Enhancing Climbing Performance and Preventing Injury

Climbing Performance and Preventing Injury

Our team at NFH occasionally teases me about the unexpected shrieks from my office during lunch breaks. It is a habit of mine to watch bouldering and lead climbing competitions during my breaks.  It is hard to contain my admiration of these amazing athletes when they send a really challenging route on their first tries.  

I have been rock climbing on and off for about 5 years. 

This sport is fun and easy to pick up, but as you move up the grade, it quickly becomes quite challenging, and you learn that it’s more about using your body position and coordination rather than strength.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that I’ve started having more headaches due to muscle tension built up on my neck and shoulders and more hip pain due to improper warm up.  Eighteen months ago, I fell and dislocated my left elbow and was forced to take a break from climbing for a few months.  It was physically and emotionally painful! 

We all learn from our mistakes and pain, so I started to adjust my approach to this sport.  

When it comes to sports injuries, prevention is indeed the best medicine. 

Having a proper warm up to open all joints, especially shoulders and hips, and to stretch out the tendons and muscles are essential.

I love that my climbing gym has a sauna. I spend at least 20 minutes in the sauna before my climb to stretch the entire body from head to toe. I also use a tennis ball to loosen up areas that are particularly tight. If you don’t have a sauna in your gym, you can work in a 15 min run on a treadmill to drive up your circulation.  

Fear can be a good thing in sports. 

We often view it as a weakness or a road block that prevents you from advancing to the next level, but it also helps us to prevent injuries. 

Most of the time when I fall and hurt myself, it is when I am not confident of my move. I thought I needed to be brave to push myself out of my comfort zone to get better, but that led to the fallI which required me to take a break to recover from my injuries.

It’s important to learn to listen to the signals that your body is sending you and adjust your choices. Practice and rehearse until you are at least 85% confident to execute the movement.  

There are a few nutrients particularly supportive for sports and exercise. 

1. Creatine

This amino acid helps supply your muscles with energy, particularly for short-term and maximal exercises, such as lifting and sprinting. It promotes physical endurance, power output and increases work capacity of the muscle. It can also reduce frequency of dehydration, muscle cramps and injuries to bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves. Creatine can be found primarily in meat, fish and eggs.

2. Another important group of nutrients are the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA): isoleucine, leucine and valine. 

Our body can’t produce these amino acids, they must come from food sources. They can be found in dairy proteins, eggs, red meat, chicken, fish and legumes. They help reduce or delay onset of muscle soreness and improve muscle recovery. BCAAs are great for long duration exercise to prevent muscle breakdown. They can also improve immune function after distance intensive exercises.

3. Vitamin D is another helpful nutrient in injury prevention. 

Research has shown that athletes with low vitamin D are 86% more likely to have a lower extremity strain or core muscle injury. They are also 3 times more likely to have a hamstring strain than athletes with adequate level.     

Before you run to the health food stores to buy these supplements, make sure you consult with a health provider first to learn whether they are appropriate for your unique health situations and the proper doses.  

I wish you an amazing and active spring and summer.  Be proactive to keep your risk of injury low!  If you see me at the climbing gym, be sure to say hello!

Dr. Sherry Su, San Jose Naturopath

Dr. Sherry Su, ND, FABNG
Naturopathic Doctor San Jose

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