Question of the Day

I’ve been injured for about three weeks now – it’s a hip flexor strain that hurts the most toward the end of my drive. Prior to my injury I was doing extra work in addition to our team’s winter training program and really felt myself establishing a good position for spring season. Since I’ve been injured I’ve been taking a few days off, trying to come back and being too hurt to finish a workout and then proceeding to take a few days off again. It’s a cycle. Recently I tried taking longer off but it’s so frustrating to not be able to work out while everyone else can. I couldn’t go to CRASHBs either, which really sucks. I feel like I’m losing all the hard work I put in for months because of this injury. I hope to start to ease back into things in the next few days but we have a 2k in two weeks and I’m terrified I won’t be ready and the work I’ve done won’t show. Then we go to Miami in three weeks. Basically, I’m asking how this sort of setback will affect my fitness level and the work I’ve put into training and how it looks from a coach’s perspective/coxswain’s perspective.

Injuries like this suck. They’re the nightmares of every athlete and coach because everyone knows that one wrong move can kill a season. We’ve all heard the stories of athletes coming back too soon and re-injuring themselves again or worse than they did the first time (prime example was Rob Gronkowski re-breaking his forearm this past season after coming back way too soon). You have to take time off and you have to force yourself to accept the fact that time off now means better things for the future. This is what I said to a question about how much shoulder pain someone should erg through – I think it applies to your situation too:

“It’s better to be safe than sorry. Would you rather miss and have to make up an erg test or would you rather injure your shoulder, be in a ton of pain, and later on find that you’ve exacerbated an injury that is going to keep you out of the boat for a week or two (or longer)? Be smart. Don’t just “row through the pain”. “Row through the pain” is acceptable for a race when the pain is imminent. Abnormal pain is not something you should just go with. Get it checked out and make sure there’s nothing wrong with it before getting back on the erg.”

You need to sit down and talk with your coach before you do anything else. First, make sure he knows about your injury if he doesn’t already. Secondly, explain the extent of it. There’s a 90% chance they’ll ask you what the doctor said so be prepared to tell them. (And seriously, if you haven’t gone to the doctor, GO.) Third, tell them that you went to winter training, did the extra workouts, could feel yourself getting in a good rhythm for the spring, etc. and now you’re worried about how this injury is going to affect your standing when it comes to 2ks, training, etc. Your coach knows you better than I do so in that respect, at least, he’ll be able to give you more insight on what kind of impact this might have.

If you are in relatively good shape, have good technique, etc. I don’t think you’ll take that hard of a hit. Obviously your fitness will decrease a bit, which is natural, but ultimately you’ll take a much bigger hit if you don’t get back to 100% before you start training again. You’re probably going to have a much bigger mental setback than a physical one, which I think you’re already experiencing a little. From a coxswain’s standpoint, it doesn’t really matter because they’re not the one who decides lineups or your standing on the team. They should be there to support you and that’s all.

From a coach’s standpoint, it really depends on the kind of coach you have. In my opinion, when an athlete is injured, the coach has no choice but to accept it and wait for them to heal. Pushing them to come back before they’re ready, guilt-tripping them by making them feel like they’re letting themselves and/or their teammates down, writing off the injury as “not that serious”, etc. are all signs of a not-so-great coach. Since I started coaching I’ve noticed that a lot of the time when someone is injured, the reason coaches are skeptical of the extent is because far too many people mistake soreness as pain or they’re just lazy and don’t want to feel any kind of discomfort at all. Neither of those situations sound like yours, so hopefully your coach recognizes that this is a legitimate issue and responds accordingly. Since you were putting the work in during the off-season and doing the extra workouts, from a coach’s standpoint, I think you’ll continue to be in good standing. Knowing that you were willing to put the work in before reassures coaches that you’ll be willing to do twice the work, if necessary, after and that’s the kind of person we want in our boats.

Related: Because of an injury and physical therapy, among other things, I have a really hard time erging. I won’t finish PT until around February and I really want to have a decent 2k time (I haven’t erged the entire fall season) … what’s a good goal for myself? I’m a lightweight (5’9, 125 lbs) and I just had my first season.

Make sure you’re stretching (more than you normally would) every day, even on the days when you’re not working out. If you’ve got a foam roller you can use and it doesn’t hurt too much, I’d also add that into your routine. Know your limits and how far you can reasonably go with your injury. You might be able to go 100mph on a normal day but right now you might have to settle for 60. Don’t push yourself too much or you’ll end up re-injuring yourself. Before your 2k, if it feels like you’re still not ready, ask your coach if you can postpone it until you’re closer to 100% so that your time and effort accurately reflects your training and not your injury. When you go to Miami, if it’s possible to switch out halfway through your morning row or something if your hip is still bothering you, see if you can do that. Coaches are almost always willing to work with their athletes but they have to know there’s a problem first in order to help them. Keep your coach in the loop and make sure they know before your test and before you go to Miami if your hip is still an issue.

Like I said before, the biggest setback you’re likely to face is more of a mental one than a physical one. Instead of looking at it like you’re losing all the hard work you put in, look at it instead as all the hard work you put in is what’s going to help you recover faster and be stronger when you come away from this. Your body is in better shape and is becoming more efficient so you’ve already got yourself in a good position for when you come back.

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