I was burning with fever. Weak in the legs. Head pounding.
We had been training flat out and our boat was finally moving.
But I couldn’t get out of bed. I didn’t have the strength to go to practice.
And the worst part—when I went to the doctor she told me “You have an infection. It was preventable—you did NOT have to get sick.”
Ouch. That didn’t help one bit.
It’s Crazy Out There Right Now
That happened to me years ago—as a college athlete.
Today…well you know how things are going TODAY.
The other coronavirus-laden shoe is dropping.
Events are being cancelled. Schools are closing. And rowers are wondering if rowing—specifically the rowing equipment—might get them sick.
But you still want to row, right? And I bet your team wants to keep going too.
So What To Do For Healthy Rowing?
There are things you can do to significantly reduce the chance that you (or an athlete or coach) will pick up an illness from rowing equipment.
And with the rapid spread of coronavirus and the illness it can cause (COVID-19) it’s important you act now.
Right NOW. Let’s get to it.
Don’t Touch This
The coronavirus, thought to be spread by close contact with respiratory droplets generated by sneezing and coughing, can be transmitted easily on surfaces. There are basically two ways to reduce the chance of transmission of this virus on the rowing equipment.
First, don’t share equipment. Basic and simple.
Only YOU touch the equipment, and if someone else has touched it, then you do NOT.
But if single-person use is not an option, and equipment or space is shared, then you need to disinfect for healthy rowing.
Second, if you amp up your cleaning and be smart (and sane) about disinfecting you can take down a lot of viruses, especially the one that cause COVID-19.
Here’s a plan to help you do just that.
A) Wash hands. The split-second people arrive at your rowing facility have them wash their hands. And as soon as they leave. This one action alone is critical. Problem—humans are lousy at washing hands. Yes, that includes you.
Change that. How? Go wash for 20 seconds with soap and water, getting all parts of the hands. Here are suggestions from an expert.
And use a good hand sanitizer, too.
B) Disinfect like you mean it. LIKE-YOUR-NEXT-RACE-DEPENDS-ON-IT. Because it certainly could.
(And keep disinfecting long after this outbreak of COVID-19 is nothing but a distant memory.)
How do you disinfect? Use bleach—a diluted solution.
Bleach is simple—made from common salt, water and sodium chloride. Bleach is safe when used as directed. And bleach is cheap.
I’ve been promoting the powers of bleach for cleaning and disinfecting for years. And now it’s time to go BIG with bleach. (And no, I do not own stock in Clorox.)
Here are a couple of tricks to using bleach the right way:
- Use a fresh bottle, bleach can lose effectiveness over time (loses about 20% per year.)
- Mix a solution of 1:9 ratio (1 part bleach to 9 parts water). Mix it fresh each day.
- Make a slightly stronger solution if your mixture will sit around for a few days.
Where to disinfect?
There are 8 main areas to focus on for disinfecting rowing equipment.
A). Oar handles. Oar handles are the most common piece of “shared equipment.” Disinfect with a fresh bleach dip AFTER each row. Concept2 recommends using a bleach solution of 1 cup/5 gallons of water. Mix it up, dip the handles, rinse, let dry. Make sure you get the entire handle.
Greg Doyle, of Croker Oars USA, has a recommendation to make this even more effective—dunk before AND after rowing.
According to Greg, “For all our grips—foam, timber, or rubber—the post-row dip in 10% bleach solution then rinse clean is ideal to disinfect. But take it up a notch, work with handles that are already clean to start. It would be a good idea to dip and rinse prior to rowing just to be sure someone did not forget after the prior row. Rowers can live with wet handles. It’s kind of our thing.”
B). Boat surfaces. Any surface that a rower will touch—seat top, gunwale, oarlock, non-removable shoes—wipe down with disinfecting wipes, or spray with your bleach mix.
C). Erg handles. Follow the oar handle recommendations, but realize dipping probably won’t work. So use a spray bottle of fresh bleach solution—and treat before AND after use.
But don’t use bleach on the seat rail. According to Concept2 use a cloth or soft scrub pad. And make sure you wash hands before and after use and cleaning.
D). Seat tops. See “boat surfaces” above.
E). Quick release rowing shoes. If you have quick release footwear, like Shimano Rowing Dynamics, then remove and clean them. According to John Geary, business manager for Shimano “The crews that use Shimano typically clean and sanitize their shoes by soaking them for a few hours in a five gal bucket with soapy water (take the insoles out first) and then let them air dry overnight outside in cool dry temps. Or inside in front of a fan. The insoles can go in the dishwasher or regular washing machine. It’s best way to clean /disinfect them without taking the cleats off.”
F). CoxBox microphones. Here is my suggestion—give each coxswain their own microphone. Just bite the bullet, and do it. And do that from now on. The cost is well worth it.
But if the mics have to be shared, then pay attention to this tip from Joe Racosky at Nielsen-Kellerman, “Purchase a set of ‘finger cots’ to put on the end of the microphone. These are not hard to find at pharmacies. The finger cot should not affect the overall sound amplification and can be removed after use and then a new one reapplied for the next user.”
G). Electronics surfaces (but not microphones). Use the bleach spray at 10% strength.
H.) Tools and weights. Bleach will work here, however, bleach shouldn’t be applied to copper or stainless steel because it can react with those metals and leave behind stains and even corrosion.
If you are unsure and have any questions about disinfecting effectively, contact the equipment manufacturer.
Here’s the bottom line—the coronavirus, like many other viruses, can hang out in about any area (apparently they don’t like sunshine too much). Luckily you can reduce the possibility of cross-contamination with a proactive, effective and sane plan.
You don’t need fancy, or expensive, or invasive to disinfect. Just use these recommendation on a steady basis and you can help keep rowers, coxswains, and coaches safe.
Now go wash your hands. A lot!
I’ve has been writing about sane use of rowing equipment for years. Join me in my latest online course Rigging Tools For Newbies.