CrossFit Chronicles: Edition 12

In this edition of the CrossFit Chronicles, I'm going to talk about CrossFit Hand Care.

When I first started CrossFit 5 months ago the thought of needing anything special for my hands never even crossed my mind. But after my first workout, I started to think differently. I didn't hurt my hands, but using the Kettlebells and "the rig" for pull-ups and knees to elbows did show me that I would be using parts of my hand in ways that I wasn't used to. I had a pair of Reebok gloves that I used for Body Pump, so I brought those along and wore them on occasion. I observed several women in my box who had some pretty gnarly tears on their hands and while I didn't necessarily want the tears, I also didn't want to be "the one" that wore gloves. Besides that, the gloves made my hands very sweaty and I was losing my grip on the bar and kettlebells and I didn't want injury from dropping something on my head or falling off the rig. Gradually the gloves started being left more often in my purse, and then eventually they stayed at home.

And then I got my first tear. It wasn't a big tear, but it hurt. It stung; especially after my WOD when I came home to clean the kitchen and then the horror of my first post-rip shower.

One of the girls in my box made me a pair of grips from athletic tape, and those worked really well. Until my son got a hold of them. Yell And I'm sure she'd make me another pair if I asked, I just didn't want to ask. So I sucked it up and continued to let my hands get hard and calloused.

There is a great little video on You Tube on how to make your own tape grips, so I'm going to attempt to make my own pair!

My next battle scar came from a barbell, and grips wouldn't have helped that anyway.

And then a few months went by and I ripped again in nearly the same place as my original tear, but on the opposite hand. And you can see on the palm of the hand that I am beginning to have something "happen." Something that I probably should have addressed at that time.

This one stung quite a bit. I brought the gloves back out and allowed the tear to heal and have been relatively rip free over the last month.

Until Friday. Friday's WOD had us doing 70 Knees to Elbows (10 sets of 7) and I ripped. On both of my hands. It was during the 9th round.  I have a love affair with chalk, so I chalked up, gritted my teeth, and finished the last round.

I came home, trimmed off the skin, and grimaced through a shower, cleaning my kitchen, and making chicken stir-fry for dinner.

I woke up this morning and my hand looked like this. It hurts. It is so sore.

The point of me showing you all these pictures, and telling you of my battle scars is not to show you how much of a bad-ass I am, how I LIVE WITH FIRE. Oh no. Not at all. If anything, I'm the opposite of a bad-ass.

I've learned that I should have been working on my hands, gradually building up calluses to the point where the skin on my palms and fingers are tough and thick -- but smooth.  

What I should have done after I  noticed that calluses were first starting to thicken was to file them down! And thinking back to my very first tear, my box buddy Chris did tell me to smooth them down. But did I listen?? NO.  The goal is have a consistent, smooth palm surface, without noticeable ridges or fluctuating thicknesses of skin. Because I didn't smooth them down, I ended up with a raised, rough callus and it blistered and tore away from the surrounding skin, ripping open my hands and making a bloody mess. A general rule of thumb: If you can pinch a raised edge of the callus, it needs to be filed down. Constant vigilance and regular hand care is key to preventing tears.

Yesterday I used a pumice stone to sand down the raised rough calluses on the top inside part of my hand at the spot where I got my first tear.

As one CrossFit Journal article put it:

Ideally, your entire palm surface should be one thick callus with no bumps or ridges in any one particular area. In order to do this, groom your hands always after a hot shower or bath (this allows the calluses to swell up). While the calluses are still “swollen,” I take a double-edged razor and very carefully shave the dead callus bumps down a little at a time until the bumps are about even with the thickness of the rest of the hand. With my younger students, I simply ask them to get a callus stone (you can buy one at any drug store), and gently sand the callus down even with the rest of the skin. Remember, whenever you groom or shave your calluses, don’t overdo it, since you don’t want to go too deep into your skin. Always leave enough thick skin so to facilitate your workout the following day. The goal is to maintain an even and consistent thickness of hard skin throughout the entire palm.

Through additional research I also learned that my love affair with chalk might also be contributing to the tears on my hands. Apparently a lot of chalk and frequent hand washing sucks the moisture right out of your hands, and dry hands can become easily ripped hands. Lotion needs to become my new best friend.

I've spent today keeping my hands covered in antibiotic ointment, a blister band-aid and then lightly taped to make sure that the band-aid stays in place. I'm hoping that by Monday my hands will be healed enough that I can return to CrossFit En Fuego for my WOD.

And gloves. I'll also be wearing my gloves while these tears continue to heal. I don't believe that rips and tears have to be a part of being a  CrossFit athlete and over the next few weeks I'll be doing research to explore how I can grip the equipment better to prevent rips and tears. See, I also have like freakishly small hands. My kids hands are nearly as big as mine, so I wonder if my small hand size has me gripping the bars at awkward positions.

This is a GREAT article on blisters, ripping, tearing, grip and so much more!

Have you ever had a tear from working out? What did you do to prevent it from happening again? Do you wear gloves? If so, what type? Do your hands sweat in them? What about chalk? Do you love chalk as much as I do?

Comments (10) -

  • I don't know. I think you're pretty badass Smile
  • Ouch! Yes, I have heard that I need to pumice them and I do daily. I have had the callous peel off, but never the blood... OUCH!!! Get better soon!
  • Thanks Robin!! As our resident honey badger, that's a total compliment, and I'll take it Smile
  • I mentioned on Facebook that I LOVE chalk, too!  I've been trying to use it less, but it's difficult.  My hands are naturally very sweaty, and without chalk, I slide off the bar with 5 reps of whatever it is we are doing.  I know that i need to work on developing a stronger grip, but until then, I'll stick with the chalk.

  • Stop before you rip!!! you cant touch a barbell for a couple days and a week to get to the rig again. Friends done let Friends rip!!! (unless you in a comp of course). I rarely rip, I do a couple things to keep it that way. I lotion when I am not at the gym, in the morning before work and at night before bed. Also Do not over chalk!!! This is what makes you rip!! Use enough to hang on and feel safe but don't overkill, too much of a good thing and sometimes turn bad!!! I know we have all use the chalk bucket as a break time but suck it up take a deep breath and get back at it!!!! hope this helps
  • Thanks Nathan! That helps a ton! I'm thinking that it might not be realistic for me to return to the box tomorrow. I might need a few more days to let my hands heal?!?

    You are such an amazing athlete and to hear that you rarely rip means that I need to follow your advice! It's going to be hard to break the chalk addiction!! ;)
  • Ouch! Those blisters look incredibly painful! You have more willpower than me. I avoid blisters on my hands at all costs.
  • I definitely had a lot of issues building up calluses when I first started lifting a few years ago.  Deadlifts and anything that involved hanging from a bar put a hurt on my hands.  It's much better now, but I do use Liquid Grip sometimes.  Much less messy than chalk, and I don't think it dries you out as bad, either.
    But you are right, hand care is crucial outside the gym to keep your workouts moving right along!
  • OUCH!!! That looks so painful! It's amazing what we will put our bodies through when we do something we love! Wink I'm glad you learned how to prevent it from happening again.
  • Kat
    Ouch! I use gloves whenever I strength train :/
Comments are closed