A little bit more rowing

So, I was delighted to find that my back was not hurting more than usual this morning.  It might have even felt a little bit better.

I had a conference call from 7 to 8:30, and then I headed to the gym to squeeze in a workout before my flight home.

I am trying to keep in mind the warnings that I have read about injury risk first thing in the morning, and wanted to be careful about how much I do, so I decided to do a 15 minute treadmill death march as a warmup and then a 30 minute row.

As it turned out, after I finished my warmup, somebody else was actually using the rowing machine. :-O

I had to wait 7 minutes for them to finish flailing about ineffectually.  I also had to resist the urge to go offer coaching tips 😉

So, my time window was closing, but I still had 20 minutes.  I thought it might be good to do a toned down version of a Fletcher Warmup.  I’d do it at a slower pace, and focus on keeping my knees together.

The 15 minute death march (15% grade, 3mph) was the usual UT2 slog.  My HR was just hitting the top of the UT2 band as I was finishing up.

While I waited for the erg to free up, I puttered along on an elliptical trainer, trying to keep my HR in the UT2 zone.  So, tack on another 7 minutes or so of warmup.

Then the machine freed up, and I settled in for my fletcher.


I was doing it strapless, and I was pretty focused on both keeping my knees together, avoiding over compression at the catch, and avoiding too much layback at the finish.  Rowing that way really kind of limited how high a rate I could do to around 25 spm.

The other limiting factor was how hard it was!  I was gassed after the initial ramp up.  Way too gassed.  I have lost a lot of fitness over the past few weeks.  Oh well, it is what it is.  I have to take it slow and try to come back cleanly.

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Tomorrow:  I think I will try to do another hybrid workout.  Probably a 30′ run/walk as a warmup and 30′ UT2 on the erg, keeping the stroke pressure low.

This sucks

So, my last post was on September 2nd.  Ten days ago.  At that time, my back was killing me and I decided that I needed to really lay off the rowing until I figured out what was going on.  I bought the book “Back Mechanic”, read it cover to cover, and I’m trying to use the good advice contained within.

This advice can be boiled down to:

  1.  Avoid aggravating your injury by practicing good “back hygiene”.  This means sitting up straight and avoiding positions that hurt.
  2. Figure out the most likely cause of pain by doing some diagnostic tests.  (For me this resulted in a likely diagnosis of a disk injury in the lumbar region.  One fun fact that I learning is that disks are hydrophylic, which means that they absorb fluid over night and are “puffy” in the morning.  So, if you have a disk impinging on a nerve it will probably hurt more in the morning and will feel better after the disks lose a bit of fluid over the first hour or two of the day.  Interestingly, this makes you more susceptible to disk injury first thing in the morning too.  So once I get back to rowing, I should do a non-rowing warmup before taking a stroke)
  3. Start strengthening your core muscles with a set of defined exercises that utilize a limited range of motion, but help to work on the muscle balance in you back and abdomen
  4. Don’t do any stretching to the limit of you motion until you are pain free.  Stretching will essentially release chemicals that ease the pain immediately, but will continue the inflammation cycle and slow down recovery.

So, I’ve been dutifully doing my core exercises nearly every day.  They are boring and a pain in the ass, but I have to put in the effort.  Over the ten days, the amount of pain I feel in the mornings has been steadily decreasing, but is not going away.

Yesterday I went to the doctor for my annual physical.  I asked him about my back issues and he diagnosed me as having a problem with my SI Joint.  This is the joint between the Sacrum and the Ilium.  I am less than completely convinced he is right.


So, he has set me up for x-rays next week, and referred me for physical therapy.  I need to find myself a PT that understands rowing.

I also discovered to my horror that I have gained 12 pounds over the past couple of months.  I guess my eating hasn’t changed even though I’m burning a thousand less calories a day.  Another thing I have to fix.

In terms of training, here’s a quick synopsis of the past 10 days.

9/3 – Another walk around the island.

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9/4 – Another walk around the island.

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9/5 – Fly off to California – no training.  Used a lumbar cushion on the airline seat and that seemed to help reduce pain.

9/6 – 60 minutes in the fitness center.  30 minutes on the treadmill set to max incline at 3 mph, a fast walk.  Then 30 minutes on an elliptical machine.

9/7 – 48 minutes in the fitness center.  30 minutes on the treadmill same deal, max incline, fast walk.  Then I moved over to the elliptical for another 30 minutes.  18 minutes into that, I got a call from the guy I was meeting saying that he was in the lobby.  I thought I had another 45 minutes before he was arriving.  Dashed off to the shower.  Long day of meetings.  Caught the red eye home.

9/8 – Got home around 7am and slept for a couple of hours.  Then worked from home.  Late in the day, I decided to go for a short run to see if my back would tolerate that.  It did.  I ran for 30 minutes and then walked another 15.

9/9 – We headed back to the Cape on Friday evening and I’m glad we did.  Saturday morning, it was incredibly beautiful out.  I went for another walk around the island.  I was feeling a lot of stiffness from the run on Friday, but my back was not significantly worse.  The tide was low so I could get out on the sand flats a bit more and watch the birds.

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9/10 – Same thing as the day before.  Another glorious day, another walk.  Still sore from Friday’s run, but less so.

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9/11 – Monday.  I had my doctors appointment, then a few hours of meetings and then headed off to the airport.  I flew out to Las Vegas for a conference, arriving around 8 pm.  Got to the hotel, grabbed dinner and went to bed.  No training.

9/12 – Tuesday. I slept in a bit longer than I should have, so by the time I did my core exercises, I only had enough time for a 30 minute death march on the treadmill.  I did that, showered and went to the conference.  This finished around 5, and so I headed back to the gym.  Now this hotel (The Wynn Hotel) has a fantastic fitness center.  Lots of treadmills, stationary bikes, and a nearly new Concept2 Model E rowing machine with PM5.  I managed to ignore it this morning, but it’s siren song was way too tempting for me this afternoon.  I melted under the pressure and before I knew it I was sitting on the seat, linking my phone to the PM and firing up painsled.

Part of me thought this was pretty stupid.  But part of me thought that a session done at lighter pressure would be a gentle test to see if I might be ready to resume some light rowing specific training.  I decided to do 30 minutes and to up the stroke rate by 2 from my more normal stroke pressures.  So 18 SPM would yield 160w and 20 SPM would yield 180W.

I also wanted to really focus on trying to limit my over reach at the catch.  I’ve been dropping my legs apart to get more length and I suspect that this new aspect of my style is what is putting more stress on my back.  So the goal for the day was to row with my knees together, even at the catch.  I caught myself slipping a few times, but generally it was OK.



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Not very impressive, but I was glad to have done it.  My back is letting me know that it’s a little unhappy, but the true test will be how it feels in the morning.

After that, I had reached my 30 minute limit for rowing, so I moved over to the treadmill and did  20 minute death march.

Tomorrow, I head home.  I might have time for a quick workout in the morning before I leave, but I will only go if I’m not paralyzed with pain.