Why Do I Row?
For many of us, exercise at first seems like a tedious chore or a task. We may feel that exercise is "something I have to do to lose weight -or- something I have to put up with to work on my health". Following those statements, usually comes "EXERCISE SUCKS!" But for some of us, exercise truly becomes a passion!
Take rowing: For me, I have had the opportunity to share my passion about the sport of rowing with others (Hopefully I'm doing that right now). Often however, I've been in situations with non-rowers and such conversations have met with astonishment, questions, an occasional shake of the head (she's crazy!) and even blank/bored stares. A typical question from people who don't live locally is" Where do you row? Is there really water in Texas--I've heard it's a desert" yes, Toto...we have beaches and rivers and lakes and the most beautiful river ever imaginable running through downtown Austin) and the second question that typically follows is" Why Rowing?"--Why would anyone want to row?"
Rowing for me is truly a gift. This gift enables me to feel like one of the most fortunate people on Earth. Fortunate because I have the opportunity to climb in a racing shell; to push myself on an erg; to feel my heart beat intensely craving just another deep breath. Fortunate to take long measured strokes as the sun rises, and in turn, feel one with nature on misty waters. Fortunate to be a part of a racing team, pursuing shared goals of fine technique, endurance and speed. Fortunate, because for me, rowing is a part of my self-identify.
As seasoned rowers, we often encounter novice rowers who are at the beginning of their learning curve, and often I hear their frustration. But, frustration is not a part of my lexicon. My life as a rower doesn’t have to be frustrating. Rowing isn’t my job. No one pays me or orders me to practice rowing. It’s my choice, and I choose to find one of my important personal rewards comes when I’m pulling an oar.
What distinguishes those of us on the regatta starting line from those perched upon the sofa is that we learn through rowing to take what the day gives us, what our body allows us, and what our will can tolerate. Our best becomes our best in that moment alone—no matter what we thought our best was just moments before.
That’s not to say that I, or any other rower, shouldn’t desire to get better-to improve. We may focus on our technique (for me, that would be a clean release at the catchl!) in the quest to go faster or farther or both. It all has to happen within the context of accepting who and what we are. I can create my own personal standard for rowing in which I alone am the standard bearer. This allows me to decide whether a row was good or bad. I have the choice to decide whether rowing is going to be an activity that enhances my life, my spirit or not.
Typically I analyze my performance during rowing pieces, whether it’s on an erg or in a shell, and under such scrutiny I may conclude that the piece was nothing special—except in the quiet ways that rowing is always special. Any time spent rowing that I wanted to take, and feel happy for having taken, is never wasted. So, if you see me smiling while I’m rowing, don’t be surprised and know that I don’t have to explain.