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.

4 responses »

  1. Hi, Molly — WOW is all I can say. As one of the inventors of the rowing gloves you recommend in your blog, I was shocked and thrilled to read your comments! I have to say — this is so funny — I read the whole article with trepidation wondering whose gloves you were referring to!!

    We just came back from the Head of the Charles — our first regatta selling gloves — and you would not believe the comments about our gloves, everything from “My daughter had a staph infection from her blisters and your gloves were prescribed by her doctor” to “My coach won’t let me wear them”. SO many reasons to use them, only one not to — and that is the close-mindedness of individuals who for some crazy reason think blisters are a “badge of honor” that rowers must go through to toughen up their hands. We continue to be baffled by this attitude, but understand that, just like anything else, change requires evolution and acceptance, and that can take time. I could go on, but just wanted to say thank you for having the courage to say what we have been trying to convince rowers of for the past several years — that there is NO NEED to suffer needlessly with blisters!!

    One last thing, based on your comment (and others who felt similarly), we are adding a fifth finger to our design that we hope is available later in 2015. Thanks again for your completely honest AND unbiased/uncompensated opinion of our product. You sound like a very cool individual.

    • Thanks, so much Julie.

      I recently trained (on a lark and quite close to the actual event) for the nearby George Mason University Occoquan Chase regatta which is a 5K head race.

      Because you’re savvy, you understand that when you have to advance to the start for a 5K you’re actually a rowing at least 2 miles to get there. Then you row your 5k and thrn another mile back to the launch. (People always tilt their heads whtn i explain to them the “organization” of a head race….)

      So with 10 days before the race, my double partner and I registered and I swear, that were it not for those gloves, there is NO WAY ON THIS EARTH that I would’ve been able to compete. The gloves not only protected my hands and my health, but they also allowed for a gradual callous formations beneath the gloves, with nearly ZERO chafing and sensitivity after removing the gloves. My thumbs got exactly what they needed and they built tougher skin because I was able to build through the practices and training.

      Look, football players wear gloves, Marines wear gloves, NASCAR drivers wear gloves, boxers wear gloves!! Some of the most “macho” and aggressive athletes and soldiers wear gloves. To argue against thrm due to some absurd and antiquated sense of tradition (i can think of many traditions which weren’t such hot ideas when we look back on them) is simply, weakness and stupidity. BATMAN wears gloves…

      Anyway, i love them. I wear them proudly (you should’ve seen my hands’ tans) and I’m thrilled the design is going to include the pinky.

      Your invention has allowed me to keep rowing and it allowed me to compete (we came in 2nd) with next to zero time to prepare. Truly.

      And yeah, I’m very cool. 😊

    • Julie — one last thing (I forgot to ask): how did you find this post? I am always curious about that. I found your gloves when I posted a picture of my hands on FB and my friend attached your link. He’s not even a rower, he just couldn’t believe I’d actually put up with such injury so he went looking for me! :)

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