My Thoughts of a 10K Row

To be honest, this shouldn’t be a big deal. But it was. I used to run 6 hours at a time on a weekend and many hours during the week. A short jog was an hour long. But I haven’t done that in a few years.

I use a Concept 2 rowing machine, which is the gold standard for off-season crew teams and CrossFit athletes. They even hold Sprint competitions with this brand. If you ever want a superior piece of equipment that is super easy to maintain and it doesn’t take much space, then this is it. I think mine cost $900 a few years ago. Compared to a good treadmill, that’s chump change. I’ve been eyeing a TrueForm treadmill for a while, but not for $4K. This rower is well worth the investment. I have a Concept 2 Ski Erg as well.

I haven’t been rowing a lot. I sometimes use it as a warm-up or a "buy-in" for a CrossFit WOD. I often do it before Olympic weightlifting workouts since it covers the major muscles you use. I did a 10 minute row several days ago in anticipation for this 10K. But I wouldn’t say I’m well-conditioned on it.

I started out slowly. My heart rate monitor on the rower showed that I slowly crept up to 130 beats per minute (bpm). I was holding at about 26 strokes per minute (spm). I’m really fussy with my music. I need to make a rowing playlist that sets a beat at about 25 spm. I use the beats of the music critically for long rows. My grip never felt good this entire row. The numbers slowly lowered from 10,000 m to 8,000 m. Too slowly.

When I got 4K into the row, I started to feel it and wondered how I could continue at even the slow pace I was keeping. I never wanted to go below 2:30/500 m. I was now hitting about 141 bpm continuously with my heart.

When I hit the halfway mark, I almost called it a day. I thought, "a 5K is good enough and I got a good workout". Or, I’ll do a 5K now and then a 5K later. Naaah, I had already put off this row until later in the day. I had the same ideas at 6K and 8K. How could I keep going?

There are nuances to rowing. But, unlike most people think, your strength doesn’t come from your arms or upper back muscles. It is almost all legs, glutes, and lower back. Mostly legs. Legs are made to move for long periods of time; arms are not. Like Olympic weightlifting, the arms are just ropes attached to the handle. You start the pull with straight arms and basically let them go lax. Like limp arms. Then you sort of reach forward and let them go limp again with the pull. Its all about the legs.

The tricky parts that have to do with staying power involve your hip flexors and abdomen. You flex at the hip with every row to pull your body forward. So your hips get really tired. And, depending how far you lean back, you are doing a situp with every row. If you keep your shoulders over your hips, then not as much. But then, if you don’t open your hips and chest more, then you lose power with each stroke. So you do end up using your abs a lot (rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus,etc.).

The funny thing I was playing with was my skull. Basically, when you row you are basically balancing a 10 pound bowling ball on your spine. But, if you lean your head back a little, you are using your head as bodyweight to assist the row. And if you tuck your chin coming forward, the same is true. Its not super dramatic but very subtle. I think its a source of power.

With 2K to go, I knew I could do it. But I really thought I’d quit there too. It means you still have almost 10 minutes to go. And keeping up the power and motivation isn’t easy. My heart rate climbed to 161 bpm and I was still going the same pace. Once I got down below 1K, 3 digits were easier to handle. And then I could push it the last 500m and 100m.

I was pretty exhausted right after. Much like a car accident, you don’t really know what you just did to your body. You have to just sit and evaluate. I tried to do some stretching to open up. But it was a hard slog out of the basement and up 2 flights of stairs to my Master Bathroom. On my way to the shower, somehow I turned on the water to the jacuzzi. A good Epsom salt soak was the trick. I felt pretty good after that. But I had a dehydration headache. Unlike running or biking, there isn’t an opportunity to take lots of fluids when you row. So I usually end up going dry. I kept drinking fluid while in the tub.

A day afterward and I wasn’t even sore. I could tell I was exhausted though, more like a central nervous system thang. I should have done a grip test because I’m sure it would have been low. This surely reignited my interest in rowing more. I’d love to keep up with what I gained from this day. Its good to set goals and I have one set for every week through April. So maybe this one shifts to the backburner. Its done, but not forgotten.

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