Oops, I Ripped My Hands
The scene is set. It’s a warm day with not a cloud in the sky. You’re trained and you’re ready. You go out onto the obstacles and you are nailing one after the next. As you continue along the course, your hands start to sweat and moisture starts to build up. You get to your favorite obstacle. You start to swing across, but that sweat has now turned an easy task into an obstacle of uncertainty. As you are trained to do, you grip a little bit tighter as you continue to swing away. Just as you build up your perfect swing, you feel piercing pain and you can no longer hold on. You look down and the beautiful calluses that you’ve been building up all year are gone, leaving only raw, red patches in its place. You’ve ripped your hands…
Let’s flashback to 1995. Chris Farley played Tommy Callahan in the movie Tommy Boy. Tommy was joking around with his late-father’s secretary Richard when he put on Richard’s blazer and began taunting “fat guy in a little coat”. As Tommy continued to taunt and move around, the blazer shreds from the back.
So what does this have to do with ripping our hands? Hands rip in a similar fashion to the blazer Chris Farley donned in 1995. When your skin becomes taught, losing its elasticity, but then is asked to still maneuver, the only option is to rip the skin to allow the motions to happen.
But how exactly does this occur in Obstacle Course Racing?
Hands tear when there is the perfect combination of warmth, moisture, and over-gripping of obstacles. The warmth and the moisture keep your skin raw. The callused areas become hot spots where the skin turns soft and moldable. The addition of sweat and excess moisture then causes a racer to grip tighter on obstacles, or face the reality of falling. But with this increased gripping, you are risking over-gripping. Over-gripping is when you grip an obstacle tight enough to the point where your hands are no longer mobile through a swing. Your muscles are contracting so intensely to the point where all elasticity from your skin is utilized from the pump of your hand musculature. In order to swing through an over-grip, your hands must gain more surface area; the only way to do this is by ripping the skin.
At this point, if you’ve found your way to this blog, you’ve most likely encountered ripped hands at one point or another. Unfortunately, as Obstacle Course Racers, it’s a painful reality that we all face. It is preventable, though. But how??
The key to preventing ripped hands is to keep your hands dry and cool. This is harder than it sounds though. As strength athletes, we require our hands in most that we do; as endurance athletes, we build up heat and sweat very easily.
Here’s a quick checklist on how to keep your hands rip-free:
Never clench your fists. Whether you’re running, staying active throughout the day, or holding something, keep your fingers and your palms loose to let them breathe, including using a soft grip on obstacles. *Note: the only time you want to squeeze or overgrip an obstacle is when utilizing strength as oppose to momentum/ swing. The same goes for strength training as well. For example, when lifting a deadlift and doing any techniques that require a bicep “L” hold, you will squeeze tightly through your grip. With more fluid motions such as cleans, muscle ups, and swing, you want to keep your muscles contracted, but your grip should be soft to adapt to the movement.*
Do not grip from your fingers, grip from your palms. This gives your hands more surface area to move throughout an obstacle. The joint between your hands and your fingers are your last line of defense before losing your grip.
When you’re not using your hands, maintain them. Shave down your calluses and apply non-grease lotions daily. You want to keep your calluses soft and pliable, but you do not want them moist and hot (do not rub your hands incessantly; increase friction = increased risk of tears).
With the start of the OCR Championships season literally just days away, it’s to be expected that skin will tear and blood will be shed. For most people, this information may be coming too late to prepare yourself. Now is the time to talk about our care, both on course and in between races.
When you rip your hands, follow these simple wound healing tips:
Remove any flaps or excess skin - Trying to continue on a race with skin hanging only leaves room for more tears. You do not want to risk tearing fresh, non-callused skin. Do what you need to to take off the skin and get the wound clean as soon as possible.
Use Saline to disinfect the wound and add antibiotics. Keep it covered.
Keep your hands clean.
Find a solid hand-care line to offer added conditioning and moisturizing to improve healing and to prevent further damage.
For anybody who has followed me, and for anybody who has read about my excursion at Indian Mud Run, you should know where this article stems from. I tore my hands pretty badly and it played a role in my inability to keep my band. Luckily for me, I was able to heal my hands quickly and have been rip-free throughout the majority of my career. I do have a secret weapon, though. I have W.O.D. Welder on my side.
W.O.D. Welder is a skin-care line that specializes in hand care for athletes. Their Solid Salve is used on both ripped hands, and on hands for those looking to avoid ripping. This Solid Salve has been proven to decrease healing time. It is made with beeswax and olive oil to prevent an added conditioning element to your hands. The more you apply the salve, the quicker your hands heal.
W.O.D. Welder also has an amazing hand cream called Hand Rx. It is fast-absorbing and counteracts the effects of chalks and other quick, moisture-eating regiments. It is non-greasy and penetrates deeper into the skin than most hand creams and increases the elasticity of the hands.
While I have found W.O.D. Welder to be the miracle cure for me, there is a whole market dedicated to hand care for grip strength athletes. Find the products that work best for you. Keep it with you whenever you train and race; hand care should be part of your daily routine.
Ripped hands are completely preventable. You must protect your hands outside of training and off course to ensure that they are safe on course. Build up your calluses, loosen up your grip on your swinging and movement obstacles, and invest in a solid line of hand care product. Stay smart and proactive in your hand care. It is never too early to protect your hands from the wear and tear of a hot race course.
10% off W.O.D. Welder: theocrtrainer