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So, I finally got back on the erg today after a break of almost three months. Just a gentle paddle, as it were. 10 minutes with the dial on 1, low rating, nothing that might risk any searing pain.

As a training session, it was nothing to write home about. But what a relief to be back on the machine that has given me so much pain and trouble.

There’s nothing like an injury to make you grateful for what you’ve got. I’ve got a way to go before I’m back to strength and fitness, and I’m still not sure when I’ll be back on the river, but seeing a little glimmer of light on the horizon has made me happier than you can imagine. It’s good to be back.

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You probably all know by now that I’ve been signed off rowing for a few weeks because of a shoulder injury. No need for sympathy: it was entirely self-inflicted. I could feel it crunching during a weights session but still carried on (fool).

Anyway, I’ve been learning a few lessons in humility as a result. I made it back to boot camp yesterday, but had to do a legs-only, adapted version along with all the others who had upper body issues… and suddenly I was pulled up short. I realised that I’d always looked on the people doing injury-induced variations on the class with a faint mixture of pity and superiority. No half-baked exercises for me – oh no – I was a 100% kinda girl. The biggest hand weights. The last to finish. The whole shebang.

Except that now I’m reduced to a mere 50%er. I had to stand there with my fun-sized, girl’s handweights and watch the others do endless press-ups as I lamely did a few more squats.

I wanted to tell everyone that the only reason I couldn’t do what they were doing was because I’d hurt myself doing HEAVY WEIGHTS. That I was just as hard as them. That I … ouch! In the end I was too busy watching my shoulder that I didn’t have breath or energy left over to proclaim my battle-scarred status.

So I’ve learned a bit of a lesson. From now on I shall try hard not to judge anyone for adapting their work-out, or doing fewer reps, or stopping when it starts to crunch. Maybe this injury is doing me good.

 

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It was a while into my appointment before I came clean. I was having my shoulder looked at, having injured it lifting some bad-ass weights which were, frankly, too heavy for me (I’d been showing off; I can’t deny it).

Finally I came out with it. “I’m… a rower”.

“Ah”, said the osteopath. “And how long have you been rowing?”

“Two years”, I admitted.

“Aha. Right. Yes,” said the osteopath, with a look that conveyed deep understanding.

I braced myself for the usual lecture on overdoing things. Instead, she looked at me intently.

“Listen”, she said. “If you couldn’t take a lot of pain, you wouldn’t have stuck with rowing for two years. You empty your legs at the beginning of the race, and then it’s just sheer pain. If you’re used to that level of pain, it can be hard to distinguish between ordinary pain and pain from an injury”, she went on.

So, are we rowers our own worst enemies? Is our tolerance to pain often masking the beginnings of an injury? Is that why so many of my rowing friends are nursing different ailments?

Whatever. For someone who’s always considered herself a bit of a wimp, I came away feeling pretty damned hard.

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Just found this interesting and thought you might, too: the GB team’s efforts to stay injury-free.

Now, for those of us who don’t row at international level, dealing with every little niggle straight away is a luxury we can’t always afford, but I do think there’s something even the cronkiest club rower can take away from this, even if we can’t MRI scan every ache and pain. How often do we ignore a twinge and let it develop into something more problematic? Do we stretch religiously after every erg? Do we work hard enough on our core muscles?

Maybe we owe it to ourselves (and our crew mates) to be more conscientious.

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