Paddling Injuries: How Loving the Conditions and Training Works when We are Injured

Dealing with Paddling Injuries

Spend enough time on this website, or the Paddle Monster Facebook page and you’ll notice two mantras, mottos or hashtags: Love the Conditions and Training Works.

Spend a bit of time training with us and you’ll quickly learn how useful those two mantras are. They both provide encouragement, inspiration and mental focus in times when working to reach our goals is hard.

Training Works

Training Works reminds us to trust the program, trust the effect it has on our endurance and our ability to persevere. Do the training, you’ll likely be successful.

Love the Conditions

Love the Conditions reminds us that everything we encounter during our training and our racing and even our recreational paddling makes us better. It is the great playing field leveler, if you will. Everyone in any given race has to paddle the same conditions. But if you’re the one enjoying them, you have an edge. If you can learn to love and enjoy paddling in heavy conditions, you are embracing the current situation and focusing positive energy toward your goal. Sometimes all it takes is to smile when you are grinding away and boom! You’re crushing it.

Dislike the conditions, and you will find yourself fighting them, allowing negative energy to overtake you. Even if you can’t absolutely love the 25-mile-per-hour headwind at Chattajack, embracing it, and accepting it will pay off.

You can’t change the conditions. All you can do is change the way you react to them.

“If you embrace the conditions, whatever they may be, you’ve got a much better chance of having fun, paddling loose and relaxed, and performing to your ability. Or sometimes, even better,” said Coach Larry Cain when he explained the mantra in a blog post a couple of years ago.

My personal experience has been that once I take that first step toward loving the conditions, I do indeed have more fun, I do better, and I learn that I can paddle through the headwinds with strength and power and skill. And laughter and a smile on my face.

Next thing I know, I truly am loving them.

It is a pathway to what downwind coach Suzie Cooney calls “letting the mind win first.” And she writes about it in chapter seven of her Sup training book.

Off the Water

I recently learned is that the Training Works/Love the Conditions/Mind Wins First mindset also can be a huge help when we are injured and/or are facing health challenges that are keeping us off the water.

I have to have a total knee replacement. It came out of the blue, with no gradual increase in pain or immobility. My ortho and PT both thought I had a common meniscus tear. The MRI surprised us all when it showed there’s no cartilage left in the joint and that is what damaged the meniscus.

On one hand, I’m lucky. It happened so suddenly – or so it seemed. I had no pain or mobility issues until I didn’t. No long, drawn out decision making process about whether to replace the knee. It won’t get better. Cartilage does not come back. A new knee is the only fix.

Okay. Love the Conditions.

The ortho says it happened because I use my knees. I am active. I am a paddler. That is probably what kept me from the painful ordeal that many folks experience. And he says that gives me an edge on a successful recovery that will have me back on the water soon.

Training works.

Now here is where it gets tricky.

I need to get this fixed asap so I can move forward with several other major events going on in my life at the moment. But a big impediment to that plan is a condition I was born with. In short, my heart conducts electricity differently. I was born with “reversed polarity” if you will. Despite what a Google search turns up about the condition, my cardiologist says it’s something to pay attention to, but people who have it congenitally as I do live just fine with it. I have’t worried about it in years. It hasn’t kept me from training and competing in six Chattajacks and downwinding and surfing.

But when an anesthesiologist looking to clear a patient they know nothing about sees that on a chart, they freak out.

So, in order to get cleared for the knee replacement, I had to have a battery of tests to make sure the ticker was okay.

At 58, I freaked out too.

My anxiety about the possible outcomes accelerated. For two weeks, I was riding the what if worry train. I obsessed over every blood pressure check. Which really didn’t help matters.

I turned to meditation and yoga, along with deep breathing exercises, to quiet my monkey mind and calm it the frell down. But after each session, the worry creeped back in.

I was one big stress puppy until I came back to my training mantras.

Training works. My GP told me that every time I do a paddle work out, I am essentially doing a stress test. Yes, I am not as fit as I was pre-pandemic and I haven’t been able to train because of my knee, but look at the body of training I have done over the last six years. And before that when cycling was my main focus,.

I was much, much relieved when the ultrasound came back showing a strong, healthy heart.

But I still had a nuclear stress test to face.

My doctor and I agreed that if the knee would tolerate it, actually getting on the treadmill rather than increasing my heart rate with a drug to mimic exercise would be better.

This time, I assuaged the anxiety by loving the conditions.

I treated the test as a training work out. Or even a race. I visualized the entire process: getting on the treadmill, starting, having knee pain and working through it, pushing my heart rate, and getting through it. Finishing strong and recovering. Just like I would a race.

I had a target to hit. High Zone 3 four a couple of minutes. On an inclining treadmill. Awesome! Give me a goal!!!

In addition to finding out the condition of my heart, I would get my true maximum heart rate and I’d get to test how accurate my Garmin Fenix wrist heart rate monitor is. Bonus! (By the way, the Garmin wrist HRM was right on target with the cardiologist’s equipment!)

I got this.

Love the conditions.

Love the outcome – whatever it is. If it’s good, great! We move forward with the new knee. If the testing finds something, okay. We will address that now, while we can. And with all the resources available. In a controlled environment. It’s all good.

Love the conditions/situation.

It’s the heart I was given. It has served me well so far. Find out what how it is performing, no assumptions, and adjust accordingly.

It will be okay.

Use that to calm the mind down. Let it win first.

I aced the test.  Heart rate got to where it needed to be quickly. I wasn’t winded or bothered.  I recovered quickly. It actually felt good!

My heart is fine. Strong and healthy.

Training works. Love the conditions. The mind wins first.

The same principles that have gotten me through seasons of flatwater training, multiple Maliko runs in big water, and six Chattajack starts/finishes just got me through a major health scare.

Now, maybe it’s easy to say that, since everything is okay, But for two weeks I wasn’t sure it was. I am confident that using these tools in the face of any challenge in the future will help me get through it.

Love the conditions,
The mind wins first.
Training works.