Recovery - by Dave Sarkar

by Dan Crossdale
Posted: 17th Aug 2016
Tags: Dave Sarkar, scarpa

Blog sponsored by Scarpa UK




It happens to us all at some time in our climbing life. The last couple of years have been very good and I’ve been lucky enough to be injury free, in fact through all my years of climbing I’ve never really had any serious injuries. My mates all say it’s because I’ve never been trying hard enough, I argue it’s because I train and climb very smart and know my body well enough to back off.

That doesn’t mean I’ve been injury free; I’ve had my fair share of overuse injuries in those usual problem spots of fingers, shoulders and elbows. Indeed, I’m still very susceptible to them and as soon as I begin the transition from climbing outdoors to indoors my fingers scream in protest. It has to be managed very carefully to avoid a finger injury that will stymie my indoor training season before it even starts!

Right now times are very anxious and frustrating – with a very niggly knee injury and a week to go before a trip to Chamonix I’m in a very sorry state. This injury is the result of spending too much time walking up and down mountains with knees that are already high mileage. But a significant amount of my income comes from hiking up and down mountains so it’s something that will need managing on the trip and in future.

How did I get to this sorry state I hear you ask yourself – and therein lies the substance of this post. On reflection the injury was inevitable, I had changed how I work from a sedentary teaching job in a classroom to full time Mountaineering Instructor, years had been spent walking no further than to the crag, that doesn’t mean to say I wasn’t fit, I had been spending some years building up fitness to climb in a high mountain environment as I had identified it as a serious weakness. But I was getting lots of rest in between the walk in and the walk out (that’s the climbing bit!), when I found myself hiking all day, for days at a time I soon discovered my knees were not up to the job.

Keep injury at bay to enjoy climbing all summer long. Matterhorn boulder - Almscliffe Crag.


So lesson number 1: be very wary of any change in your training, climbing or other physical activity. It could be that you have decided to take up running or cycling to aid your weight loss and general fitness, or that you have decided to up your training load on the campus board (a notorious finger wrecker). If you have changed anything pay total attention to how your body reacts other than feeling tired from the new load – although even then you need to be wary as training when tired often leads to injury.

And onto lesson 2: you’ve ignored the signs (like me) or the injury has come on suddenly. You have to spend money on getting an accurate, professional diagnosis. I can’t emphasise enough the need to do this. It’s all well and good trawling the internet for a diagnosis or even buying and reading Dave MacLeod’s excellent book Make or Break. None of these can substitute seeing a quality, professional Sports Physiotherapist, ask around your friends, if they can’t recommend one then as a second best research one on Google and make an appointment to see them. If they are good they will diagnose and recommend a treatment plan. Don’t even stop at seeing one, if they don’t give you what you feel you need go and see some-one else. I had to do that and after chatting to a Guide mate I may have to travel to Staveley in Cumbria to see a knee specialist if it doesn’t improve.

Finally let’s look at lesson 3: stick to the treatment plan! This has been my Achilles Heel; I had been given a treatment plan and was sticking to it really nicely. Then two things converged at the same time: the injury got better (well it would, I was sticking to the treatment plan) and my summer work kicked in (I spend a lot of the summer hiking up and down mountains and working away from home – this was crucial). You’ve guessed right – I stopped the treatment plan. What I hadn’t planned for was a change in lifestyle. The treatment plan was difficult to continue when working away from home and more importantly camping. I should have foreseen this and asked or researched a plan for when I am mobile.

Make a plan and stick to it - always a winner. Virgin traverse - Almscliffe Crag


I’m pretty optimistic for my trip though, the injury doesn’t affect my actual climbing so as always, it’s best to be flexible. Maybe there will be more multi pitch routes with shorter approaches, perhaps more single pitch sport climbing and then taking the opportunity to bag an alpine route if the knee improves.

It’s a lesson for us all – foresee an injury occurring, get a high quality diagnosis and then if you are given a treatment plan make it your number one priority and stick to it! But just as importantly be flexible with your trip plans – the combination of fixed time and specific objective often leads to disappointment!

There’s exciting times ahead with a new Depot on the horizon, the BMC Coaching Symposium at Manchester Depot and a great bouldering season to look forward to. So enjoy your climbing, have great adventures and remember, every hold you pull on makes you stronger.


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