You hear about them, you see people post pics on social media about them and then it happens to someone at the gym and you stare in pity and awe. Yes, we are talking about the oh so celebrated hand rips. I remember when I first started Crossfit and thought some roughness on my hands were calluses and how the “real” athletes in the gym put in a lot of work and that is why their hands would rip and bleed all over the place. One day it was going to happen to me. I’d probably be doing unbroken toes to bar or something and then my hands were going to rip and I would have an actual sports injury- a badge of honor. Then I would be a real athlete. Until I actually did form calluses and my hand ripped on wobbly assisted kipping pull ups and my hand took so long to heal, it’s safe to assume I probably had an infection.
Tearing your hand wide open is not cool and I realized it in that instant. Being a busy professional in a job where I had to constantly wash my hands and being a mother where you’re physically attached to washing things over and over it was not and is still not fun, safe or good for your health to be careless with your hand care. It is incapacitating and while there might be times due to our training where it is inevitable to rip, I will be suggesting some things that work for me.
- Calluses- Believe it or not in sports where there is a lot of friction on the hands calluses are a part of life. Newer on non Crossfitters find them gross but honestly, they act as cushions and latches for your grip whether it be for the barbell (this is me), the rig for gymnastics work or even dumbbells when we do body building movements calluses are essential in helping with your hold so it is ok and preferred to have calluses. The problem lies when we just let these calluses run wild and become big that they tear or blister often. I have a pumice stone that I use on my hands often in the shower to soften the calluses up. I also have a metal foot file that I use on my hands to shave the calluses away (some people use actual razor blades to cut them to skin level) and I also have a callus tool. I make sure to keep a little bit of my calluses on my hands to still act as that barrier between my hand and the barbell. Caution if you cut or shave to much it leaves you more at risk for a faster rip.
- Moisturize- In a germaphobe world with small children and careers where we are obligated to constantly wash our hands or we use hand sanitizer, we are more at risk for a hazard because the constant washing leaves us with dry cracked skin on our hands. Plus, if you are like me and require a chalk cloud as my aura while I am lifting then you know chalk is very drying and cracks the hands. Trust me I know, I have sweaty small hands that need chalk to hold on to anything for more than five seconds but because of these reasons it is essential that we moisturize particularly after training. I do not recommend a water based moisturizer because well, it’s counterproductive to the anti-drying process. I actually use Udder Balm Lotion all day or Lineman’s Professional Hand Cream. Yes, udder balm is the stuff that is used on animals or was specifically made to moisturize a cow’s udders, but it is non gmo and made with a lot of vitamins, moisturizing components and is not water based. It has been key to keeping my hands moisturized and safe.
- If you do tear guess what? You’re in for a couple of days where you feel like your insides even burn when any liquid touches the rip. Immediately wash your hands once it happens. This will burn, but for health and hygienic purposes very necessary and please wipe down anything that touched your scalded hand. Proper first aid is to cover it up with some gauze or a bandage and let it air out while you sleep with some triple antibiotic ointment generously slathered on the wound. Likewise avoid workouts for the next couple of days that have anything grip intensive, you will just be in pain and get mad at yourself for not being able to work out to the best of your abilities. Once the rawness fades use athletic tape when you come back to the gym. Cut 2 strips of tape double the length of the top of your palm to your wrist. Fold the tape lengthwise to make a loop and cover the part of the hand that is affected. Then tape the ends of that strip which should be by the wrist with the other strip of tape by wrapping around your wrist. As you can see this is a lot of work and pain so avoid ripping as much as possible.
Of course, gymnastics wraps, hand grips, taping the thumbs and using tape as a hand barrier for any grip work will help avoid these awful instances where it even hurts to hold a cup of coffee but they are not the only hand care that we can do. These rips are wounds and normally we would not be ok with getting an open flesh wound on any other part of our body so our hands should not be any different. Enjoy your fitness and training and always give it all you got but with being athletes comes responsibility to our own health.