|The view from my seat|
on the machine. It looks
like a mean comic robot
image from this view.
I used to walk a 2-mile route three times a week, and at least when I walked the landscape was always changing, but I did not walk in winter. The roads were too slippery, snowmobiles whizzed by me at unbelievable speeds, and I hate the cold. I always tell myself, "I'll walk again next summer." I didn't, though. I stopped walking due to the weather, but I knew I needed to do some type of exercise because I spend way too much time in front of my computer.
I’ve never been athletic. I enjoyed walking in summer, and for a number of years rode horses taking lessons in dressage and hunt seat jumping, but competitive sports? No. High-intensity sports? No. I’m a klutz. In high school, while learning basketball in gym class I gave a girl a concussion when I tripped over my own feet and my head banged into the back of hers. Rowing, however, is supposed to be a great form of exercise; it affects 80% of all the body's muscles and doesn’t put stress on joints.
This January (no it was not a New Year’s resolution) I decided to return to the rower. The good part is I don’t have to travel to use the machine, and I can use it rain or shine or severe snowstorm.
I started doing 100 strokes three times a week, but not on a regular basis. In that time, and being slightly obsessive-compulsive, I learned I rowed about 24 to 26 strokes per minute, so 125 strokes were five minutes. I began doing five minutes at least once a day, but two weeks later tried for that length twice a day.
I had read where any exercise activity didn't have to be done in one long-haul episode to be effective, but each short activity accrued into the same result. I became driven to complete at least two sessions a day. By the second week in February I was doing one ten-minute session in the morning and a second five-minute session in the evening, every day. The only way I could get through it was watching all the information on the machine’s small screen: the number of strokes increasing, supposed number of calories burned (always very minimal), number of strokes per minute, the time elapsed.
Have you ever noticed how slow time passes when you watch the minutes tick by? I found the manual and learned how to change the readings to just follow the number of strokes. Still too slow and boring. The fourth week into February with consistent rowing I discovered some interesting things.
First, I found if I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing, and/or counting my strokes, the motion relaxed me. Nothing mattered but moving. It emptied my mind. Is that some form of meditation? Whatever it is, it helps me control my wayward brain, and I'm surprised how fast strokes accrue when not watching the numbers.
Second, I noticed when my eyes were closed and my mind blank, my mind started listening to my body and I concentrated on doing the stroke correctly and actually sensing what muscles I used.
Third, a week ago I felt muscles in my legs; hard muscles, for the first time ever. Now I feel them whenever I move. It motivates me.
Fourth, I learned it doesn't matter if I keep an exact schedule, only that I do it at some time during the day.
Fifth, I learned it is better to row on an empty stomach. It's much easier, and I can look forward to the reward of eating afterward. The bonus is I probably won't eat as much as if I'd eaten before rowing.
The first hundred strokes remain difficult, as my mind doesn't want to cooperate with my body. It constantly informs me of better ways to spend my time. I just close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing or counting strokes, sometimes I just enjoy feeling my body work, or find I enjoy listening to the noises around me. Once I get to two hundred strokes in one session, my mind enjoys the motion. It is relaxing and peaceful, and makes me continue.
Six weeks ago I was doing fifteen minutes a day (375 strokes). Last week I did four sessions of 200 strokes. Wow! 800 strokes in one day! (I know any consistent, long-time rower reading this is laughing at this low rate, but they are probably not as old as I am.) Each week I found it easier to do and each week my goal increased. Now I'm averaging twenty-six minutes a day, or 4500 strokes a week, which is equivalent to exercising three hours a week. I’m hoping to keep going, so sitting out even one day scares me because I might quit all together. A few days ago I did 500 strokes in one session, no heavy breathing or inordinate exertion involved. I'm working towards three and a half hours a week. I’m not there yet, but I’m working towards 750 strokes a day, 350 in the morning, 250 midday, and 200 in the evening. Last Monday I did 650 strokes in one setting! Yay!
I'm hoping all this will help get more blood to my brain to help keep it working. It already gets more air into my lungs, but I still have to urge myself to go use the machine. One part of my mind tells me I have better things to do, but the compulsive part of my nature tells me that I must row. I feel comfortable in knowing I can meet my goal in two, three, or four short daily sessions. For a non-athletic person my age, it feels like a major accomplishment.