physio diagnosing that I had the FCU version rather than the pronator teres one (incidentally, the opposite of my self-diagnosis). I'm fairly convinced that this has been a key factor for me getting on top of my elbow troubles. One big question is what number of reps to use. There seems to be a lot of conflicting opinion on this - 20 reps/day, 60, ~200... My best results seem to have come from doing 3 sets of 15-20 reps. I do them after climbing on every climbing day but not on rest days. I've also experimented with splitting the sets between morning and evening on climbing days, however this didn't seem to work as well for me.

2. Really work out what hurts it. Campusing and deadhanging were out for starters. For me the high volume parts of my training were aggravating the elbows more than the high intensity parts, however it took me a stupid amount of time to realise that. It also took me a stupid amount of time to realise that downclimbing was the part of my high volume sessions which gave me the most pain - I could still do a reasonable amount of ARC/Aero cap work if I did it only going upwards (e.g. top roping routes).

3. Stretching - This seems to ease the pain if nothing else.
This one in particular hits the spot for me:
The stretches my friend Tom wrote about here also seem useful for some: http://tomrandallclimbing.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/golfers-elbow-a-possible-solution/

4. Hard massage - The physio I saw really got to work on the elbow with some painful massage. I recreate this at home using one of these: http://www.decathlon.co.uk/hand-massage-iii-id_8211895.html

* The issues on the outside turned out to be to do with instabilities in my shoulders and were solved and are now kept at bay using theraband exercises for strengthening the rotator cuff muscles.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Pilgrimage to Parisella's

This winter I seem to be spending most of my time going to Wales to climb in Parisella's Cave, and this weekend was to be no exception... Read more