February 21, 2012 posted by

A Defense Of Injury

“I had an injury, as I always do.”
– Jerry Moffatt, explaining what kicked off a great training cycle

We should change our outlook on injuries. We think they’re bad because they keep us from doing what we want at a given time. But they also force us to change, which with the right outlook is almost always a good thing. Change forces adaptation and, as any trainer knows, the specificity of adaptation is the key to making progress.

So just after training camp, during a full-swing translation towards building biking and running fitness back up, I hit a snafu. Or rather it hit me, as one of my dogs decided a snowy downhill run was a good time for some impromptu tackle football. Regaining my footing from her cross-body block wrenched something connecting to the old L5S1 injury and, voila, I’m back to traction exercises and back care yoga while my endurance training gets shelved a few weeks.

It’s not my first rehab rodeo and before I’d even assessed the damage I’d refocused my training schedule. A couple of years back, in the midst of recovering from the injury highlighted above, I took one of Kristen Ulmer’s seminars on the mental aspects of sport. Part of this was focusing on the beauty of injuries and how the changes they force on your life give you a new lease; license, or an excuse, to re-focus on something new. Reflection during this lesson confirmed it; many of my best performances have come in the wake of an injury.

The serendipity of this story is that Ben and I had become overly enthusiastic about sending a new route in the Coop. We were fit enough to get close but consistent redpoint attempts tend to make you weaker over time. Training makes you stronger, meaning if we stopped trying to climb and trained we would simply be able to do the route without all the fuss. When I called Ben to inform him that it was time to get serious about training he said, “I know what you mean. During one go (redpoint failure) I landed on the floor and just happened to be looking at The Beastmaker. I swear it was saying ‘Buddy, if you want to do that route you’re staring at the answer.’”

Fingerboard (hangboard) training is almost perfect traction for the back. It’s also the single best way to get seriously strong for climbing. Its only downside is that it’s hard to focus on because it’s not necessarily fun. I haven’t had a meaningful climbing road trip, where I was peaking strength-wise, since sometime last century. Granted I’ve been focused on other sports but still; The Year of the Van beckons. My injury being the key to great success.


  • Amen, Brother. Way to turn a negative into a positive!

  • Thanks Steve! Great perspective. It's hard at times not to look back on injuries with regret, but you reminded me that in every instance, I gained something new that I wouldn't have otherwise.

  • Its like Elijah and I joked about when we were both on crutches and still training 20+ hours a week…Luckily we only broke our legs/ankles, because we could still do all the important stuff. A middle finger injury would have been WAY worse. The outcome of my first 9 months of hangboards/campusboard only "climbing" was 1-5-8 on bigs and 1-4-6 two fingering mediums. Elijah was doing laps on 1-4-7 like he was British. Had he focused on power rather than volume (he was logging 300 move workouts on the campusboard I believe), he would have probably been putting up even bigger numbers. Enjoy the Beastmaker like a fine wine…

  • Not that anything but campusing matters but you two also both did your hardest climbing last year. I love that the year The Shed gets taken down, leaving you with only hangboard, leads to your best climbing season. One of the most obvious lessons about training for climbing I've seen.

  • Bullshit. An injury requires dope.-Jan

  • C'mon, Jan, get real. Everything requires dope. To the gills.

  • But, Big Tex, you've never once tested positive. It was only everyone you ever beat who tested positive.

  • Have you done a post on training with dogs? You could write a book, I bet… lots of dogs are genetically bred to 'close' on passing livestock to slow them. I know of several cycling and running injuries resulting from this behavior; sounds like your pal forgot you weren't livestock. Certain breeds (i.e. cattle dogs) seem to do it more, so runners/riders beware!

  • "Don't bite the sheep!" is what I say when they get too forceful. An Aussie lass told me heelers are losing their jobs to shepards because they are too forceful and bite the sheep too much, for sure, it's a issue. When they get focused they lose their minds a bit. They train easily though. They just need constant work in this area. Course all breeds need training of some kind. Seen shepards biting heels of ski boots and trying to bite bike tires. I would love to have time to write about training with your dog. Can't seem to find the time to write books on training humans right now though.

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