RI Blog #20: Rowers Are Messed Up

Rowers Are Messed Up

April 3, 2009

Rowers are really messed up. We eat, breathe, dream and in all other ways consume ourselves with this sport. And it’s so unlike most sports that most people are into. There’s no ball or “thing” that goes into a “thing.” There are no picks (except the pick drill). There’s no passing, no blocking, no tackling, no hitting, no pitching, no catching — no hand-eye coordination of any kind involving an inanimate object. You sit on your ass and go backwards. And in doing so, you have an opportunity to win. That is seriously wacked. Like in the movie “Office Space,” where the guy’s fiancé makes him see a hypnotist because he’s so unhappy.

They’re sitting in the office, and Our Hero is describing his situation: “Every day is worse than the day before,” he says, “So every day…is the worst day of my life.”

“So is today the worst day of your life?” the hypnotist asks.

“Yeah,” the guy responds.

The hypnotist looks at him for a few seconds and says, “Wow. That’s messed up.”

So for me, it’s like, every day I care about rowing even more than the day before. So every day that I live, rowing consumes me more than ever. John “Skip” Dise, a young hot shot at my club whose locker is next to mine, summed it up perfectly yesterday, as we talked about workouts, etc. Being in the mode of “trying to get back into shape,” I think about working out more than ever…how often I do it, how many rows a week I log in, etc. So I was very pleased with myself that I had had a pretty brutal mid-day training session at my gym with my trainer (who is both hot AND an excellent trainer – great combination! It makes torture fun!), and I was finishing it off with a nice evening row. A rare two-a-day for me — which, since I’m turning 49 this summer, is something to be proud of. So Skip says, “After your row, you can join us for yoga and make it three workouts in one day. And just think,” he went on, “You could have one of those days where the amount of time spent working out takes up the majority of your waking hours. Those are the BEST days.”

He wasn’t kidding. He was completely serious. And I was in total agreement. When you go to bed totally aching from working out several times a day, those truly are the best days. There’s something very OCD about it. People like Michelle Guerette, Greg Ruckman, Steve Tucker, Linda Muri, and on and on…they attend schools like Harvard and MIT, discover rowing, and then, rather than going to Wall Street or starting the next Microsoft, they devote their entire lives to getting faster on the water. In a sport that will never, ever pay much money. Never. There’s just not enough broad-based interest in it (and let’s face it, rowing is not a great spectator sport for non-rowers – see above for the lack of throwing, catching, hitting, punching, and bloody noses). Every once in a while, someone will catch a crab and be projectiled out of the boat or have their nose broken, but those moments are way too few and far between for Joe Six Pack (or Joanne Six Pack) to want to watch people doing the same thing over and over and over for 5-7 minutes.

The great thing about rowing – or any sport like it – is that this passion can happen to anyone at any level. You don’t have to be an Olympian to have the Olympic-caliber OCD fanaticism for the sport. I suppose I’ve had other dreams at various times, but now, and for the past 25 years, it’s all rowing, all the time. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about it in some form. Did I row today? (In winter, did I work out today?) Being an athlete has become more important to me than anything else, and I’m fortunate to have many interests…writing, music, history, economics, investments, and even, at times, work! (I really hope my boss doesn’t read this.) And it’s not like I even work out that much. I’m up to like 5-6 times a week now. Not bad for this early in the spring. But not like my friend Sean Wolf who, at almost 39, still does 12-14 workouts a week (or so he SAYS! In any case, I know he rows twice a day, every day, so it actually does add up). But the thing is, I THINK about rowing or working out ALL the time. If I worked out today, it’s a good day. If I didn’t, the day is not complete. If I worked out twice, it’s a great day. If I spent most of my waking hours working out (very rare for me), well, as Skip says, those are the BEST days. Amen.

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