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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 10.41.40 PM.png

9/4 – Another walk around the island.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 10.42.35 PM.png

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 10.51.23 PM.png

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

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 10.54.00 PM.png

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.



        Workout Summary - media/20170912-2040320o.csv
Workout Details

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.


9 thoughts on “This sucks

  1. sanderroosendaal says:

    Romana took a month off rowing starting the end of July because of a back problem. The good news is that she is back in the boat and I have seen many other people recover from back injuries, but you have to take time.


  2. Paul C says:

    Rowers that read “Back Mechanic” and study/post images of the SI joint should appreciate our recent contribution to the rowing community: SwingRow. An app this is effectively a StrokeCoach for the body. Biomechanical metrics of note include pelvic angle at the catch, finish, total swing, peak pelvic swing velocity on drive and recovery. (20+ more metrics currently in validation to evaluate other body and slide control measures.) More info at Give it a try! Also, check out the SwingRow YouTube channel video on Rowing Fundamentals. Lots of good elements of “back hygiene” (your words) in there…

    Liked by 1 person

    • gregsmith01748 says:

      I was diagnosed with an SI joint problem. The X-ray also showed what might have been a slightly herniated disk right at the base of the spine above sacrum. My PT did an evaluation and concluded that I had a couple of issues. First, my left glute was considerably weaker than my right and my legs actually presented as different lengths. He prescribed some corrective stretches for that. The other issue was that my quads and IT bands had tons of adhesions throughout. This has been addressed by deep tissue massage, stretching and foam rolling. He also looked at my form on the erg and concluded that I need to improve my core strength to properly hinge at the hips during the stroke and gave me a bunch of exercises for that. Now I have a little stiffness in the morning, but I am pain free otherwise and I’ve recovered a lot of stroke power.


  3. cyclingman says:

    Getting in touch with some minor deficiencies in body balance with probably serve you well in coming years. I for one have pretty much gone all out for over 50 yrs. It’s been catching up with me the last 5 yrs or so. Having surgery on a pretty badly herniated disc at L5-S1 in less than 2 wks. It’s a crap shoot as to whether it will work. Re-herniation is not uncommon. I am a poster case of someone who has not taken care of their body.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s