Lucas Goren's A2 Injury Recovery Report # 2

Posted: 11-02-2012

In my last report, I detailed the poorly planned training that led up to my injury and the subsequent diagnosis of a strained A2 pulley in my middle finger. As a result of my overzealousness I was ordered to stop pulling down for 6-8 weeks and although I tried hard to convince my Doctor that “lightly” gripping big holds didn’t even count as climbing, his – “I’m not having it, now get out” look – was all the answer I needed as to how much climbing I would be doing in the next month or two. Zero.

Having covered that, I must say this was an experience I was looking forward to for many reasons, the most obvious one being that I could now try activities that had previously been “off-limits” because they were potentially injurious or conflicted with my training. I took full advantage of this and started attending Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes as well as hitting the gym and swimming to gain fitness. My workouts were designed to address weaknesses such as antagonist strength, muscle imbalances, and general fitness. Most weeks I go to the gym and the pool at least twice each and top it off with a Saturday morning Jiu Jitsu session. My sessions are short and intense with a focus on 10-12 reps by three sets in a variety of upper body exercises that focus on pushing, pulling, and core. I swim for an hour and grapple with far more experienced martial artists until my body has reached its limit for being subjected to arm bars and choke holds (i.e. – getting my ass kicked). The sessions were designed this way to emphasize fitness and discourage my muscles from that pesky hypertrophy. Gotta keep the power to weight up!

If all of this sounds fairly textbook, that’s because it is. In fact, as much as I love grunting out reps and getting down with the latest bro-science, (You need to supplement with betamaxyahoo! Five times a day man!!), my trial of other sports and activities has worked a muscle that, I must say, has been woefully out of shape – my brain. Prior to this injury the subject of my mental sturdiness, or lack thereof, was a topic I was hesitant to approach let alone acknowledge. Clearly, it could be stronger under pressure. Yeah I could improve my focus. Sure I could hone my tactics. But…throughout my athletic career I have always held strength and power in the highest esteem and my approach to climbing has been no different. As I have encountered plateaus of varying lengths my response to them has always been to redouble my efforts in the most thuggish way possible. Campusing, weighted pull-ups, repeater sets on a hangboard and beating a dead horse were my go-to methods to break through “the wall”. In fact, if you look at my previous post you will see that these methods eventually led to a strain in my pulley and a long break from climbing. Now, these strength based endeavors would most likely have continued indefinitely had I not had my ass kicked by a 90 pound girl (note – I am 160lb. climber of gorilla-like proportions). Let me explain. On my third week of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, during the “open-mat” hours in which you can grapple with anyone you please, the previously mentioned 90lb. girl tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was open to grappling. I answered that I, of course, was open to grappling. She was easily five to six inches shorter than me and after a series of deft maneuvers it became clear that neither her height, nor her weight were a serious disadvantage. She had skill, as I soon learned when my head was perfectly immobilized by a triangle arm bar. Paradoxically, this was an incredibly exciting experience because it blatantly showed the importance of technique in relation to strength. I don’t want to belabor the point but the simple, concise epiphany here was that strength was only one piece of the pie. A piece. Not the whole thing.

If, at this point, you are wondering why I’m pontificating the typical boy-meets-rock-meets-failure-meets-great-realization-trains-harder-blahgs-harder-sends-bro-vapid-climber-bullshit that you come to Timy’s blog to avoid – it’s because I wanted to share the simple point that oftentimes (for me) or sometimes for you who get it far more than I do, the missing piece in your climbing is hidden in the subtler skills of technique and mental strength as opposed to brute force (which does have its proper use and application!). Hope this helps, or at the least provides some entertainment – I mean c’mon, I got choked out by someone half my size.

Lucas Goren
Boston, MA