Thursday, 31 October 2013

How not to get fat and weak with a broken leg

  • Crutch half as far as you'd normally walk.
  • Fingerboard.

That's pretty much it. I'm knackered most of the time from crutching and healing but somehow my life is working out just fine and I'm as happy as I've been since before I broke it. It's not because I'm being super-positive. There are some moments I just want to throw my crutches on the floor, stamp my right foot (well, hop) and cry. And indeed I do, more often than I'd care to let anyone see.

But just recently some little changes have been happening in my recovery that have put me on top of the world. First of all, I can feel myself putting more and more weight on my leg when I crutch. I stand on two feet without crutches now- which is SO much easier in so many ways. OK, so it's not 50/50 and I'm marooned, but it's a start. My triceps are more efficient and crutching is slightly easier*.

When I think about the day it happened too much, I'm able to really look at how far I've come. At how, incredibly after only two weeks after physio exercises, I'm now maybe 2 degrees off straightening my knee, not 15. There's a long way to go, but these changes happened at a time when I really, REALLY needed to see some improvement.

I've also been to a few lectures. Now, I'm not the most enthusiastic in a lecture. Don't get me wrong, I do care about my degree- but I don't ever really fancy a nice lecture. But I'm absolutely loving the normality. Going to the lectures gives me a buzz, it's a real shame it'll wear off in a couple of weeks! I suppose I'm cherry picking lectures too, on the basis that dragging myself up the hill to university 5 days a week is still too much for my triceps and/or leg.

This week's been a week of training. Shoulders were fairly insistent. Who am I to refuse them, the poor dears?

*Ah, crutching. It's fair to say that I've never hated an inanimate object as much as I hate those crutches. I hate them with a passion. Perhaps it's because they've come to symbolise everything I hate about having a broken leg. A loss of freedom, a tiring method of moving around, and the sodding untangling of arms every time I want to put them down. None of these suit someone as impatient as me. Mostly, it's because they're not as good as walking.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Chapter Five

Today has been the hardest day since breaking my leg. You see, I can divide my recovery so far into four parts:

The floor of the climbing centre,
The hospital,
Alistair's parents' house in Ilkley and
Leeds with Alistair

Things have been hard, of course, at different points in those four stages. But I've never been alone. I've always been able to hold Ali's, or someone I love's, hand at the start and end of each day. And though I'm very lucky to have Alistair, I'm perhaps unlucky in the sense that in the four years we've been "going out" with each other, we've never yet had a chance to live together. We're both students working towards that end.
And what's so very hard about stage 5 is that at some point, Ali had to return to Sheffield to carry on with his own life, and I had to learn to reclaim my independence. It won't be the first time I've learned this- I suppose it was the same when I left home for the first time. But this time feels a good deal scarier.

So while people I know have said I've been brave, and done well- I haven't really. I haven't had to cope on my own and although I have friends, I will- for the first time since I broke my leg- have to completely run my own life. Now is when being brave starts.
And I think that doing that with a broken leg is probably the hardest thing I've ever found myself up against. I still feel so vulnerable, without complete physical health. And so isolated from the real world.

I know that in theory I could get on a train and see Alistair tonight. But we both know that in practice I can't. Because unless I wait until I'm fully mobile, which could be a while, it's not going to get easier to start on my own no matter how long I leave it.

It's not just not having Ali around to help that will be hard. I'll miss the opportunities having a car around gave me to get out of the house during the week to places that I just can't get to on crutches. I'll miss the swimming too. And of course, I'll miss living with the person I've wanted to live with for years now anyway.

I hope I can do it.

Saturday, 26 October 2013


I saw a physio this week. She was brilliant- she said "So you fell off climbing, I gather you're a climber. So your goal is to get back climbing then?"

Yes! It is! Yay. She then took an extremely detailed set of notes about the injury before giving me some exercises to to to improve flexibility. By the end of the session my knee could be straightened to only 7° bent- at the start it had been 15°.

I've got my motivation to train back, and I'm thoroughly enjoying finger boarding. I've also tried swimming. As someone who normally hates indoor swimming as it's just not exciting enough for my attention span, I've found it awesome. It's very liberating to feel only a fraction of my body weight (my head and shoulders were above the water level thus I did still feel some weight, assuming an average human density of approximately that of water). I found that I can walk in the swimming pool which is great fun.

I'm slowly learning to walk putting about 10% of my body weight onto the foot. It's very different to crutching on only one foot- and of course, with my ankle being held at a fixed ankle taking a step is slightly contrived.

I'm missing climbing though, can't wait to get back!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Six Weeks

I saw a specialist for the six week (and two days) mark yesterday. This was well timed as I'd allowed myself to get pretty fed up. I was missing climbing, and fed up with having a sore leg, and generally losing motivation.

But the specialist seemed happy with the X-rays and said that hopefully walking with crutches for balance should commence in another 6 weeks. For now I'm allowed to slowly begin partial weight bearing, which has made balancing slightly easier. I'm still getting blisters on my hands because although I made some nice foamy handles for my crutches, the foam has slowly died to the point where it is now paper-thin. I have ordered some rowing grips. Hopefully these will be as 'oarsome' as their brand name... ;-)

It was actually going to the Depot that cheered me up and got me feeling motivated again. Most of my friends are there and six weeks seems a long time to be away. Though slightly intimated to be in a climbing centre at first (mostly because I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb, and people kept rudely falling off climbs as though it were completely normal to do so) I didn't get as envious as I thought I would.

It did, however, prove impossible not to do any training at all. A few pull ups were done, and some aptly named dead hangs (I wished I was by the end of the set...) and I felt pretty good :-)

I guess I need to get myself to the climbing centre more then.

I discovered I can feel the screw heads in my ankle. It is my new favourite thing to show to squeamish people. I want to know though, are they slotted or phillips?

I reckon Phillips

Sunday, 20 October 2013


When I wrote to my tutor at the beginning of the academic year, I said and thought two completely different things. In my email to the university tutor, I wrote about how having a broken leg and taking strong painkillers would make it harder to study and would inevitably have an effect.
However, in my head I thought that it would be the same studying at home as if I went to university and that keeping up would be no problem.

But I'm starting to realise that it's just not possible to get as much work done as I would have done otherwise. I spend all my time trying to do physics, but I just can't keep up. I think that the university will make allowances for this with deadline extensions and so on, but I certainly hadn't been making allowances for it.

As a result I'm completely exhausted and demotivated this week, after trying to study nearly every day.

For some reason I had accepted that my climbing will take a hit, and hadn't felt the need to feel guilty about it- perhaps because it's a physical thing, like breaking a leg.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Touching Base

As the number of lectures I am behind slowly but surely piled up, the need to at least meet up with my project supervisor at university became increasingly pressing.

So I went to university. This, like everything in the last few weeks was much more of an undertaking than I'd imagined. I saw my project supervisor briefly, saw my personal tutor equally briefly, collected some notes and crossed the university campus twice. The whole thing took nearly three hours. And I'd got a lift to uni and back.

The biggest problem was that it took nearly 20 minutes to cover the distance which is equivalent to the distance between two lectures (most of which are back-to-back). And this was when the corridors were empty. I realised that I'm going to have to carry on having my own little personal university and bedroom lab, and that going to university will have to be pretty selective until I can put a lot more weight (than the current amount- none) on my leg.


There was more training today though. And here's what I thought of the Metolius Contact:

Monday, 14 October 2013

Going Home

Today I spread my wings and left Ilkley for Hyde Park.

I'm more than a little nervous. In fact I'm very nervous. It's one thing to stay at your boyfriend's parents nice comfortable warm house with lots of space for crutches.

It's another to stay in a 'space-efficient' third-floor flat with, it transpires, no heating. Or insulation.

But, I can reach everything in most rooms from the centre of the room. Yes!

(I can also turn off the light from bed with my crutches) Photo taken by Alistair

Keeping Up

One of the things I've found difficult about the broken leg is knowing how much I can actually do, and how much to reasonably expect from myself.
The days I've felt good, I've tried to fill, but then I feel worse the next day.
It would be lovely if all I had to think about was finger boarding and fixing my leg, and I realised that those things are all I've blogged about. But this blog was supposed to be useful for anyone else injured and if I read this, I'd probably think "Well this is great, but it's not like you've got anything else to keep up with".
I'm a student. But before you think "Ha! Then it's not like...", it's not quite that simple. Physics isn't a particularly soft option, and the fact that I don't have to be in university to study is as much a curse as a blessing. The difficulty is that although the  university knows I'm broken, there's only so much concession that can be made. Extensions to deadlines still have to fit in with the rest of the year and in order to do well I really need to keep up while I'm away. And with a science subject, it's a lot easier if you can try to understand things by discussing them with friends.
Studying from home has really been the main source of stress in the broken leg situation. Everything takes longer with the broken leg and most of my time is spent on physics. I miss the sleeping!
One thing about having to fingerboard though is that owing to higher intensity, training takes up a lot less time. Which is just as well, really. I have no idea where that time used to come from.

Sunday, 13 October 2013


Today was a training day. I've been trying out different holds on different boards and I have to say, that although the Metolius contact board is enormous, there really isn't any wasted space.
I know writing a review when I've been given the board might arise suspicion but the board has a huge number of edges (half pad, 1 pad, 2 pads...), four depths of pockets, variable slopers, variable pinches (which are more than just a gimmick- you can make them pretty hard to hold if you hold them low down). Because there are so many different depths of edges, progression isn't a problem either. It's got over 30 holds, if you only count variable holds as one.

Ali was proud of his lighting solution- the bouldering lantern...

It's an absolute treasure trove of a fingerboard. When your skin dies on the edges, you can move onto the slopers. And for me, there are still holds that I can't hang and  certainly wouldn't use for several seconds so there's plenty of room for improvement.
The one thing about the Metolius contact that annoyed me when I was trying to buy one was the lack of information about hold depths and decent in-depth reviews so I'll write up a technical review of it in the next week or so.

If you lock off high enough- you get to wear the lampshade!
So I've had a great time on the board. I've really enjoyed the training too. One thing I've noticed though, about the training, is how tiring it is. I mean, with shorter times to achieve the same things, you expect high intensity on a fingerboard of course. But it's the level of overall exhaustion afterwards that seems to go more with the broken leg than the climbing. And in that sense I can understand why it's important to be careful training with an injury. If everyday life is tiring, you'd expect to be floored by something you'd find tiring normally I guess.
But a week after I've started getting back into things, I'm feeling pretty positive :)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Climbing Community

Before I broke my leg, I'd always thought the so-called 'climbing community' was great. Lots of like minded yet different people who for the most part get on well.
But I have to say, despite the fact that I've met a lot of people through climbing who have become great friends, I had no idea how kind and encouraging people I've not met would be.
And it's really helped me not just to survive the first few weeks of being broken, but to feel happy and positive.

When you're really into something like climbing (and this must be true for any sport) you feel like the people who can most understand the situation are the people who do the same sport.
There are a huge number of people that I'd like to thank for making me smile, so in no particular order:
Thank you to the UKB admins for making my blog do the thing... I didn't even know what an rss feed was... and for their words of encouragement. And to everyone who reads it so I feel like someone's listening to me vent (unless it's one person reading it repeatedly in which case thank you for pretending to listen). Thank you for the kind comments from UKB-ers especially regarding timescales and for not laughing at me for writing 'another climbing blog'.

Also thank you to my employers at the Depot, my absolute favourite climbing centre ever, for not minding that I just abandoned ship (the day before a shift!). I've loved working there from the start and I couldn't be employed by a better company. And to the other staff at the depot for being great friends, and the climbers that make up the Depot community who have also been very supportive. I'll be sad to miss the Battle of Britain in Notts on the 19th, it looks like it's going to be flipping awesome.
Thanks to Alistair for the days spent in the garage building a Super Duper Gucci fingerboard mount, and to Alistair and Seb for helping me train. Watching someone fingerboard... it doesn't get much more exciting than that!
In addition, thank you to Tim Wager of Wagerholds for kindly providing me with a couple of really nice wooden edges to hang off.
Thank you to Beyond Hope for taking pity on me and providing me with a couple of excellent Metolius fingerboards that I otherwise would not have been able to own, as well as some Grip Savers (warming up on a fingerboard. Well, normally I'd boulder for 20 minutes. Ha!) and some prAna clothes. It was incredibly generous, and certainly cheered me up. I thank you from the bottom of my average forearms. That and the mount have left me with so much training scope that the door frame has essentially turned into a footless indoor climbing wall. It's brilliant! Pictures of the training setup (and me happily flailing) will follow.

Revering the Metolius Contact Board. And what a beast it is! Yet surprisingly light... Artistically directed by Sebastian Smith.

And thank you to Tom Randall, who I went to see for training ideas a month or so ago and who helped me to write an excellent training plan that I embarked on a week before I broke my leg. Thanks for the enthusiasm in finding ways to do all sorts of things on a fingerboard and for making me feel like I can still do a whole lot provided I can find the motivation, and thanks for the ongoing support. I can do motivated, but that's not a lot of use without knowing how to train!

My family and friends have also been amazing. My parents 'popped up to Leeds' from Bristol to take me to lunch. Pretty awesome.

So that's it really for today,
And thank you :)

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Baby Steps

Finally a training setup is starting to take shape! After an afternoon of toil, my awesome boyfriend (with the help of an awesome friend) has made a doorframe-friendly mount with interchangeable front panels for more than one fingerboard.
Being suitably Manly
Had a quick go tonight. Excited!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Controlling Relationship [with Climbing]

Why do I feel the need to train? Will it make a difference long term? Who do I think I am, obsessing about training anyway?
Well. It sure as hell won't make a difference long term. I mean, yeah, I had short term goals- but what's a year of my life?
I wondered about these questions. But I've finally worked it out.
It's 'training' because lets face it, rocking a broken leg, it's the nearest to climbing I'll get.
Long term, I don't mind the loss of progression time. I'm 22! That's one of the best things about climbing... you can just go on forever.
What do I actually want out of this training? Massive strength gains? No. What I want is that feel-good, feeling tired, putting physical effort in endorphin buzz. Doing something linked to my favourite activity.
That is what will keep me happy. Is that actually training? I suppose in the sense that it's inevitibly  structured being fingerboarding. But it's not training in the "this'll gonna be the real deal, I'm gonna be STRONG MAN" sense. It's more of a mad, "LETMEGOCLIMBINGORI'LLSCREAM", psychological dependancy sense.
And that's the thing about climbing isn't it? You think you're strong, but then it ensnares you and you realise you're a slave to it...
Just to clarify though, this IS gonna be the real deal.
p.s. An electron is driving down a motorway, and a policeman pulls him over. The policeman says: “Sir, do you realise you were travelling at 130 miles per hour?” The electron says: “Oh great, now I’m lost.”

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Three Week Waypoint

The appointment with a registrar at LGI brought mixed results.
I'm not sure what I was expecting but I have to admit to being slightly disappointed when I walked(!) in and the latest x-ray was on screen. It looks exactly the same as three weeks ago!
"It's too early to see any kind of bone growth yet" explained Mr Whatever-his-name-was. I wasn't impressed by that. I've spent the best past of three weeks doing nothing BUT growing the damn things.
So I dared to ask him about timescales. It had to be done. He explained that the weight-bearing process occurs incrementally over about 4 months, and I can expect to climb on it after about 8 months. That part of the consultation hit me pretty hard. I hadn't really thought beyond the six weeks of not weight bearing and I realised that 8 months... well that brings me to May 2014! That's a long time. I realised I was going to have to be really motivated to train in any way possible other than climbing... that is to solely fingerboard and do pull-ups... without destroying my fingers/elbows/shoulders.
The positive result was that I was provided with a very nice protective boot to keep my leg in which is nice as it's protected from being knocked. I also felt incredibly vulnerable when I left the house as the only sign that it's broken is a couple of scars. I was scared people would knock accidentally it not realizing the situation. It is now unmistakable from great distances.
I got home from the appointment feeling pretty rubbish about things. I really had no idea that it was even possible to break it that badly doing what I was doing. 8 months feels like a very long time, and I struggle with the platitude "It'll be over before you know it", because the last three weeks has gone pretty slowly...
Nice warm boot...

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Little Things Taking Ages

Ali headed back to Sheffield today. I had no idea how hard it would be to do all the things I normally do. Drawing the curtains, plugging things in, remembering to pack every little thing I'll need for the day in a rucksack before I go downstairs, or upstairs, or into the next room. Training isn't even possible.
It hurts more than recently because some things are just downright impossible to do without accidentally knocking my leg, and even though it's now protected it's not used to this much activity.
Alistair's parents have been amazing- cooking and helping me out. But everything feels so hard. I barely have time to try and work through the lectures that I'm missing. I felt like a baby when I went to bed and cried, but I missed Ali's emotional support and I wanted to do so much more than I can.
I meant to blog about yesterday's (slightly discouraging) hospital appointment. But I'm too tired, so tomorrow.