Reclaiming My Body Pt.1
Two years ago, at 47 years old, I took a very expensive gamble on myself. After a lifetime of signing up for YMCA or gym memberships and not using them, or using them only once or twice, and of getting pilates videos, hand me down eliptical machines, and treadmills and then not using them, I bought myself a rowing machine. All through 2020 lock down, I’d seen the Hydrow ads popping up in my social media feeds and thought I would like it. One look at the price, though, immediately put the brakes on any impulse purchases. At that point I didn’t even have a couch yet, I certainly wasn’t going to buy fitness equipment. About a year later, though, couch in place, the world still reeling from Covid, still vascilating between locking down and opening up, I took the plunge and finally order the machine and the whole kit that came with it. (In for a penny, in for a pound.)
I started rowing and within a week of doing those 15 minute sessions nearly every day, I knew this was different. For the first time in my life, I’d found an exercise I loved. From the moment I saw the first ad, I knew the rhythmic nature of the movement was going to appeal to me. Although I do love the rhythmic nature of the rowing, I don’t think any other machine would have captured my heart in the same way. After my intitial Hydrow sticker shock, I looked at sever other machines and seriously debated getting a different model. I am so glad I didn’t though. Look at my face in that picture, after just one week of rowing! I love rowing with Hydrow, because I workout with athletes who are on the water. I see really beautiful places from around the world as I row in my basement. The athletes are genuine and caring. They are motivational as they guide us through workouts and are so clearly working out themselves. When we finish a challenging workout, the athletes are just as sweaty and winded as I am.
Hydrow also motivates users by offering prizes for milestones. After rowing my first 100,000 meters, I got a water bottle, for 250,000, 500,000, and 750,000 meters I got different pairs of socks with the meter totals on the toes. Sure, I paid for those prizes with my monthly subscription fee and sweat, but they were hugely motivating for me. Like I said, I’d never had a workout stick before, I didn’t necessarily know how to set goals, not realistic ones that didn’t involve some kind of weight loss or change in body composition. From the beginning, my only goal was to be stronger and more fit. They are admirable goals, but not exactly measurable. They don’t necessarily allow you to see progress. My hydrow rewards helped me learn how to set smaller goals, ones that I could track and see.
Once I hit 100,000, I knew I was going for the Million Meter club. I didn’t really talk about it until after I made 750,00, but then it became real to me. It wasn’t an ephemeral goal. It was reality, because I already knew I could row the 250,000 meters to get from one goal to the next. “When I hit 1M meters, I’m going to … ” was my new language. It took almost exactly two years from my first row, but yesterday I DID IT! I rowed my one millionth meter. I may have a new definition of what constitutes sweaty, but rowing still makes me smile.
When I realized, after my work out on Wednesday, that I would meet this milestone yesterday, I went back and found my first row summary in order to make this comparison. Of course, once I finished yesterday’s workout, I immediately pulled together this lay out of pictures and blasted it all over my social media, and texted all my friends who wouldn’t see it through public channels! There will also be a party later, in about a month I think. Maybe sooner, now that I have made the mile stone; we’ll see how I feel and how it comes together.
As you can see in the comparison, my million meter row was also the final row of a Spring Training Camp designed to help improve speed. In the fall/winter of 2021, I did the Endurance Training camp which it January of 2022 culminated in a 60 minute row. This spring, as I struggled to get back into the routine and habit of rowing regularly, I decided to give the Sprint Camp a try. It was a real challenge for me, another much smaller gamble on myself, because I really didn’t like rowing at high speeds like 30 strokes per minute (s/m). Five or six sessions in, I almost gave up on it. But, I stuck with it. So, yesterday, in one workout, I accomplished not one, but two rowing goals.
Serendipitously, it was also the perfect row in which to do this. You see, it isn’t just the rhythmic nature of the row that appeals to me, it is also the synchronicity. The way that matching up with the athlete allows you to forget about the big elements of the stroke: legs, core, arms, arms core, legs, and lets you focus on the details: relaxing your shoulders, hands, and face, keeping your posture, breathing. I enjoy working out with all the Hydrow athletes, but matching with some is easier for me than matching with others. For this workout Laine and I gelled. I don’t think my eyes ever really left her hands as she guided me through three 8 minute intervals. I’d turned off the leader board and purposefully ignored all my other metrics, because I knew that if I looked I’d constantly be worried about meeting the distance to make it to 1M. Laine is always super encouraging and breaks down segments so well, but this time the only thing I really remember her saying is, “Repetition breeds confidence.”
I’m fairly certain that anyone who knows me has seen the truth of that statement over the last two years. Repetition bred confidence in my stroke. Legs, core, arms, arms, core, legs sounds simple and straight forward enough, but takes longer than you might expect to really get the hang of. Repetition bred confidence in my persistence. At one point I had a 70 week streak going (meaning I’d worked out at least once a week for 70 weeks). Repetition bred confidence in my recovery. Throughout the hard workouts of both of training camps, I maintained a steady “every-other-day” routine and trusted my body would be ready for the next one. Repetition bred confidence in myself. Sitting down to row, even when I did not want to row, making time to row, even when I did not want to row, taught me how to prioritize myself. Meeting those milestones, using sweat and time to earn my socks, taught me how to manage stress and my mental health.
I am stronger, in every way possible, at 49 than I have ever been in my life. And, in the next post, I will try to explain why and how it took me so long to get to this point. This post is just about the celebration, about the smile on my face after nearly every row, and about how I am so much closer to my RAD friend, who has been my accountability buddy on every step of this journey. Her encouragement has been fundamental to my persistence and success. It’s about looking at the change in my average split from 3:54 to 2:32 and viscerally feeling that progress.