It started as a whisper. Just a tiny twinge in my ribs as I shifted in my chair. Within a couple of minutes, though, I realised what was happening: a hard session on the erg that morning was taking its toll.
As the afternoon passed, the twinge turned into a pain and, to my dismay, several rowing friends told me that I was suffering from one of the most common rowing injuries – rib strain.
The only time I’d ever hurt my ribs before was during a particularly raucous ceilidh at our local village hall. A dance called the Basket and a neighbour with large hands (don’t ask) caused me to crack a rib and put me out of action for weeks. I never imagined such excitement could happen on the erg. Since then I’ve learned that rib stress fractures are actually quite common amongst rowers – and particularly female, lightweight ones.
Naturally my first reaction was just to ignore it and to carry on regardless; indeed I made it through a tough old weights session that evening.But when someone from the US rowing squad tells you need to stop, you don’t ignore their advice.
Twitter being an egalitarian kind of place where no one stands on ceremony, my complaint about my rib was picked up on by US national rower, Esther Lofgren. She referred me to a post on her blog for here for some excellent advice for anyone suffering from a rowing injury (or indeed any sports injury). Basically, you can turn a rib strain into a stress fracture if you don’t give it a rest.
The good news is that you don’t have to lie around scratching yourself while you wait to heal. There’s plenty of stuff you can still do, though it can take a bit of imagination to keep the pressure off your injury. At the same time, it’s essential to allow your body to heal. Rest, it seems, is not a dirty word.
For once, I’ve done the sensible thing and followed the advice of my elders and betters (well, betters, anyway – I definitely win on the elders score). I cancelled several rowing sessions. I rested. I drank water. I went to yoga, which stretched my poor, creaking body until it felt young again.
Since every year takes me deeper into the veteran category, this will not be the last of my rowing injuries, especially as I tend to attack my training like a rabid terrier. I wonder how long I can maintain this moderate, restrained approach? Only time will tell.