Ahhh, the right of passage at CrossFit that is “tearing” one’s hands. It ranks up there with “what’s your Fran time?” It seems people have been tearing a bit more than usual at CFSJ as of late so I thought we’d take a moment to discuss this form of hand abuse and see what can be done to stop it from happening to you.
First, tearing is really not cool. Nothing seems to be more counter intuitive to the idea of CrossFit than being proud about the fact that you have just sentenced yourself to a few missed days at the box. I get that showing off how you endured through the pain to complete a WOD appears to show great “Intestinal Fortitude” (WWE word I believe), and this would be true if you were at the finals of the Games, but making these sacrifices on a Tuesday night or even at a benchmark WOD really has no benefit. With this in mind, the most important piece of advice I can give is to STOP working if you are developing a tear. Give up one half of a WOD so as to save 2 or 3 more. For most of us, the pain of missing a few days is much harder to bear than the pain associated with torn skin. But what if you didn’t notice the tear because you were so focused? OK, I can buy this so read on…
If you do tear your hands, there are lots of ways to try and mitigate the damage done both in terms of your actual skin and time lost at the box. Now I’m not a medical Doctor, so please just assume all of these are general remedies that many other people use. Your results may vary.
- Keep the flap of damaged skin in place. This provides some additional protection for the damaged skin underneath, especially if you plan on toughing it out during the healing process.
- Apply topical ointments to help clean and protect the wound so it can heal quicker. You may even want to try and use Super Glue to put the torn skin back in place and provide an additional protective barrier. It may sound crazy but it’s actually a pretty well documented use.
- Use gloves or tape until the wound is fully healed. You don’t want to prolong this process and keep you from getting back to your regular routine.
Generally speaking it’s not a good idea to cut the damaged skin off but I do know some people swear by this along with salt baths and other tricks to get that skin back as quickly as possible. Of course, the best option is to just properly prepare and maintain your hands for CrossFit so that a tear doesn’t occur at all. I certainly can’t guarantee you will never tear during your entire time at CrossFit but these additional tips can provide some preventative maintenance.
- Keep your calluses sanded down and smooth. Big, thick and rough calluses are really easy to tear. You want that hard buildup for protection; you just don’t want them to be out of control. You can use a pumice stone in the shower to help with this.
- Make sure your hands get the moisturizer they need when away from the box. I usually wash my hands after a WOD and also use some chalk. The more you wash your hands, the dryer they will get. Chalk also causes hands to dry out so make sure to use a hand lotion or cream on a daily basis to replenish the natural oils you sap up during other parts of your day.
- Try gloves, tape or other forms of hand protection. There are a whole bunch of options out there. If you tear frequently try out some grips, gloves or tape and see if any of these feel OK for you. I have small hands and found the grips were too thick for me to “feel” the bar but a pair of batting gloves has worked quite well. Many people also like to use a few well placed pieces of tape for protection. In trying some these out before you get into a heavy handed WOD you can ensure a level of comfort when you do need to go to it.
- Watch your chalk use. Chalk is certainly something most all of us use at one time or another but over chalking will result in more tears. As Lance says “in the battle between your skin and the bar, the bar usually wins”. I put quotes on that but I am not actually sure he says it just like that. We all know though that Lance is not a fan of heavy chalk.
In addition to this, you may want to consider altering your grip. As I was writing this blog up, someone passed along a very thorough article on tears that also includes some feedback on how to best grip bars and such. It also has more information on taping and some of the remedies I describe above. You can check it out at the following link if you’d like to read more on the subject. Thanks to Stefano for passing it along.
The bottom line is that tears are no fun. So stop as soon as you detect one and use some preventative maintenance to keep them from occurring. If you do endure one, take proper care so you can get back to the box sooner rather than later….