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For nine-time ABS National Champion Alex Puccio, the last two years have been the most trying of her career. After a nine-month recovery from a June 2015 knee injury she was climbing some of the hardest outdoor boulder problems of her career only to have a freak accident only weeks after a full recovery cause a disc in her neck to rupture. The neck injury would go undiagnosed by several specialists until an MRI, prompted by a shooting electrical pain in her arms during the 2016 Vail World Cup, revealed the severity of the injury.
Now after another surgery and several months of rehab, Alex is back to near normal form, winning major comps and testing her limits outdoors. We caught up with Alex to discuss injury and rehab and the mindset it takes to keep coming back.
How do you stay motivated through setbacks like injury? Injuries, injuries, injuries! It’s something to which most can relate. Not being able to what you love is hard, especially when it’s part of your job. So far, I’ve used every setback as motivation to become a better athlete and better version of myself. If someone tells me I can’t do something then I want find a way to do it. I like to overcome obstacles, and I have never taken the easy path in life. I always say “Something of worth never comes easy!” The big picture is that setbacks are a part of life and you are the one that determines how it will affect you. I always try just keep looking forward and keep my goals and dreams in mind!
You keep bouncing back from these injuries with relative ease, what is your secret method to rehab and recovery? It was pretty hard not being able to exercise at all after the neck injury. Around the six week mark, I started to use the elliptical which kept me sane until I was able to climb again. You can always find a way around things. Every time I have an injury and can’t climb, I find as many exercises I can do so that when I’m able to climb again I won’t have to make a huge comeback.
How did it feel to come back and win the Portland Boulder Rally, the first comp after the neck injury? I tried to go to the Portland Boulder Rally with little or no expectations since I didn’t feel my fittest yet. But once I got there I couldn’t help it, the expectations were there! It was the most I had climbed in one day for over 4 months! It was a tremendous surprise to win. I felt like a kid again!
Ed’s note: At publishing time, Alex had just won the Yank and Yard competition in Albuquerque, NM. This marks two straight wins for Alex after her neck injury. Additionally, it puts her in 1st place for the inaugural USA Climbing National Cup Series.