Injury recovery and the importance of mental training

 I had the unfortunate experience of suffering a rather serious climbing fall last year which put me out of commission for most of the summer season and into the fall. Having recently been able to resume outdoor climbing, I’ve found that my biggest barrier has been dealing with a paralyzing fear of falling. Once I recovered physically (thanks in no small part to my wonderful Chiropractor) I worked hard to regain and surpass the strength I had lost in my time off the wall.

Mental training however has been far more powerful than any level of physical work I have done. Mental training is an often understated component of any athlete’s training regime, but it is paramount to creating a well rounded, capable athlete, no matter what the sport. The key components in mental training include developing confidence while being cognizant of the overconfidence line, developing an understanding of one’s physical limitations and barriers, developing an understanding of how one’s body interplays with the elements around it and learning to create a state of mental calm during times of stress.

Each person is different when it comes to developing mental strength, and it is important that each individual determine what method works best for them. The important thing is that athletes learn how to assess where they are physically and mental, begin to harness their thoughts and direct them in meaningful directions and work to push the boundaries of their confidence without overstepping them.

The importance of measureable, attainable goals cannot be stressed enough. Being able to have definitive marker points to gauge ones progress is a key element to any training program and setting mental goals is no different. Personally, I am working to build back my leading confidence. Before my injury, I was leading 4 grades higher than when I started back leading. My strength has increased greatly over the last several months, and in fact I am top roping 2 grades higher than last summer, but the lack of confidence in my ability,and fear of failing to complete a move still cause me to freeze up on the wall. My goal is to be back leading confidently at my pre-fall grade by the end of the season.

Personally I’ve found visualization techniques to be very helpful. Similar to when projecting a route, visualizing the successful completion of a hard move, or visualizing clipping into a piece of pro helps to focus my energy and keeps me from over thinking my situation. It’s when I let myself flashback to the pain of impact that I end up in trouble. I’ve been able to use visualization technique both on and off the wall.

Creating controlled fall situations can also help with confidence recovery. Knowing that falling and injury and not always paired in an important realization. I know it seems pretty basic, but having the experience of falling safely can do wonders for one’s leading confidence. Using a belayer you trust, taking falls is a good exercise to prove to the climber that falling In my opinion, mental training is just as important as strength or technical training.

The human body has an incredible capacity for performance. So often it is our mental faculties that hold us back. Learning to control your state of mind, knowing your limitations and pushing them is the only way to perform at the level you as an athlete want to be at.


Climbing WOD: the CRACK series

As a student, I am lucky enough to get free access to the climbing wall on campus. The wall was designed and built by local climbing guru Murray Toft back in the mid 80’s.  It was one of the first indoor walls in North America, and has changed little since it’s initial construction. The wall is a series of concrete slabs with features carved in, and limestone boulders strewn periodically across the faces. The cracks in between the slabs are designed to mimic off widths, chimneys, hand and finger cracks. The faces feature various cracks and pockets, and in recent years, some plastic holds have also been added.

This wall differs from most commercial gyms, as it attempts to more closely mimic real rock. It’s a great learning facility, but it’s not the best wall for pushing grades and there are very few taped routes. That said, with a little creativity, there are some really killer WOD’s that one can put together to build up to summer strength.

One thing that this wall offers is a wide array of cracks to work with. As someone who intends on doing a lot of crack climbing this summer, the indoor cracks are an indespensible tool. My partners and I came up with a series of crack workouts that will be guaranteed to burn you out no matter your crack climbing skill.

The crack workouts are as follows. Each crack sequence is done as many times as possible.

The Crack Baby:

  • Layback crack to failure, rest, Layback to failure again

The Crack Joke:

  • layback crack until failure
  • Easy finger crack until failure
  • Layback crack until failure

The Crack Addict:

  • Layback crack to failure
  • hand crack
  • Finger crack
  • Repeat hand/finger crack to failure
  • Layback crack to failure

The Crack Whore:

  • Layback crack to failure
  • Corner crack to S-crack
  • Hand crack
  • Finger crack
  • Narrow off width
  • Repeat 4 above to failure
  • Layback crack to failure

Yesterday I completed a Crack Addict, two lands of the hand crack/finger crack with three laps of Laybacking on either end. The day ended with significantly less skin on my hands. Tape is going to be my best friend for a while.

All of this crack practice is great. I’m heading on a week long season opener climbing trip at the end of the month, and hopefully I’ll be able to work some higher grade cracks this season.

Pulleys and Prussiks: Rope rescue practice day at the Uni.

Yesterday was rope rescue practice day at the University climbing wall. I’ve done a rope rescue course in the past, but rescue systems are one of those things you need to practice at. The individual aspects of a rescue system aren’t overly complex, but it’s the sort of thing that needs to be done with a careful order and the rescuer needs to remain methodical under stress. Having time in a controlled setting to go over the process of setting up systems, transferring loads and working through various scenarios is very helpful.

We did a bit of work with pulleys to start, and my friend Mara was patient enough to let me haul her up the wall. It’s been years since I’ve last set up a pulley system, so it took a rather long time to find the more effective way to begin hauling.  In the end, I found that the 5:1 was too slow, and little vertical gain was made for each pull. I ended up using a 3:1 with a Petzl Oscillante. Being a fairly light person, I attached a prussic from my harness to the pull end and used my body weight to pull the rope through the system. Once I figured out the 3:1 with the body weight prussic, it worked pretty well.

This was the first time I’ve ever used a commercially made pulley, and I was surprised at what a difference it made over a simple carabineer pulley. I bought my over pulley today at MEC (Cheap-y McCheaperson’s $10 Stubai pulley) which will be coming with me on all further alpine adventures.

We also did some practice tandem rappelling. The biggest problem I had with tandem rappelling was escaping the belay at the top. The mental process of working through transferring the load off the ATC, moving it to a prussik, and finally counter weighting the system with your own body weight took a while but I eventually worked it out.  While I was able to do it unassisted and without having to look up the sequence, it took quite a bit of hard thinking to work through the steps. Load transfer is definitely something I will be spending more time on in the future.

None of this stuff is particularly complex on it’s own, it’s just a matter of working through it slowly and carefully. With more practice, I know it will come along smoother and quicker.  There are tentative plans to do some more rope work in the coming weeks, so I should be able to get in a decent amount of practice before the outdoor season kicks off.

I’ve also realized that almost half of my locking biners have gone missing, and I do not have nearly as many slings as I thought I did. the MEC trip ended with a small mountain of new biners, slings and various other small bits of gear. If nothing else, I have enough gear to rescue a small village, and I suppose that’s some sort of accomplishment.

Reading Week backcountry skiing

Well, It’s been a pretty busy few weeks for backcountry adventures…

I went up to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park over reading break and spend 3 nights at the Naisset huts with some friends.  This was the first proper back country trip I’ve had the chance to do, and it solidified my desire to get out more.

The ski in is 28 km, starting at Mount Shark provincial park, heading into BC over Assiniboine pass. Normally there would have been the option of staying at the Byrant creek shelter, about 14 km from the trailhead, but the shelter was fully booked for the day we were heading in. Instead, we got up extra early and trekked in the full distance.

Assiniboine lodge is closed this season while the lease for the land is being renegotiated, but the rustic Naisset huts, and the Wonder Lodge cook shelter are still open.

The second day we headed up towards Eli’s dome, but had to turn back about 3/4 of the way up. the light was so flat it was hard to tell what was happening. I managed to get in a few good turns on the way back, which made up for the lack of vista.

The light was still really flat on the third day, and according to the other people up there, the snow up high was pretty gross and slabby. We opted to stay a bit lower and did laps on the Niblet. The Tele skis I am currently using belong to my mother, back from the days before children when she and my father did a lot of backcountry stuff. They’re about a foot too long, have basically no side cut, and there is no heel lift for hill climbing. So it was a bit of a challenge, but I still managed to pull of some pretty good turns.

It wasn’t until the morning we left that we actually had a view of Assiniboine. Spurred on by the cold and wind, we made our way back to Mount Shark and down into Canmore for nachos and beer.

We made pretty good time, 10 hours in, 8 hours out and the trip went off without incident. (A good thing considering we lost the group’s SPOT device somewhere between Bryant creek and Assiniboine pass.) Backcountry skiing is making me reconsider why I spend so much money at resorts. This is far more rewarding.

Citrus Spiced Chai

A lovely, delicious spiced chai that will make your tummy warm and your kitchen smell delicious.

~fill a medium sized pot half full of water.

~ boil water and add 3 bags of black tea.

~ reduce heat but keep water and tea bags boiling for several minutes.

~ add spices. I used allspice, masala blend, whole cloves and a cinnamon stick. around half a teaspoon of each loose spice and cloves.   (more if you like a spicy chai)

~boil tea mixture for another few minutes, add orange and lemon zest.

~ boil for a few more minutes, strain tea, or pour into a french press.(the french press filter is fine enough to get out most of the spices.

Depending on how long the mixture is boiled, it can get pretty strong.  if it’s too strong for your taste, add some boiling water or hot milk.

mmmmmm… delish

The Bike Root

The Bike Root is a community bike shop on the U of C campus. I started going down there last spring when I was building my current street bike.  The Root has been on campus for a few years now, and until this summer, it was inhabiting an unused loading dock in the law building. Unfortunately, this was never meant to be a permanent location, and when the Uni decided that they needed the loading dock back, the Root was out of a home.  They are currently operating a repair tent and there is a shipping container acting as a storage facility. It’s less than Ideal. Especially considering that the short daylight hours associated with this time of year is forcing them to shut down their services earlier in the day. The container is unlit and very cold.  This week was their last week of operation. Until a more user-friendly space is obtained, they are in a sort of limbo.

What’s truly unfortunate about this situation is that when the group was first given use of the loading dock, they were given the understanding that when the Uni needed the dock again, an alternate space would be provided. No such space was given. What with the University’s current strive to be as environmentally friendly as possible, it seems contradictory that they would overlook an organization as important and influential to the student body as the Bike Root.

For students (and most other people actually) biking is a great way to get around with minimal cost, and the fact that the Root offers people a way to build, maintain and learn about bikes, for little or no cost is extremely helpful.  When I first came down to the workshop with a box of bike parts, I didn’t know the first thing about bikes. Every time I touch my bike, I learn something new. The Root gave me a place to experiment, to learn, and to seek guidance from people who, although not professional mechanics, knew their way around a workshop.

There’s a petition going around to show support for the Root. If you want to help these guys out in any capacity, please sign it.
More info on the Bike Root can be found at their website


Wedding_2, originally uploaded by Sydsquid.

I shot a Wedding for a friend a few weeks ago. It’s the first time I’ve done anything like that before. It was a lot of fun, and I took way to many photos, but I was pretty pleased with the results overall. We went down to the park to do some portraits and I convinced the bride and groom to jump on one side of this spinning apparatus while I hung on one handed on the other side with the camera. They are a young couple, it was interesting to see the dynamics change as soon as the rest of the wedding party (parents) left while we continued with the photos. Everything suddenly go t a lot more animated and playful. If they keep that energy, I think they’ll do just fine.