To borrow line from a book I am reading by Margaret Webb, 39 is my super fit year. March leaves me with 8 months to go on my journey to climb 5.12 outside before turning 40. Each month has come with new lessons in climbing and training. This month’s lesson was forearm stretches, massage, and the value of seeing a PT.

Here are two great resources I will mention later in this post that provided some great knowledge for me:

How I Found Out I Needed Forearm Stretches and Massage

In the last week of March, and a week before headed to the NRG for a week-long climbing trip over spring break vacation, I began to feel that familiar stretching uncomfortable feeling in my left forearm. The same uncomfortable feeling I had experienced in my right forearm back in November before the week long RRG climbing trip.

Why do these things happen right before climbing trips?!

I assumed I was having new tendon issues. I stopped climbing on Friday, hoping to give tendons some extra healing time, so the discomfort would go away.

2 days before the trip, forearm still not feeling 100, in an act of curious desperation, I booked a same day appointment with a PT across the street. I am so glad I did!

Seeing a PT for forearm “tweaks”

The PT went through a gambit of ‘tests’ with my right and left arms. The most meaningful of which was a “test” for climber’s elbow. I was extremely concerned that the “climbers’ elbow” tendon, the medial epicondyle, in my left arm was in trouble, as my right had been in November. I was not looking forward to taking another month off climbing.

Happily, I passed the ‘tests’ for climber’s elbow. Tendons were OK. What was the issue then?

If the forearm tendons are OK, what else can be wrong?

Reproducing the discomfort to help the PT figure out my issue was tricky. I basically had to flap my arms Swan Lake style:

This is the best way to describe the movement required to reproduce the discomfort I felt in my forearm: flapping like a swan/ballerina in Swan Lake. Granted this is not a normal movement you need in climbing, but it should not cause discomfort.

In addition to feeling the odd discomfort while flapping my arms Swan-Lake-style, I also felt it randomly when reaching for things like dish soap or shampoo.

Once I identified the nagging spot in my forearm, the poking and prodding began.

“Does this hurt? How about this? Tell me when it hurts…” After maybe 45 seconds of the the PT driving his thumb into my forearm, we struck gold. A painful, hurty, knot of gold. It was the best pain I have ever felt. He stabbed this thumb into the belly of the knot for another minute then got out what looked like a tool you would use to eat shell fish.

He lubed up my arm with some aroma therapy lotion, let me know that it would hurt, and started plowing into my forearm with a tiny shovel-like tool. Best. Pain. Ever.

The difference was immediate after the knot digging. The muscle in my left arm that had been dug up was soft and squishy, while the muscle in my right forearm was not.

Self Forearm Stretches and Massages

As a climber, how much attention do you give to stretching your forearm and forearm massages? I have spent years using the muscles in my forearms without stretching them at all. It comes as no surprise that one PT session with tiny fancy shovel-looking tools did not totally fix anything. Later that same night, my muscles were balled up again.

My PT advised me that I could work out the knots myself with a spoon or just with my thumb and to not be afraid to dig in. The advice in this article helped me improvise with some tools for forearm stretches and massages.

Going on a climbing trip. Can I climb?

The PT’s answer was yes! Go for it. If the same discomfort came back, which it did, then I could just dig in there with my thumb until the knot releases. For the day and a half before the climbing trip, this worked! Whenever I felt a little something, I just found the knot and worked it. Hopefully this strategy works on next week’s climbing trip!

March Progress: Inching Towards My Goal

My March training log. No more “core stuff!” And, not sure which I am more proud of, doing 10 (9.5) pull-ups or sending a 5.12 on lead at my gym. ProlLy the climb!

The March Training Log! If it weren’t for my handy training log, I wouldn’t know I was making progress. It is so gratifying to look back and see gains made.

“Core Stuff”

Core training was major aspect of training I needed to improve upon from February. In last month’s post, you can see that as far as core training goes, I dubbed my activities: “core stuff.” Definitely room for improvement there. So, this month to improve my core work I designated a whole day to it and added ankle weights. I definitely need to be using ankle weights to get actual value from core exercises. Core strength for body tension is a must-have for climbing hard 11s and easy 12s.

Reaching Milestones: Sent 5.12 in the gym and 10 Pull-ups

In December I could do 4 pull ups. I started at sets of 4, 3, and 2 reps on a good day. The last time I did pull ups in the gym I did a set of 9.5, 8.5, and 7 reps. In four months, I have more than doubled my pull up strength. 😀

If I want to send 5.12 outside, then I definitely need to be sending 5.12 climbs on the regular in the gym.

Next Milestones

Consistency. Consistent training will be so important over the next 7 months. Training pull ups, hang-board, core, antagonistic muscles, cardio, and of course, climbing itself. Can’t forget forearm stretches, stretching for mobility, massaging, and foam rolling. Diet.

There are so many pieces to this puzzle. If one piece is put of place, it is unlikely that I will reach my goal.

That is not to say I am going to be totally neurotic about training. Lol! But, if I strive for consistency, continual improvement, and balance, I just might get there.

Now I am staring to think turning 40 is not a finish line, but a starting line.

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