Monday, 25 May 2015

6 weeks later

Camping at Creag Meagaidh with Freida a couple of weeks ago. One of the highlights of the last couple of months.

When I last wrote on my blog I was not long out of ankle surgery and feeling decidedly delicate. But I felt ok - I had experience on my side and was well prepared with a plan of action for the recovery period, mostly consisting of hanging from small holds without my feet. 

6 weeks later some things have changed and some have not. I am still feeling rather delicate, although my ankle has made steady progress. I am beginning to use it gently on my steep board and very  close to walking without my crutches. But not quite there. My fingers have definitely become a little stronger and will hopefully get stronger still by the time I am able to climb a piece of real rock again.

There are still various things on my ‘stuff to do while out of action’ list that are undone. But I suppose I have done the most important ones.

Despite the preparedness, I have felt the process mentally tough as ever. Perhaps some readers might be curious as to how I would live out my own advice in part 5 of my book Make or Break, where I propose a mindset and tactics to turn the mental challenge of a rehabilitation period into a positive experience. In that chapter I begin by reiterating that noone should underestimate how hard an injury rehab will hit them, if they are truly dependent on sport and exercise for their well being. Then I go on to lay out how to use the period to increase that well being, at least in the long term. These two messages go hand in hand. Yes it can be positive if you do everything right, but that doesn’t make it easier. You still have to go through it, not around it.

And so to be plain, I have felt the fear and the depression, just as I did after my previous surgeries. Fear that I won’t recover and depression from withdrawal from the places and experiences that I love so much. My approach to dealing with this is very much in The Stoics school of dealing with challenges: to face them head on rather than ignore them with positive thinking. In my view, this is the only effective way to deal with significant worries or problems. Aside from that, I find that if I think too much about what I plan to do after I can walk and climb again, it gets harder to remain patient and go through my daily routine.

Pulling on small holds on my wall has or course been a brilliant catalyst for getting through the period. I have thoroughly attacked the campus board, fingerboard and foot-off problems. I wouldn't say I’m the strongest I’ve ever been. But not far off it. Such a short time isn’t even nearly enough to make such an impact anyway. I’ve found that doing one foot circuits have been the most challenging simply because they are kind of unpleasant to do. But it’s all relative - They are not pretty compared to normal climbing, but I still love doing them compared to doing nothing! I also spent about a week resetting the whole board and making and adding more holds.

I still have a week before I check in with my surgeon and talk about dropping the crutches and putting my rock shoes on again. And even once I do, I still need to make time to ease into climbing. So there is still time to work a bit more on my full crimp strength and build a little more endurance before I return to the ROCK!

One of the things I've done over the past three weeks is learn to fly our new drone, or try to at least. I'm still pretty bad at it, but it's good to learn something new. It has also allowed me to go outside while I'm on crutches, if not so far from the car. Below you can see some of my practice, filming my brother Alan MacLeod practising his pipes in Glen Roy and Glen Nevis before my sister's wedding last weekend.

Alan MacLeod piping from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.


  1. Have you bought this to film climbs? Whatever, the picture quality is ace!

  2. Hi Dave. Your mention of the Stoic school of philosophy caught my interest some months ago when you posted this. I appreciate the basic tenets of Stoicism. However, I don't think the philosophy provides an adequate method of mental training to enable its follower to live according to its principles. For cultivating a mind which is aware and non-reactive throughout the range of human experience, there's a growing body of research evidence pointing to meditation practice. I think its applications extend beyond climbing or injury recovery, to every domain of human experience. If this interests you, a simple search on "Sam Harris meditation" will link you to some blog posts on the subject, providing appropriate instruction. Sam Harris as a writer is a little bit like you as a climber, in that although his academic training is in neuroscience, instead of doing brain research, he primarily writes on matters like rational skepticism, philosophy, and meditation.