As isolation, both self-imposed or enforced, deepens in the rowing community, row2k reached out to rowing medical folks for some common-sense guidance for athletes who are looking to stay active during these times.
First and foremost, Dr. Jo Hannafin, long-time US team doctor and a member of the both the FISA Medical Commission and USRowing Sports Medicine Committee, offered what she considered the most important guidelines of all: "Wash your hands frequently and maintain social distancing!"
Hannafin echoed the calls across the cultural and sporting spectrum about the benefits of staying active.
"Get on the erg, go for a run, get on a bike (indoor or outdoor) to help maintain fitness and the sense of physical and mental well-being that results from exercising on a daily basis," she said. "When you exercise, maintain a distance of 6 feet from other participants even if you are exercising outdoors.
"There are many internet-based sites that are now offering video strength and conditioning workouts. If you row as a team, share your workouts and results to maintain your athletic community."
As athletes work out, special care of your surroundings is warranted. "Limit yourself to one training erg partner, as long as both are healthy, keeping greater than 2 meters apart, wiping down the erg before and after each session, especially if living with a host family," said Marc Nowak, US national teams PT. "You'll also want to vent the room after each training session."
Keeping your training as solitary as possible is key. "No group bike rides, group runs or hikes," said Dr. Kris Karlson, also a US team physician. "If you are training with someone you also live with, that's fine, but if you are meeting to train together with someone not in your household then it's not OK. People blow snot even when not thinking about it."
For those athletes who work with external professionals, those activities may need to be curtailed as well. "Minimize or avoid manual treatment if possible, such as massage, chiropractic, or PT at this time of shelter in place," explained Nowak. "Wash your hands for 30 seconds and sanitize the hands prior to taking a shower immediately after any visit. Wellness activities such as foam rolling, Theracanes, vibrators, and massage balls can be used to self- maintain if necessary, but also wipe them down after each use."
In some ways, rowing is a sport that has a "social distancing" event built in - the single. Hannafin weighed in on the question of whether a solo session in the 1x is a safe option.
"Theoretically it is OK [to row your single] if you boat from home or from a place where you will not have your equipment subject to cross contamination," said Hannafin. "The concern in a shared facility, even if rowing a single, is cross contamination of slings, hoses, and other equipment. That is why most boathouses have closed down around the country.
"Oars should not be shared at this time, as this increases the risk of cross contamination."
Solitary Self Care
For athletes who are used to being part of teams or training groups, Hannafin acknowledged the challenge ahead.
"I think that this will be the hardest part of the Covid19 epidemic for those who are feeling physically healthy," she said. "Sharing workouts or doing group workouts via Zoom, Skype, Facetime, or other web- based programs is helpful. Use these alternatives to stay in touch. Call friends and family and check in on those in your local community. This will help maintain a sense of purpose!"
Nowak noted that the same holds true for the wellness professionals in your network. "You can use FaceTime or other networking options to consult with a PT, chiropractors, or massage therapists to help get self- management ideas and and activities while avoiding direct contact."
US team doctor and FISA Medical Commission member, Dr. Kate Ackerman, recommends checking out the COVID-19: Update from FISA's Sports Medicine Commission on Worldrowing.com. She adds, "Now is a time for us to use exercise as a healthy outlet, but not a time to overtrain and risk immunosuppression. With important sporting events cancelled, it can be a good time to mentally regroup, work on flexibility, range of motion, and core strength and stability. Personal trainers, coaches, and other health professionals are getting creative with telehealth. Now can be a good time to get some direct feedback and work on our weaknesses and deficits to help prevent injury when we're all back on the water."
Hannafin also stressed the benefits of maintaining day-to-day normalcy as much as possible. "Get up at the same time, prepare meals, work from home or study/be educated at home via use of web- based programs. If you have a hobby that you don't normally have time for, put time and energy into developing it. Start to read rather than spending hours watching TV. Consider a book club held via Zoom or Skype. Be creative!!"
Maintaining mental health is critical, Hannafin added. "If this situation becomes overwhelming, please reach out to friends, family, and your local physician for health and referral to a mental health professional."
So, for the moment, everyone in the rowing world is a single sculler.