Six Minutes Rowing Since Y2K’s Traumatic Brain Injury

Published Categorised as Health, Brain Power, Personal, News, Treatment

We bought a Concept II rower back in the late 1990s, the same one athletes use for training. We both used it. Me with my blood pressure that had a tendency to drop under stress from lack of catecholamines, couldn’t do much in comparison to fit and tall him. But I was progressing up levels. As I recall I’d cycled back down to six minutes in early 2000 after I’d raised the level. I think I was close to level 6 or closing in on it.

It’s too bad I don’t recall the level I was at, but I do recall I rowed for six minutes with strength and energy as the new increased level I’d set it to challenged me.

Year 2000.

Car crash.

Exercise stopped on physiotherapist’s orders while she treated my neck and shoulders.

Then gently gently gradually began sunrise salutation and weights with no weights.

Nine years later, under exhortations of family and peer pressure and my own internal drive, I was walking and rowing at level 1 and looked like the Michelin Man and couldn’t sleep flat. I told myself I’d get back to six minutes and then I could climb back up the levels again to where I’d been. I fought the grief over that huge setback in my exercise regimen and fitness and I tried to ignore the edema and burning skin and just did it.

Ramryge angels at Gloucester Cathedral, England

Brain injury grief is

extraordinary grief

research proves

needs healing.

Then in 2009, an exercise trainer for concussed athletes put paid to that highly inappropriate exercise regimen for someone with brain injury. He banned rowing. Weights and stretches only. I slept flat again! The edema began to go down.

After I began gamma brainwave biofeedback in 2012 and photobiomodulation therapy in 2013, my cardiac function began to improve slowly. One day, I dared to try rowing again. For I think six strokes, maybe two. I don’t recall what year. I monitored myself to ensure I didn’t return to retaining water and having to sleep half sitting up and waking up with skin erupting in lava lakes.

Edema, a body running on burn temps, are so unpleasant and scary that I no longer grieved this extreme setback. But I can’t say I was cool with it. I just tried it and adjusted to this is how I row. Two strokes at level one.

Over the years, I gradually slowly, every few months, added a stroke to my rowing. I increased my rowing to six days a week and had reached 65 strokes per day by the end of last year. I reached 71 strokes in February and timed it: four minutes on 10 February 2023.

I switched to timing my rowing, although I kept counting strokes afraid of doing too much and overloading my brain, thus bringing back edema and lava lakes on my arms and neck.

My doctor at Bioflex Laser clinic took note of my rowing. They were already monitoring my walking regimen that my GP had instituted after my bone scan 2 years ago. Keeping in mind my brain injury, they’d set very low goals in 2021. Still, I’d crash and would have to start all over again.

The Apple iWatch I bought for 2022 Boxing Day sale changed all that. Its workout app helped me get a firm handle on my walking and is why in February I switched to timing my rowing. I stopped crashing and having to restart my walking regimen after enforced rest. And with my iWatch helping me monitor my heart rate, HRV, and respiration, letting me know how my brain was handling my cardiac function, I was able to carefully increase my rowing time in 30-second increments as well as my walking time.

On April 5th, I was at 30 minutes, five days per week, walking. My GP asked me to increase it to 45 minutes, a minute at a time every other day then fill it in before increasing it another minute, however many weeks it takes before I add another minute. I gulped. (I’m currently up to 36-37 minutes per day.)

Then when my Bioflex Laser doc suggested I increase my rowing to six minutes, I gulped. It felt impossible. But no rush, increase gradually, however long it takes, they encouraged.

On June 13th, I reached five minutes.

And on August 22nd, I reached six minutes without consciously reaching for it. I just did! And again yesterday and today!!

What was impossible became possible. Technology + not pushing myself + doctors who understand effects of brain injury on exercise + supportive and encouraging doctors = reaching rowing time I left off at in Y2K.

I’m not going to try and increase levels. Another impossible idea! Instead, I’ll settle in and enjoy six minutes daily, six days a week, and learn in the Fall what my docs think.

My Duck logo walking on my books in pink and blue shading.

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