Going Bould

Posted on May 13, 2015 by Marko Dimjašević

Courtesy of Ram Sripracha

About a year and a half ago I visited a doctor due to a wrist pain. That day one of the greatest fears of every office worker came true — it was the Carpal tunnel syndrome. The syndrome involves the median nerve that delivers sensation to wrists and forearms and in the syndrome’s case, it’s with tingling, pain, and numbness included. Luckily, the doctor said it was a mild degree. It’s kind of ironic to have the syndrome when your job description revolves around using a computer all day long. That got me quite worried and since then I took some measures to fight it, such as getting an ergonomic keyboard at home and at work and doing lightweight exercises for the wrists the doctor had prescribed, as well as trying to work out more in general. That helped me to some extent, though I’d occasionally feel numbness in my wrists and forearms. I also informed my research group about this and shared the exercises with them. Ganesh Gopalakrishnan, the group’s professor, replied by saying all of us students should do rock climbing and then there would be no such wrist pain.

Several months ago I got back to Utah from a few months spent in California. I was without an apartment so a friend of mine offered me to stay at his place until I find something. Soon I found an apartment and decided to buy some beer to thank him and his roommates for hosting me. Carrying two sizable beer packs on the way back from a store, my wrists turned numb and my forearms sore. I had to stop and take a break several times. This would never happen in the old days so it was the wake-up call — what kind of man am I if I can’t take beer?

It is that evening, in spite of no host having a beer, that I decided I am taking Ganesh’s advice — I want to do bouldering. Having the syndrome is the very reason to do it. So I made up my mind — I will workout and then several months later, in May, I will test if I can boulder.

Courtesy of Blockhelden

May is here and I decided today would be the test day. So today after work I went to a new fancy recreational facility we have at the U and checked out some of artificial climbing walls they have there. For the last few months I would get to the facility for swimming and basketball and casually observe the walls and folks climbing. Today I was there to climb. A couple of guys working there gave me a brief intro as I never climbed in this way. Basically I can climb however I want, but there are marked paths of a varying difficulty and they are color-coded. I looked at a color legend and then found an orange path, as orange ones are the easiest. To my surprise, I completed the climb and I thought to myself: “Wow, this is rather easy!” Hanging off the top of the wall (about 5 meters in height) I jumped onto bouldering mats and was ready for the next challenge.

Then I browsed around and found another orange path. This one wasn’t as smooth, but I finished it too. After that I took a break as I realized that my forearms got pumped. Forearms are, along with fingers, the most stressed parts of your body while climbing. My forearms looked like that time when I was carrying the beer packs. It is flexors in particular that got pumped, which are mainly supplied by the median nerve, the same median nerve of the Carpal tunnel syndrome fame. A few minutes later I decided to give a shot to a path on the next difficulty level. That one was unsuccessful as it was harder and the grip along the path was not so good. I called it a day there.

All in all, I would say the test was successful! My long-term goal is to finish all the paths on the walls in the facility and then do rock climbing with a harness at the same place. I already found advices online on how to delay pumping. Another thing that doesn’t hurt is to have stronger forearms so I will pay more attention to working them out. In other words, on a way to turn the Carpal-tunnel-syndrome-diagnosed wrists and forearms into boulders through bouldering…

Courtesy of Martin Morissette

Hopefully the next post on bouldering will have a crazy photo featuring me hanging off a climbing wall!