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The Difference Between Pain and Injury


Photo by Sarah Dresser

Sam McFeely and Sydney Abad often row next to each other on the ergs to motivate one-another during long pieces.


By Sam McFeely

Varsity Rower

Before the 2k, I was terrified. I had never done a 2k on the ergs before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know how to make a race plan. I had to ask Penelope Gallardo, another varsity rower.

I was also scared that it would hurt my back because it is more intense than the 30-minute steady state test we did two days before. During the test, I remembered the pain that came along with 2ks, but it wasn’t my usual back pain. It was the “normal” total body pain.

After the 2k-test, I rolled off the erg and had to lay on the ground to catch my breath and let the pain leave my body.

Our varsity coxswain Sarah Dresser came over to me and asked if I was okay. I told her that I was in pain but the good pain, and to that she replied, “Sam’s back everyone!”

Last year while preparing for the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA), I injured my back due to strenuous practices and poor care of my body. While I was practicing with the same intensity as my team, I was not aware of my body and the signals it was sending me. I ended up having to sit out for a week due to the pain of my spine twisting and my pelvic being out of place.

When I returned to the team after a summer off, the back pain returned, which left me on land most days. I was not able to keep up with my varsity teammates and could not finish some erg workouts. I was put into a boat with another rower who also was dealing with back pain, so that we could go in early if our backs started to hurt.

I have been going to the chiropractor, who has been helping me keep my spine in line and also deal with the tightness that developed in my back due to the injury.

I have also been increasing my stretching and warming up before practice. I get to practice a half an hour before practice to ensure I have enough time to prepare my body for practice.

Throughout the past several weeks, I have made huge progress, I am now able to keep up with my teammates when we have land workouts and am able to go out with the varsity boat without having to go in early due to back pain.

Before the 30-minute piece, I was a little nervous because I didn’t know how my back was going to hold up. I had only been doing steady state and not really pushing my back to that strenuous level. During the piece, I felt a lot stronger than I had a month before when we took our first test. After the test I felt tired, but accomplished because I had survived alongside my teammate and knew that all the extra workouts had helped.

My goals are to continue to get back into shape and listen to my body to ensure that I do not hurt my back. I want to succeed with my team, and I will continue to workout as hard as possible every practice and give everyday my all. I will also continue to do extra workouts to get stronger.


Watch the video of the novice four at WIRA. Alexandra Savage, Sydney Abad,  McFeely, Cecilia Guerrero and coxswain Sheila Robles finished second, earning silver medals. This also demonstrates the strain McFeely (2 seat) put on her back until the end of the season.