How much is too much? The decision to take on endurance events following neurological injury is not unheard of, you only have to look at the Paralympics to realise what the mind and body are capable of despite impairment. People with far more severe disabilities than mine have achieved things most can only dream of but that didn’t change the fact that there was a big question mark over my decision to climb.
The difference for me is that I’m very much still in ‘recovery’. The length of that recovery period is open to debate but certainly by the time I attempted climbing Snowdon no one would have disputed that my neurology was still changing.
We knew that whether I completed the climb or not there was going to be a huge amount of stress enforced on my neurological systems. How they would react was unknown. This was an untrodden path and the fear was that the results could be negative and at the very worst catastrophic.
Of course I was nervous that my body would react negatively or take months to recover but that wasn’t going to stop me finding out. My main fear was if it did react negatively then it would be a lot harder to justify future challenges. I wanted to push myself but I couldn’t afford to jeopardise my recovery.
Well I’m pleased to say that despite pushing myself to complete exhaustion on a number of occasions there has never been any lasting negative effects. In fact on the contrary. After a couple of days of feeling like I’ve been run over, the soreness subsides and reveals some neurological improvement.
What’s the thinking behind this? Well judging by the literature, it’s not something that has really been studied before. Nevertheless Pete (my legendary Italian physio) had an inkling that there was something in it and finally he had a willing patient to test it on.
Understandably your neurology is at its most reactive when there’s danger, fight or flight. Well trust me, seeing as I walk around on flat surfaces like a drunken monkey, add a cliff edge and a mountain in and my body is screaming danger! Little slips or sudden trips and you can feel the goosebumps raise on the back of your neck as you’re nervous system gets ready to save you. I figure that these are the moments not to shy away from when you’re trying to bring your neurology back to life and all of the evidence I have seen seems to have confirmed that. The mental benefits of challenging yourself and proving that you can do more are obvious but add to that the physical benefits and you’re on to a real winner…..unless of course I fall off a cliff.
That was a joke mum.