You take the bad with the good . . .

PLEASE NOTE:  Exercise programs are individual.  Please see your doctor or Physical Therapist if you are injured and follow their medical advice FIRST!  I was asked to write an article about recovering from my back injury . . . so, here is what I've been doing.  I am sharing my training and NOT prescribing this program to anyone.

Race Day

As I came around the corner and spotted my line, I accelerated toward the flake, pulled my stroke, lifted my hips and shifted my weight to set my angle and body position for re-acceleration upon landing. However, things didn’t necessarily go as planned.

As I landed flat, I felt a boulder right under my seat and a sudden, forceful deceleration.  I let out a shriek and just for a brief moment quickly assessed my pain as I regained my speed.

Day 16 after the initial injury

Muscles relaxing more giving me slightly increased mobility, but point tenderness along the lower vertebrae and continued painful movements.  I decided to see my doctor.  It’s a scary feeling going into the radiologist and wondering what the results would show . . .

Day 7 after initial injury:

I knew immediately, once home, I needed to deal with getting my back healthy. Taking time completely off is NOT realistic for me. I know my body so well, and I’m better of (mind and body) to move.

In order to avoid “Chronic” injury, it is very important to take things slowly and find movements and exercises that DO NOT irritate an injured area. Here is my current program, until I can get back into more dynamic movements and plymetrics.


Elliptical Machine            30-45 minutes            4-5 times per week           

I chose the elliptical machine as this eliminates twisting, bending and impact.  But gets all of your muscles working hard. I went as intense as I could but backed down once I felt strain in the lower back.


I typically train with dynamic, powerful movements using a lot of torso rotation. This is NOT feasible right now so I went back to basic, slow lifts working on purely strength.

3X10 with 3 minutes of rest between each set

Leg Press ~ Using light weights to minimize pressure and strain in the lower back

Lat Pull-down


Shoulder Press

Bicep Curl

Tricep Extension

Rotator Cuff Exercises 3X25

Core ~ I can still work my core if it doesn’t involve any twisting or fast bending movements, such as Planks.


This is THE most important part of my training right now. My back has completely locked up. As I continue my normal stretching routine ~ minus twisting movements ~ I emphasize the following stretches and hold them for at least 45 seconds.

Lower back stretch

Hip Flexor stretch

Outer thigh stretch


In addition to my training program, I do weekly massage sessions with my LMT who specializes in working with athletes.  I have also been getting in my slalom and whitewater kayak.  I have found that for me at this point, I can comfortably paddle easy whitewater/flatwater, but to stay away from rolling or hard impacts.

Day 17 after initial injury:

I just got the x-ray results back . . . from what they can see there is no sign of a compression fracture.  I am stoked beyond belief, moreso, because of peace of mind. Now back to continued training and progressing when and where I can to see continued improvement.

If you would like more training ideas specific to paddling, please check out Rapid Magazine online for some of my tips and tricks or "Fitness and Sport Evolution".


Heather Herbeck

Disclaimer:  If you have any questions about your fitness level, routine or the exercises mentioned above, please see a trained professional for guidance.  AND, always, always visit your doctor before starting an exercise program.










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