Several years ago, my friend Elizabeth Burke and I rowed twice a week through the Seattle winter. We ventured out without fail as dawn was breaking - rowing two single shells or a double. We'd row from the Fremont Bridge to the Chittenden Locks and back, or maybe across Lake Union and on to Lake Washington. Sometimes we'd come back to our home at the Lake Washington Rowing Club and wipe the ice off our boats. But we always came back with an irrefutable sense of moral superiority! We'd done it again!

Rowing - particularly Rowing Through the Winter - provides a richness of metaphors...instructive in my life as a Family Physician and the Home Dialysis CarePartner for my profoundly ill husband, Steve Williams. Now that Steve is gone, rowing reminds me of consistency and focus - so critical during grieving. Rowing requires balance, as does my life.

Row with me this winter. Linda Gromko, MD

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rowing Through an Injury

One of the frustrations of physical activity is that you can get hurt now and then. Hopefully, not seriously hurt - but there are aches and pains and bruises that go with carrying boats to and from a dock.

Three weeks ago, when I broke a rib trying to get into my boat after my unfortunate Emergency Stop Drill, I had to re-do what I do  for exercise.

Sweeping is tough because it's asymmetrical; you pull into one rib.

Sculling is better, but not perfect. And I'm wearing that blow-up vest like a girl scout. I don't dare take another flip test until this flippin' rib is healed, or else it will surely break again!

OK, so then I tried a spinning class. I have done hundreds of spinning classes over the years. Again, all of our core muscles seem to anchor onto the rib I broke!

Walking is fine, but a "lesser" substitute.

I've had musculoskeletal issues before: two episodes of frozen shoulder treated by forceful manipulation under anesthesia. Then, there was a distal tib/fib fracture from a fall years ago.

I am exercising for my physical and mental health - not to win any medals!

It's been a good reminder that those of us who do rely on exercise to keep ourselves sane and healthy need a sizable stash of alternative activities as the injured body heals. When my exercise-reliant patients are injured, I tend to ask about depression - and at least make sure that they are addressing self-care.

Be careful out there.
Linda Gromko, MD

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