Fitness was always a desire but never a priority. Then my dad’s health scare prompted me to figure out how to row 100 kilometers every month. In addition to sharing lessons learned and some pros and cons of indoor rowing, I hope my story encourages you that it’s never too late to begin a good habit.
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My wake-up call to become fit sounded when I watched my dad’s health quickly deteriorate in 2022. I had been snoozing my own health alarm for years and had planned to keep kicking that can down the road until life settled down. I would get fit someday – perhaps when the kids were grown. At present, there was simply no way I could get in shape and still accomplish my daily to-do list.
Then I spent four weeks over the course of five months away from my family at various hospitals in Ohio while my dad battled one issue after another. Initially, his endurance waned, and he was constantly short of breath. Then a stroke temporarily affected his memory. Weeks later an infection destroyed his gallbladder. His quality of life seemed to be robbed from him overnight.
The Cleveland Clinic promised a turnaround with open-heart surgery. Thankfully, they delivered on their promise. My dad slowly regained his health after his heart surgery, but 2022 had taken a toll on all of us.
If Not Now, When?
I am my father’s build. We have the same height, the same weight, and the same shoe size. The long hospital stays and the periods of recovery between forced me to self-evaluate. In a few short decades, this could be me struggling to regain the life I once had.
If I didn’t want this future for myself or my kids, I had to take charge now.
Past Success & Failure
I had dabbled with rowing for fitness in the past. When we moved to a larger home in 2019, I asked for a Concept 2 indoor rower for Christmas. Fearing out-of-sight out-of-mind, I requested that the rower be in our bedroom. It’s amazing how quickly our minds can ignore what is plainly in sight.
When we eventually moved the rower to the basement, I devised a motivational method to exercise that worked for several months until a career pivot meant that we could no longer afford it. I stopped rowing the minute I stopped paying myself to do it.
As November 2022 dawned, I had used the rower only three times that year. I had just returned from two weeks in Cleveland for my dad’s heart surgery, and I was determined to make a lasting change. I rowed a few times that week and quickly stalled again.
A Well-Timed Challenge
A few weeks later when Concept 2 issued its yearly Holiday Challenge to row 100 kilometers between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I committed to this seemingly impossible goal. By stringing together a series of 5Ks and a 7.5K finale, I completed the 100K challenge over nineteen workouts. Because these meters spanned November and December, I chose to finish December strong by completing enough meters after Christmas to reach 100K in December alone.
Could I bring this new drive, this new determination into 2023? What would it look like to row 100K every single month? What could motivate me to keep this up?
Thankfully, my husband offered the solution. In an effort to further trim our budget while he worked on a career change, he suggested that we both stop receiving our monthly allowance of fifty dollars. My gut reaction was, “Nope!”
But then I asked if I could once again earn my allowance by rowing. This time it would be all or nothing, and the payout would be a fraction of what it once was. If I completed 100K on the rower in the previous month, then I could receive my allowance the following month. If I was even one kilometer short, I would forfeit the entire month’s allowance.
I know it sounds crazy, but this was exactly the motivation I needed to keep up with rowing. With this plan, I never missed a 100K month in 2023, and I still had just enough spending money each month to not feel deprived.
It hasn’t been easy. I don’t have a set rowing plan each week. I just have a tally in my head and in my online logbook of how many meters I’ve rowed and how much I need to accomplish to meet my monthly goal.
Lessons Learned from Rowing
I’ve learned many lessons while working to row on a consistent basis.
- I should row when I feel up to it because a headache, long day, or other unforeseen situation may waylay future plans.
Never assume that you can make up those meters later.
- If I have the energy to row farther, I should because I may not have that same energy the next time.
You will not regret past progress that helps you reach your goal.
- It is possible for me to row and succeed at any time of day whether morning, midday, or nearing midnight.
If you’re struggling to workout, try a different time and make it your highest personal priority that day.
- Splitting up my rowing into multiple sessions really helps me go the distance. It’s often easier for me to complete two 5Ks with a break in between rather than a single 10K.
Your workouts can be in smaller increments throughout the day. A little here and a little there still adds up.
- My kids are watching. They see that I have more energy now. They see me prioritizing my health over a never-ending to-do list.
Model the actions you want your kids to copy when they’re your age. What do you want them to remember about you when they are grown?
- I love audiobooks. Rowing is the perfect time to catch up on my latest book in complete solitude. Hoopla is my go-to app for free audiobooks from my library. Paired with my wireless earbuds, it’s the perfect way to stay entertained while rowing.
Your workouts may be the perfect time to enjoy your favorite audiobooks, podcasts, and music.
- Rowing isn’t a complete fitness experience. I am no longer out of breath after a flight of stairs, and I have visible biceps and triceps for the first time in my life, but I may need to add in some other training from time to time. While I hope to take advantage of the workout videos from my Fit2B membership, I’ve still got to figure out the best motivation to help me add them to my fitness routine.
Take note of your individual fitness needs and add in variety as needed.
Pros and Cons of Rowing
A rower is the perfect exercise equipment for me.
- Rowing is a full-body workout.
- Rowing is low-impact
- Rowing is monotonous in a good way. I can enjoy an audiobook without focusing too hard on my movements.
- The Concept 2 RowErg is top-of-the line while still being affordable (when compared with other common gym equipment like treadmills). In addition, the Concept 2 RowErg is easy to maintain and should always be repairable since it is so widely used.
- The performance monitor on the Concept 2 RowErg tracks all of my workouts for me. These all transfer seamlessly to my app and online logbook so that I never have to write down my workouts.
Concept2 created the original rowing ergometer (or rowing machine) in 1981 as a training tool for competitive athletes. It was quickly adopted by athletes outside of rowing as well for its convenient, effective workout. Since then, our RowErgs have earned a worldwide reputation for unrivaled function, durability, and post-sale customer support.
All Concept2 RowErgs are suitable for home and gym or commercial use.https://www.concept2.com/indoor-rowers
Rowing does have a few pain points.
- My hands get calloused with rowing. I eventually purchased sculling gloves to help prevent blisters, but I still sometimes end a rowing session if my hands begin to feel tender.
- Sitting on a hard seat for up to an hour at a time can get quite uncomfortable. I bought a couple of seat pads to try with my rower, but now I just sit on an old memory foam pillow.
- From time to time, my feet can get tired from rowing. I did purchase some shoes that seem to help.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Rowing, but It Needs to Be Something
While I highly recommend rowing as a means to fitness, it may not be the ideal workout for you. You don’t have to become an indoor rower like me, but you do need to do something to achieve or maintain fitness.
If you happen to need a little motivational currency like I do, there’s no shame in that. The most important thing is that you take control of your health. If not now, when?