That moment when you’re hanging onto a bar, oar, barbell, kettlebell, and you can feel the skin on your hands start to shift…
Although your shifting skin provides little physical evidence of any kind of blemish yet, you know you’re about to get a blister. And a rip.
Gymnasts, CrossFit athletes, rowers, rock climbers, among other “hand sport” athletes are all too familiar with this feeling. It’s not the end of the world if the following day is your planned rest day, but if you’re in the middle of the Regional CrossFit competition, or sprint repeats in preparation for the Olympics, curse words start forming in your head, sometimes even bubbling out your mouth.
You need your hands to perform.
In the upcoming series of posts, we will explore the hand care needs of various elite level athletes in different sports, and demonstrate how RIPT Skin Systems' 3 Phase Reinforcement kit can help you keep your skin in the game.
Krista Guloien is a two-time Canadian Olympic rower, who helped win a silver medal with the Canadian women’s eight at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. She has many hand horror stories locked in her memory bank.
The most prevalent hand-ripping for Guloien always occurred at the start of the spring rowing season. The Canadian women’s national team trains in London, Ontario; Lake Fanshawe freezes over for a number of months each year, so the national team trains mostly on indoor rowing machines – ergometers – during the winter months.
When April rolled around each year, Guloien’s usually tough callused hands had to come out of hibernation, hands that by April were soft and more susceptible to rips than normal.
“There were many nights awake with throbbing hands, accidental run-ins with hand sanitizers and painful times trying to wash my hair,” said Guloien.
Strangers who spotted her raw hands in public all had the same reaction to the raw blisters:
A grimace followed by, “What happened to your hands?” said in half concerned, half disgusted tone of voice.
“I’m a rower,” Guloien would explain.
“Why don’t you wear gloves?” the stranger would ask.
Guloien would then explain why gloves were a bad idea for her sport.
You need to be able to feel the oar properly. “Gloves were never recommended because you would loose too much connection with the handle and the water,” Guloien explained.
In the end, April rips were something Guloien always just accepted as part of her sport.
Hand Care Tips from a Rower:
Take care of your calluses!
This means you need to keep your calluses on the thinner side of things. RIPT’s GRINDSTONE is perfect for gently ‘sanding’ your hands down, the way you would with sand paper. For best results, use the GRINDSONE on your palms in the shower when they’re softer.
For super thick calluses, you can use a dull razor blade or a callus/corn shaver first, carefully removing the bumpiest part of your callus. Once you’ve taken care of the biggest, baddest, deepest calluses, finish off by smoothing out your hands with the GRINDSTONE.
When you’re done, the skin on your palm should feel tough but smooth. Be careful not to grind too deep into your calluses; you want to maintain a tough, consistent layer of skin on your entire palm. The main thing you want is to make sure there are no bumps or ridges left on your hands – those are usually what turn into blisters and rips.
Tape your hands before they rip!
Tape is a great way to not only cover up and protect rips when they do occur, but also to prevent a possible blister from forming in the first place. If you do rip, getting a hand balm like RIPT's QUICKFIX into the fresh wound is a must. This will fill the tear and make your hands usable while your body heals the rip.
Gloves aren’t great if they limit your ability to feel the oar, but some rowers wear mini gloves with the fingers cut off. As long as you’re still able to properly feel and control the oar in and out of the water, you’re good to go.