Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Seeming Death of an Ankle Pt2 > Active Ankle Review and Update

Phew, if you didn't read my last post about my ankle you should go and read it: here. It's a heart warming tale of woe with a pinch of pity from myself thrown in for good measure :)

Now you've read that last post read this one... it's part review and update on what's going on with my ankle and one of the reasons reviews are taking so long to get posted.

The last time I wrote about my ankle I was on the brink of getting a MRI. So in early Feb I wandered down to the hospital for something that I thought would be an intrusive procedure ended up being a very quick 20 minute procedure where the scan went well. Results were quick coming and I headed on back to see the doctor again. She basically said that it was swollen and she couldn't see anything :) (Yey technology and huge magnets) So that was useful I guess... and she request I go get a CT scan. Basically another waiting procedure for a few months.... so what's been happening since then?

The fine people at Active Ankle sent me a couple of braces to try. They sent two the T2 and the EZ Lacer; one of them is a solid type of brace and the other one is a sock that laces up... and lets get to the nitty gritty on this. At this point I was still climbing a little and trying to keep up my training; between that and going to physio a few times a week I was on a good track; managing my injury pretty well and feeling OK. Because of the injury I was being very careful with what I climbed, I didn't drop to the mats at all. That was until these braces turned up...

Active Ankle: T2

Sitting on the couch without climbing shoes both of the braces are nice and comfortable, the T2 being the easier and quicker one to get on and off, the EZ lace being something very close to taping your ankle. (Look up taping a sprained ankle... you'll need a few trys to get it right and a whole bunch of tape) Trying both of them side by side it seemed that the T2 felt less secure than the EZ Lace mainly because the EZ Lace is a full on sock that you can lace up as tight as you want.

Active Ankle: EZ Lace
Lets face it the opening on a pair of climbing shoes is waaaay smaller than a pair of running shoes! What's interesting (and why the kind folks at Active Ankle sent me this stuff to review in the first place) is that the EZ lace isn't great in climbing shoes, sure if you're wearing boots to climb a mountiain or to go on a hike the EZ is awesome but it bunches up in climbing shoes and gets in the way... it was kind of a shame because it was the one I was kind of rooting for in all of this mainly because MC Dion had showed me how to tape my ankle properly; The T2 is the bomb in climbing shoes, as it just fits under your heal and is an easy on - off it means you can climb and then when you take off your shoes you can lose the brace for a little bit. Sitting on the couch is all fine and well, but you know us and therefore you know me and despite a few complaints from MC I started climbing a little now and then.

Both braces performed exceptionally well with the T2 being the one I'd actually opt for when climbing. It gives a level of support that I was totally surprised by and allows you to actively use your ankle despite your injury.

So if you have a tendency to roll your ankles, have weak ankles etc then the T2, the T1 or maybe the Volt will actually give you some of the support that you need (I kind of want a Volt so I can compare the T2 against it in a full on review) The only downside of the brace apart from the below is you do end up a little sweatier where the pads support your ankle.

Climbing in a brace is a very strange and yet interesting process. Where I climb people know that I'd injured myself and that I wasn't climbing, for them to see me back on the wall bumbling around, well it seemed like all was well and I was back again. I spent a lot of time pulling up my pant leg and showing them the brace, talking them through it and then explaining that "I wasn't back" I was just trying to keep a base level of climbing fitness so when it was better I wouldn't be back at ground zero and finding a very hard to get back to where I was :) It's also of note that when I was setting there would be corresponding routes close to each other (one harder than the other) that had opposing moves!! People at the gym didn't notice, but what I did was where there was going to be a crux move I'd have a different route that had a handily placed jug in the right place so I always had a "get out" just in case. Why a get out? Despite being able to climb with a brace, and I'll talk about that later, I wasn't really to take any huge falls or impacts on my ankle, mainly because after getting my Tib / Fib back into place (it apparently was slightly out of place) we really didn't want to see any impacts!!

Now any impacts is an interesting thought right? Walking impacts your ankle and of course your body, running, cycling, hell anything that involves your feet is engaging your ankle in some way and here's the catch 22 of any ankle injury. You kind of need to stay off of it, like a lot, let the swelling get down and take care of it; I'm not that kind of person, I was walking on this less than a week after it happened and I climbed on and off without the brace and then always with the brace since. Here's the catch, with an injury like this using it makes it swell, icing it or contrast baths can help the swelling so it's not so bad... I walk to work, sure I work at a desk for Ubisoft but I walk to work, I also ride my bike a bunch so my ankle was never NOT swollen. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Who knows, maybe there will be a study, it wasn't hurting too much so I was doing ok... hell we even got some reviews out there for a second :)

Brace on for water frisbee
Let me get back to climbing in a brace, The EZ Lace, despite being brilliant for a running shoe wasn't my choice for climbing (although it is in my bag and I use it for other activity's), the T2 was (and will always be it seems)... Putting the T2 on is simple, getting your climbing shoe on is simple and then climbing. Climbing is a different matter, to climb something where it's very face on (toes on the wall, no back steps etc) is easy, you don't even notice the brace being there, nothing, nadda... it's when you get into heel hooks and having to torque your toe in pockets that you begin to notice it. Hooking a heel, we all do it, roll over on your toe and crank on up; with the T2 it's a little different to begin with. You don't have all of your range of motion (the brace is there to stop the twist in the ankle) but it also actually limits your movement when doing this move a little, you can't quite roll over your foot as you would normally do. Its the same when you're say back stepping your toe into a pocket, once your foot is there then you're kinda fine, to get there when your ankle is less flexible is tricky but again once you get there you're ok, you need to learn that one of your ankles is a little bit thicker than it was before. What I'm saying is that you need to adapt your climbing style to not work around the brace but to encompass it. You need to adapt on the side that was injured (or still is) and work from there; I've had many CHR people see me climb when I first started with the brace see that I was really favoring my right ankle and powering through moves and making unneeded foot changes (making life harder). BAD BAD BAD!! A little brain power and you can get over this kind of thing, I wanted to work the bad ankle so favoring the good one was just a bad idea.

So a few months pass, my T2 is in my bag at all times. Setting, climbing, skydiving... it's always there, if I'm doing anything that could impact my ankle or twist it it is ALWAYS there. It's like an American Express Card, "Don't leave home without it"

And then... isn't there always a "And then"

Something happened.

I was doing the reset for two days and after my ankle started playing up. Not bad bad, but bad enough... after the event I realized that two days on a ladder was a heavy load; what's worse is that I didn't wear my brace. Something went wrong, after we finished Sunday my ankle was miserable, just pain and not fun at all; this is April time. I'm booked for my CT scan so I take it really easy, don't do anything before I head to the hospital. We have the CT scan and I wait for the next appointment with my Doc.. it's a long time, it's a long wait, this is the point where we see what's really up with my ankle, I sit back and chill for a bit... but I don't really chill do I?

During this time Gui has hooked up with L'Ecurie, it's a local gym that trains people... HA! My trainer is seeing a trainer and when he tells me about it I see that he's become beast on the wall I go to see them and talk through my problems, I tell them that since setting without the brace I've stopped climbing as it hurts and that I'd like to you-know, sort myself out and train but not on the wall for a while, something that will help the ankle a little and keep me in shape without impacting it.

Phew, I never managed to get through one of their programs. This isn't through not trying, they will push you to your max and keep you going. The main aim was low impact exercise on the ankle to get it stronger and to sort out my posture from 26 years of climbing (I have ape shoulders)... it was going well, I was putting time in, working hard, standing straighter... feeling good and then... and then my ankle said no, it wasn't a warning shot across the bows it was a NO. I had to drop some painkillers (which I hate) to even walk, it was so on and off again that I'd even have Chris offer to carry me home because of the look on my face (yeah it was that bad) So that stopped my training at L'Ecurie (BTW: they are the most amazing guys and they really give a shit about what you want to achieve, the only place I've ever really felt like that (in a professional training sense) is when Gui trains me and with my family at Shakti. I cannot say enough good about them, they keep an eye on you, correct you when you're doing something wrong and will work step by step with you to your goals... I'll be back there soon))

I fucked up, the setting and the load on my ankle was too much for it and despite physio we were seeing no progress... and then MC left McGill to be the trainer for the Canadian Hugging Team (Judo (and yeah she is that good!!)) so with holidays and weddings and stuff at McGill I was kind of stuck on my own for a while... no physio and no L'Ecurie... me my brace and no climbing; dark times!!

So where are we at right now? Good question, I'm not climbing. That's where were at and it's heart breaking to say, I miss it, but I still set so others can enjoy my work (brace on of course); I'm riding a bunch but I'm not training at L'Ecurie... but here's the good news, I'm getting surgery in Sept or Oct of this year!! My ankle is going to get cleaned up and fixed and after some physio I should be back on the wall again. Yep, I actually thought about selling my pads and hanging up my spurs and getting back on a rope! I've talked to people about this, I've seriously considered shutting down this site and just not doing what I'm passionate about. Walking away and just not climbing anymore... but now there is hope, with surgery and my brace I should be able to climb and with a little adaption hopefully I should be climbing fit again a year after I hurt myself... but I guess that's another post :)

Now let me get back to the braces... they're kind of the reason why I've been able to climb whilst being injured! If I'm honest the EZ Lace doesn't really work for me, everything it does the T2 does. IF you have an injury that really needs taping then it's the one to go for (just get some different shoes (remember to wear it when trying them on!!)) the T2 is a god send, it fits in your climbing shoe and although you have to learn to adapt to climbing with it on it gives you the confidence to do what you want. Hell I was taking 15 footers off of the wall into the pads not worrying about twisting my ankle and making my injury worse, yes I know I shouldn't have done that but sometimes you've just go to, y'know :P

I'd like to thank Leah Blakemore from Active Ankle for even reading my email and sending me some braces to try out, of course I'd not have known about the braces if it wasn't for MC Dion my athletic trainer from McGill Sports for taking me to the girls volley ball game (want to stand out, be a guy at a girls volley ball game) and showing me that they were using them and doing just fine. I'd also like to thank you guys the readers for reading about why we're slower on reviews etc and for keeping up with us. We're, hell I own the place, I'm sorry for whats happened and for not being able to review holds, I'm coming back and when I do I'm going to be smarter and stronger than before.. I'll just be wearing my Active Ankle T2 brace and i'll kick all your ass'

Again I'm going to point out that this is my experience and that Active Ankle kindly (thank god) sent me some stuff to review. This whole piece is about my injury and what I have learnt through it, with and without a brace.Please listen to your Doctor or sports professional before you do what I did, I listened to them and then started climbing harder than I should of before I should have; I am a dumbass, a climbing dumbass, please take a professionals advice because in all honesty I did re-injure myself; standing on a ladder for hours at a time, my fault for not wearing my brace.. my bad, I'll hold my hands up and say so. This is just what I have learnt. Without the Active Ankle T2 i'd have not been on the wall whilst injured doing what I love - climb, I'd have gone crazy and would have probably have gone insane, it saved my sanity and if I'd have been wiser I'd have worn it when setting and would have been on a much better track than now, I'd still have surgery but I'd still be climbing and reviewing


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