I’ve had a really bad cold for about two weeks now and while I didn’t get it at crew, it got me thinking about all the times I have gotten sick while participating in sports or marching band or other activities. It’s not fun and puts a wrench in training and rehearsals but 20/20 hindsight reminds me that it’s almost always preventable.
Clean the equipment
Common sense, right? After a rower ergs, the first thing they should do is clean if off – the tracks, the slide, the monitor, and most importantly, the handle. Most boathouses will have a bottle of antibacterial spray lying around for this exact purpose. The handle should be obvious why it needs to be cleaned, but you should also clean the rest of the erg because sweating, coughing, bleeding, hacking up a lung, etc. can all lead to bodily fluids being spewed all over the place.
Don’t forget about the oars either, especially if you bled on them. You can easily clean these off after practice using water and bleach.
After a hard work out or an erg test there’s usually some high fives going around and I’m all for it but in the winter, especially post-erg, I’m all about the air-five … followed up with a generous amount of hand sanitizer.
Wear the appropriate clothing
There were numerous times in high school where one of my parents would say “you are not leaving the house wearing that!” in response to me wearing shorts and a t-shirt in late fall to marching band rehearsals or leaving without a coat in the middle of January (while it was snowing) to head to the boathouse. I rolled my eyes every single time because I knew I was either going to be inside the majority of the time (crew) or I’d get hot while on the field (with band) and end up shedding the extra layers anyways but regardless of what activity you’re doing, whether you’ll be inside or out, you have to wear the right stuff if you want to avoid getting sick.
Related: What to wear
If you’re inside and you want to wear your uni while you erg or lift, go for it but make sure you’re wearing something over it so you don’t freeze when you leave. The guys I rowed with in college would frequently wear their unis, a hoodie, and nothing else when going to and from the weight room and if you know Syracuse weather, you know that’s a bold choice between November and March. Similarly, if you’re going for a run during practice, wear the right stuff so your body stays warm. You’re more likely to catch a cold from being indoors where germs can fester more easily but keeping your hands, ears, neck, feet, and extremities warm will go a long way in preventing you from picking something up while outdoors.
Stay at home if you’re sick
Seriously, if you’re sick just stay home. If you didn’t go to school that day or you went home early, definitely do not go to practice. If anything, stay home out of respect to your teammates. No one wants a walking cesspool of germs walking around coughing, sneezing, and hacking on everything. Literally no one will appreciate you “toughing it out” and coming to practice if they end up getting sick as a result. If your body is fighting a cold, do you really think it’s in any position to do a 2k or lift weights? It needs time to rest and ultimately it’s better to miss an erg test and make it up when you’re at 100% than to do it when you’re at 50% and potentially screw yourself.
If you miss a few days of practice from being sick, yea, it sucks but your teammates will appreciate you keeping your germs to yourself and just getting over whatever you’ve got. Stay home, catch up on Netflix, eat your chicken noodle soup, and get healthy before you return to practice. Also, go to the doctor. Don’t prolong your illness (and waste valuable time) by not going.
All of this is common sense but it’s easy to get caught up in the rigor of training and forget or ignore these little details. The more diligent you are tough about keeping the equipment clean and taking care of yourself, the better off you and your teammates will be.