For Catherine, it’s cycling and kayaking. I’m also a fan of this combo.
In general, I think a number of us on the blog are fans of water based sports. When I first started the fittest-by-fifty challenge, one of my goals was to take up something new and I went for rowing. In this older post I talked about the skills overlap between rowing and cycling.
Kim Solga is another fan of the rowing/cycling combo.
These days for me, during the summer months, there’s a lot of boating and biking–Snipe racing and road bike riding.
For many of the bloggers, I think it’s running and yoga that are their favourite pairing.
How about you? Of all the sports and physical activities that bring you joy, which is your favourite pairing? Let us know in the comments.
Gently in the basement. Merrily, merrily, merrily…something that rhymes with basement.
In one of my recent Go Team! posts ‘Make some tweaks‘ I said that I was planning to move my rowing machine up to the living room because my mid-decluttering basement was too distracting. However, soon after I posted it, I realized that there was a more direct way to fix the problem – I shifted the stuff from directly in front of the machine so I didn’t have to see it while I rowed.
It instantly helped.
In fact, as soon as I move the stuff, I hopped on the machine and rowed for a few minutes.
That in itself was a victory and I added to that triumph by deciding to sign up for my free trial of Apple Fitness + that I have been getting reminders of for months.
I watched my first video and rowed along on Monday morning and I LOVED it.
The instructions were clear, the leader was enthusiastic but not overbearing, and I could easily see (and match) the pace of the rowers in the video, and I felt encouraged to work a little harder than I probably would have on my own.
It gave me a lot of the benefits of being in a group class without actually having to be in a group class – I felt like I had company, the structure was clear and once I had decided on a workout, I didn’t have any more decisions to make during the session. (Unless I had decided not to finish it, of course!)
Of course, I could get a lot of those same things from YouTube videos but going to an exercise-specific app and choosing from a single category felt a lot different than going to YouTube and searching past – and getting distracted by – all kinds of other interesting things to find a video to exercise with.
Anything that removes obstacles and reduces my distractions on the way to exercising is a good thing.
And the video itself felt different, even though it was a pre-recorded thing made for a mass audience, it felt much more like a Zoom class or something else that I could join/be part of than just something I was watching and doing on my own. I don’t know what about the video made it feel like that but I liked it.
Yes, I know that I have done this exactly once and I may or may not continue to enjoy it but the fact that my first experience with the program was overwhelmingly positive means I feel drawn to try it again.
And that is definitely a good thing.
And I’m awarding myself a gold star for my efforts.
Feel free to award yourself this gold star for your efforts today, too.
She was the first woman and the first American to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, which she did in 1999. She was also the first woman and first American to ski to the South Pole and the first woman to climb the Lewis Nunatak in the Antarctic. (See Wikipedia for more.)
McClure is a university president (Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky) and the author of A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean.
Awhile back I posted about an amazing book I was reading A Pearl in the Storm. It’s a memoir (the subtitle is “How I found my heart in the middle of an ocean”) and an adventure story about rowing solo across the Atlantic. Lots of themes in the book about growing up as young athletic woman in a country and at a time when that wasn’t allowed or encouraged will resonate with readers.
The musical version of the book just opened this summer: “Tori Murden McClure was the first woman – and the first American – to successfully row across the Atlantic Ocean. She succeeded in 1999 after an attempt in 1998 was foiled by a hurricane. Her vessel? A 23 foot rowboat she had built and named the “American Pearl.” The story of her accomplishment has inspired the new musical “Row” – with a book by Daniel Goldstein and music and lyrics by singer-songwriter, Dawn Landes.”
And, drumroll please, Tori Murden McClure has agreed to a blog interview! I’ll be interviewing her at the end of September.
SEND ME YOUR QUESTIONS! I have lots of my own, but I’m also collecting questions for the author (now President of Spalding University). We connected through blog guest and fellow feminist philosopher Lauren Freeman who it turns out is a neighbour of the author. Thanks Lauren!
I loved her story and I recently found out that she’s the neighbour of a feminist philosopher who reads the blog. I’m going to interview her email and post here so if you have any questions for this remarkable woman, pls send them my way.
There’s a lot to love about the book. I’ve been reading it pretty much non-stop. I love the way she weaves in her life story with her harrowing journey in a very small boat amid some intense weather and big waves. Early chapters also tell the story of McClure’s earlier adventures. She was also the first woman to ski to the South Pole.
Also of note, especially for the academics out there. You might relate to McClure’s discussion of her decision to swap her life boat for books to take on the journey. I also loved the food recommendations she received. If you’re starting in good health, it’s okay to eat like a teenager for 3 months. The peanut M and Ms came on the trip.
I found Tori Murden McClure’s story of growing up defending her disabled brother from abuse at school more harrowing than the tale of rowing across the Atlantic. Parts of that story needed a content warning in a way the rowing adventure did not. The assualt story in Chapter 6 was especially difficult to read.
In a different way it was also hard to read the author’s account of the conflict between her early athleticism and being a girl. I suspect many blog readers will relate.
You might also enjoy watching the TED talk A song for my hero, the woman who rowed into a hurricane: “Singer-songwriter Dawn Landes tells the story of Tori Murden McClure, who dreamed of rowing across the Atlantic in a small boat — but whose dream was almost capsized by waves the size of a seven-story building. Through video, story and song, Landes imagines the mindset of a woman alone in the midst of the vast ocean. “
I’ve been thinking lately about what I miss most about working out with other people. I mean there’s the obvious social interaction and pleasure in seeing friendly familiar faces. Working out has also been for me one of the places where my life crosses work and educational lines. Aikido was the best for that. But cycling too. And the Y, of course. I got to chat with city bus drivers, emergency service workers, car mechanics, teachers, cooks, and working at home parents. There are more people in the world than university professors! It got me off campus, placed me in a context where I’m not an expert, and I get to chat with people about non-academic stuff. See, I can learn things too. I like connecting with the student side of myself.
Okay, so there’s all that and it’s important.
But there is another thing that I miss and that’s the pure physical pleasure of moving in time with other people.
Aikido is all about moving in harmony with other people. We do basic movements together as warm up, each person doing the same movement at the same time. We also match our movement to our training partners in a way that can feel at its best more like dance than martial arts.
It’s also one of the things I love about rowing. When I rowed outside, on the lake, I rowed in a four person boat, in the third spot. I followed the women ahead of me, matched my stroke to theirs. It’s a lot harder and more technical than that but it also just comes down to working together. When we were perfectly synced, we moved quickly and smoothly through the water. Indoors, on the erg, it was a similar thing. We worked on drills together and it was always easier for me if I focused on keeping pace with the other rowers.
It’s true too in cycling. If you’re riding behind someone the easiest thing to do is find a gear that allows you to match their cadence. It’s the best way to ride in group, close behind other people, and avoid running into them without using your brakes.
I’ve been missing that in my Zwift team time trials because you don’t know the other riders’ cadence.
But yesterday I did a YouTube rowing workout and while keeping pace with the workout leader I noticed I was smiling. It makes it easier somehow and more pleasurable.
The pleasure of synchronized activities with other people isn’t just found in sports.
It’s true too in music. That’s part of why singing with other people makes us happy.
Synchronous movements is known to form social bonds across divides. See Moving in sync creates surprisingly social bonds among people. It also just plain and simple makes us feel good. “Many group activities boost our sense of belonging, but research shows that doing things synchronously can build even stronger social ties and create a greater sense of well-being. Crew rowing, line dancing, choir singing or simply tapping fingers in sync increases generosity, trust and tolerance toward others, often beyond effects seen in more disorderly doings. It can even increase people’s threshold for pain.”
When people ask what I miss being physically distant from others, this is one of the things. It took a rowing workout to get me to realize that. Who knows what’s next? Maybe I’ll see if there are any good Aikido basic movement follow along tutorials on YouTube.
After years of planning to buy a rowing machine, I finally got one a couple of months back and I am thoroughly enjoying using it.
I love that I don’t have to put much thought into the how and the what of exercising with the rowing machine. I can use it at any time without having to put on specific clothes and I can choose to have a harder workout or an easier one without having to make a specific plan.
It’s a kind of automatic exercise for me which is really good for my ADHD brain – there are few, if any, choices to make in advance and that means there are very few potential obstacles between me and my workout.
Plus, I like the very nature of the movement back and forth, the repetition has a soothing element to it.
And, I like that I can do a very specific type of multi-tasking – watching YouTube videos – while I row.
I enjoy learning by video but I don’t often make time to do so. Combining my exercise with videos is a win-win situation – I am doing two enjoyable things at once and my brain and body are both busy so I don’t get any of my usual feeling that I should probably be doing something else.
I even pick out my videos the night before so there is little between my pyjama-clad self and my exercise session in the mornings. I can get up, let the dog out (and back in!), grab some water, take my meds, and then head to the basement to row. It’s all part of my waking up routine and it really feels great.
Speaking of feeling great, my rowing has brought me an unexpected positive side-effect – my hips have loosened up considerably.
Because of long-ago sessions at the gym, I knew that my arms, back, and legs were going to benefit from using the machine but I hadn’t really thought about how the set of movements required to row would help my hips, too.
I sort of have a ‘trick’ hip. It’s mostly fine but every now and then I’ll do something that will wonk it out and it will take me a few days to get it to calm down again.
Practicing kicks at taekwon-do has often triggered my hip in that way but I only realize it *after* I have done it. I’ve done a variety of things to work on it (with various degrees of consistency – I’m still me after all) but nothing has been especially helpful. Until now.
About three weeks after starting regular rowing sessions, our Thursday night TKD class was all about practicing sidekicks and angle kicks. Normally, with a night full of those kicks, my hip would wonk out at some point during the evening and I’d either have to reduce my movements or do something else entirely.
This time, however, I was tired but my hip was completely fine. I was puzzled at first but as I was pulling my leg up and back into position for one of the kicks, I realized that the motion was familiar. It’s not exactly like the position of my leg as I pull all the way forward on the machine but it’s similar.
I didn’t have any trouble with my hips that night. And, more importantly, I didn’t wake up stiff or in pain the next morning. In fact, I rowed for a bit longer than I had the day before.
It turns out that my rowing was setting me up for new success with taekwon-do.
That’s a pretty good side-effect for an activity I was enjoying already.
Have you ever had one type of exercise ‘accidentally’ help you in another like that?
Tell me about it in the comments! (Pretty please.)
The saga behind the arrival of our pandemic erg is here. It has since arrived, been set up, and even used.
It continues with me refreshing myself on rowing basics, the parts of the stroke and all that.
And then a member of the 221 workouts in 2021 group asked if I know about Zoom ergo! I did not. But I Googled and see that it’s free and that it involves zooming with world champions and working out together.
“Erg together! Getting on the ergo can be a lot more fun if you row alongside someone else. Zoom Ergos has live workouts every day which you can join for as long or as little as you want alongside dozens of others, hosted by Olympic champions, World Champions, professional instructors and clubs.”
I’ll try it out and report back. I might also start doing a monthly 2k erg test again. We’ll see.
Do you have an erg? Do you workout alone at home during that pandemic? What’s your plan? What are you up to? We’d like to know.
It’s January. It’s cold and grey and I’ve been feeling in a bit of a fitness rut. Besides the campus gym I haven’t really stepped out into the fitness world in Guelph. But my options are limited here. There’s less going on than in Toronto where I spent sabbatical and even less going on than in London.
I’ve always been a bit of an attention deficit disorder exerciser. I like to have lots of options. And lately it’s been feeling like it’s just a matter of giving things up: running, soccer, Aikido and CrossFit.
Enter Orange Theory. I first noticed them in London and there’s one in Guelph. I knew the format. Like CrossFit it’s a group workout, a mix of cardio and strength training. I have friends who go and think it’s fun.
I stopped in on Friday for a demo class. I was equipped with a heart rate monitor and my name and heart rate appeared on a screen in the gym. The instructor asked about my fitness background and got points for not even once mentioning weight loss.
As for the class itself, there was a nice gender mix, mostly women but some men. I used the rowing machine and the spin bike instead of running on the treadmill for the cardio bit. I alternated 400 m segments of rowing with 1 mile efforts on the bike as prescribed by the workout of the day. The classes are 1 hour long and that felt just right.
The strength training was mostly chest and triceps using the bench, dumbbells, and the TRX. Each person got their own station. Unlike CrossFit there was no competition and no team efforts. There was no measuring or comparing. I have mixed feelings about that but right now, that works for me.
The instructor also got points for showing me where the heavier dumbbells live!
What did I like? As with personal training it feels good just to show up and have some one else plan the workout. I liked that about CrossFit too. I like the cardio and strength training mix, again like CrossFit. The group vibe works for me. I like that it’s month by month so I could sign up for the worst of winter, say January through March, and then say goodbye and head outside again. It also works with my limitations right now.
I could do without the calorie counts. Yawn.
Have you ever tried Orange Theory Fitness? Love it? Hate it? Tell us your story!
Here’s the results of my workout emailed to me after the class. Lots of time in the green cardio zone but also I was just learning my way around.
Have you ever believed a thing about yourself, just fervently believed and adamantly defended it, and then one day you’ve woken up and realized that perhaps what you’ve believed and defended has… changed? Or perhaps was never quite true – not in the way you had imagined, anyway – in the first place?
An image of six boys running on a school track; it looks like nearly the end of the race. The boy in the foreground is racing to win; the image is in sepia tone. What does this have to do with my post? Read on.
This story begins back in spring, when I hopped back into the scull at Leander, my new boat club in Hamilton, Ontario, full of keen interest. My bum was not even on the slide yet when I realized that the women I was now training with were experienced, serious, committed, and out to win.
Not that they are not completely amazing humans, balanced and sane and gorgeous, and not that they are not fun, or out to have fun. They are all these things too. And, OF COURSE, not that there is anything whatsoever wrong with wanting to race to win. On the contrary: I love winning. I LOVE WINNING!
Or so I thought.
Rowing with these women started to freak me out pretty much immediately. I was painfully aware that, while I’m strong as hell, my technique in a scull is not honed enough yet to be easy or natural; this is another way of saying that I kept yanking our boats off course because I’m strong enough physically, but still weak enough technically, to be something of a liability. I was hugely embarrassed about this from the get-go, because I knew these women needed an able and consistent teammate. I wanted to be that teammate. I did.
Or I thought I did.
I told myself: I’ll improve over the summer. It will come in time. There’s time! Training consistently will help! I will do the training required.
Then summer rose high, and I had (as usual) lots of work travel. (This is why I rowed much more casually back in London, Ontario, with my delightful and equally casual and fun teammate Jen. For us, the water was pure joy. PURE JOY. More on this later.)
So: despite my best self-talk, I got out to Leander’s regular masters practices much less over the summer months than I’d hoped. Or that I had told myself I had hoped, anyway.
I wasn’t in the boat enough to be improving, and I realized that; I chose not to sign up for regattas in the expectation that I would not be ready.
It all seemed sensible and logical enough in my head: just not quite ready, not yet.
After a while, and a chat with Cate, it dawned on me that something else might be going on – other than me being super busy.
A large “Duh!”. Because, Kim, come on. DUH.
I realized I might be finding lots of excuses not to go to rowing practice, because actually I was scared of going to practice.
I was scared of letting my teammates down. The pressure to improve was destroying the pleasure, the pure joy, rowing held for me.
When I thought about it more, as the summer passed, I realized that I actually hadn’t been all that busy, not really. Actually, I had chosen not to go to many practices, or sign up for regattas, because the thought of racing was making me crazy nervous. The idea of getting to the race was making me nervous. The idea of spending a day at the race was making me nervous. The idea of driving back from the race was making me nervous.
Not because I didn’t want to win a race; don’t be silly. I LOVE TO WIN. But because … well, I didn’t actually want to race.
I realized: I. Did. Not. Want. To. Race. Not like this, anyway. Not now, anyway. Maybe not… ever.
Surprise, self. Surprise.
Autumn arrived, and then my teaching schedule and family commitments meant I could only reasonably commit to one practice a week. And then family health problems arose and made me so tired, so exhausted from the thought of even trying to row, that I just emailed my head coach and stopped. I should have done this long before, of course, but finally I had an excuse that was legit. Or that I thought was legit. “Family crisis!” sounds so much better than “Really just not enjoying it!”
But the truth is, crisis or none, after I emailed Greg I felt immeasurably better, lighter.
I want to be clear here that I’m not suggesting that racing is bad – hells no! If it is your cuppa, please head straight for the starting line! I also want to be clear that I’ve thought a lot about the mixed and complex feelings I was having around rowing practice over the last few months, and I’ve concluded that the cloud of expectation I felt around me about racing was really, powerfully, hampering both my love of the sport (which is real) and my desire to be better at it (which is real, too). I started out telling myself that of course I was going to race, and of course I was going to commit to all the things in order to make that happen. No excuses! But it turns out that hyper-motivator of a phrase was the opposite of motivating for me.
Early in the autumn, the head of the women’s crew and I found ourselves in calm water in the double one Sunday morning. She knew I was struggling but I doubt she knew the depth – almost certainly not, since I had only just begun to admit it to myself. We started talking about the club, its culture, and then I asked her about the Rec program: was it super loosey-goosey and frustratingly disorganized like Rec rowing often can be?
No! She told me. She sang the praises of the coaches and the structure and the fun of it. She told me it was how she had gotten interested in racing, inspired to leap up to masters. I suddenly realized that maybe I could grasp again the joy and fun of the learning that goes into rowing by dropping down to a low-pressure, no-stakes, but still structured and technically focused environment next season. Maybe I could actually develop a true, heart-felt, joy-filled desire to race one day.
Soon, we spotted a heron on the shore and stopped hard for a look. We commiserated about the heat building and the sweat beginning to ripple on our arms. Greg came by in the coach boat to chat about his new super-wicking shorts; we had a laugh and took away a pro sartorial tip. And I remembered the pleasures I take from the boat, when the pressure to perform eases off.
A young woman half-sit in her single scull along a lakeshore, looking into a cloud-filled, orange sunrise. She is wearing a white sport top, blue sport shorts, and looks to have her hair in a braid across her right shoulder. This is not me! But maybe, next season, it might be.
See you next season,
*This will be my last regularly post for a while. That family health crisis I speak about above is actually, really, a crisis, and I’ll be turning my attention there for now. I hope to write again before too long, though. Thanks for reading.