In Defense of Self Care … In Defense of Rowing Gloves

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I’m one of those people who thought for a long time that the best way to get anything personal / health-wise done was to do it the Classic way.

While I readily avail myself of modern technology, and I have a dishwasher and washing machine and other domestic first-world “necessities,” I’ve been a bit of a stalwart when it comes to rowing. The sores, callouses and bleeding hands have always been associated with strength, perseverance and championship, regardless of whether you win or not.

I used to think that using a seat pad was for losers, along with the concept of wearing rowing gloves to protect your hands.

That all changed after I became a yoga teacher. Yoga philosophy adheres to eight schools, or sutras, which begin with ahmisa, or “non-violence,” as it is known in sanskrit. Ahimsa begins with nonviolence toward the self and then it can organically extend to other beings. If you don’t practice ahimsa, then you’re sorta not really practicing yoga, so sayeth the sages.

The other reason my lack of wearing rowing gloves comes in conflict with my life after becoming a yoga teacher is that I CAN’T TEACH YOGA VERY WELL (drive a car, walk a dog, cook a meal, wash anything, break up a fight) WHEN MY HANDS ARE ON FIRE.

After four miles, or just 36 minutes in the boat last week, my hands looked like this:

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There was a blister (which you can’t see) immediately below my pinky which burst later that day during a downward facing dog. All over my mat. (Well, not actually all over it, but it burst on my mat, and it was distracting for one and painful for two.) That first blister was covered up with bandages and no one wanted to touch me in class during partner poses.

We don’t row in these anymore:

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Centuries later, this was a modest improvement, likely owing to our collective protestant work ethic:

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Then rowing became a “sport” (if you can imagine that) and the boats became smaller, albeit they were still wooden:

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Then women (GASP! HORRORS!) got involved in the sport:

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Chances are they just got the mens’ retired boats.

Fast forward decades to after the invention of plastic and fiberglas:

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And still women (these two British girls set a new British record and won Gold at the British Rowing Championships in the Junior 14 girls’ double scull. … and it didn’t happen in a viking ship) are making waves:

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No, they’re not wearing rowing gloves. None of those people are. I didn’t wear them for a long time. But then I realized: I’m not competitive, I’m not an Olympian, I’m not a champion … YET, but now because I have the gloves, I CAN DO ANYTHING! Just kidding, sort of. But if you look at the oar handles on the picture of those junior girls champions, you will see they have rubber grips on them. Every season, new ways of doing the same thing are coming out to enhance and improve the rowing experience.

Fiberglas oars, which weigh a fraction of the original wooden ones are commonplace; why would you needlessly weigh down a boat and risk splinters in your rowers’ hands if you can get lighter, safer oars?

Same goes for fiberglas shells. Why would we do any of these things if they didn’t enhance the experience AND our ability to improve our technique and endurance? If Yale bought fiberglas shells and brought them to a regatta and no one else did, they’d smoke the hell out of any other school there.

Anyway…

This is my hand today after wearing the gloves and rowing six miles instead of the four miles in the first picture. No blisters, no pain, a little redness, but I got to go 1/3 farther and focus on my technique.

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My point is this: when we make a conscious decision to not choose a smarter way of working, are we impressing anyone?

Not me.

I bought my gloves at www.thecrewstop.com and I am not at all being compensated for this post. They don’t even know I’m writing about them. I love the gloves; if I were to make one comment, it would be to just go all the way and include the baby finger in the design; I found the outer edges of my hands slightly irritated (but not at all injured) due to the current design of their sculling gloves.

So if something exists in your particular world which will help you do what you love or do your job longer and with less negative consequences, go for it.

This is the life I have been given: as an American female in the 20th & 21st centuries. Of course I think about the strife and struggles of peoples in less-modern nations and worlds, but one hour of my suffering will not abate a minute of theirs. I have come to the point in my life that I just have to be OK with where I live and how I live and what goodness and grace has come to me or else I’m squandering it. This post is much larger than the simple discussion of rowing gloves, and maybe I’ll go into what I really mean another time, but I think you can get a sense of where I’m going. Our suffering does nothing to improve the lives of others and in fact it makes our own lives worse and ultimately adds to the universal vibration of suffering and sadness.

So shit… smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em: we have all sorts of things to improve our lives; using rowing gloves is one of them for me. I will wear them proudly.

Thank you.

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