Friday, December 18, 2015

Putting It All Together

Last summer I “tried my hand” at rowing a boat. My husband Ian and I were staying with family at the Hood Canal in Washington State. I picked my way carefully over the pebbled beach and climbed into the rowboat while Ian held it steady. He rowed away from shore and handed me the oars – one at a time, of course, because I had to position my affected hand on the left oar.

I tried to row the boat. The left oar flailed.

First uncoordinated attempt: note different oar positions.

I needed to help my affected side through a few strokes so it could get the feel of the circular motion. I gave the right oar to Ian and placed my right hand over my left, guiding myself through the motions -- dipping and pulling, pushing and leaning.

When that felt comfortable, I traded oars with Ian. Now I observed my right side doing the same motions. I felt how the oar pushed on my thumb as I reached forward, and pulled on my index joint as I leaned backward. When I had that sensation locked in my mind, I took both oars.

My healthy side made longer, stronger strokes, my husband pointed out. I eased up on the strong side, allowing my affected side to set the pace, consciously synchronizing my movements.

Row, row, rowing the boat!
Next thing I knew, I was rowing the boat gently down the lake – for about 10 strokes, then my affected hand tired and wouldn’t hold the oar anymore.

I repeated the exercise a couple times over the next few days. By day three I had muscle memory and was able to start off with coordinated strokes. It felt so good to exercise my body this way!

Dear Santa: a rowing machine might be a great therapy tool for me to build strength and re-coordinate muscles.