Outperforming Yourself

I have been thinking about my fitness lately. I am not nearly where I want to be. Will I ever? Who knows? In the same manner, I have been thinking about how my level of fitness can make me a more virtuous person. Is this possible? I’m starting to think that living a life of virtue is a sacred duty that all should undertake. Fitness will either help me in this endeavor, or it will detract from this higher calling. There is no end to this journey of becoming more virtuous. Similarly, there is no end to this fitness journey.

How you can learn virtue through fitness:

Fitness and Wisdom. What are the keys to wisdom? Desire, knowledge, and understanding. One can even add listening to this. To get to your desired levels of fitness, you need to be constantly learning. You have to listen to your body and if possible listen to a coach who has more wisdom and experience than you do. Not only do you have to understand the exercises, but how your body moves and what it needs for fuel and recovery. This is a science, you are the scientist, and your body is the laboratory. And without an unmitigated desire, none of it will be really of any use. You have to want it.

Fitness and Discipline. On paper, it is an easy concept. Do the work. In practice, it is a whole different story. It is an area that I have struggled with over the years. Even when I thought I was being disciplined, I wasn’t. As a consequence, my results were never as good as I wanted it to be. And if you or I ever want to get the results we desire, we have to stick with it. We have to practice to become better. Because if we stop practicing, it is so much harder to get back going again. Remember, objects in motion tend to stay in motion.

Fitness and Justice. What? How does fitness and justice go together? Obviously, there are ethics involved in sporting events. Cheating is not allowed. Good conduct and following the rules is highly condoned. But how does that apply to general fitness? You have to do what’s right for your body. You can’t cheat yourself and expect to win. And when it comes to shortcuts, there are none. In this arena, you have to play the long game, and you have to play it right.

Fitness and Courage. The Ronin Musashi once said, “You can only fight the way you practice.” Breaking personal records and doing the things that once seemed impossible only comes through preparation. You have to practice to get the courage, otherwise you will be fool-hardy and prone to injury. The more you practice, the harder you can safely push the limits of your capabilities.

The greatest achievement is to outperform yourself. – Denis Waitley

Outperforming myself in all areas of my life is what I am trying to do. This week, I have been looking at how the rowing machine will teach me virtue. Here’s what I have learned so far:

Wisdom. You have to know the technique, or you could get hurt or even waste your time with nothing to show for it. A good coach will take you a long ways. Being in a community with other rowers, the same. Watch, listen, learn.

Discipline. I haven’t been doing enough or staying consistent. As a result, I am barely any better than I was when I first started. To meet my goals, this has to change. The only way that can happen is to spend more time doing it. “Practice, the master of all things.” –Augustus Octavius

Justice. No shortcuts. No pretending. I may never be a world champion rower, but I can become an ambassador for the sport. This means getting better at it, coaching others, and becoming a valued part of the community. This is the right thing to do if I truly believe in its merits.

Courage. I got a new Polar H10 heartrate chest strap this week. I was using my FitBit but was concerned it wasn’t accurately tracking my heart rate. The good thing about using this chest strap, which syncs to my rower, is knowing my pulse at all times. In the past, I would get into the 160’s and think I would die. Now I know that I can accurately push my HR into the mid 170’s and be fine. The courage comes in safely pushing my limits. When I am in the 160’s and sprinting, I know I can push a little harder and still be okay. As a bonus, I can also pace myself based on my HR zone and not gas out too early in the workout.

This is my third post in the Concept 2 Life category. I’m curious what I can learn about myself from this machine and hope that what I learn confers some kind of benefit to those who take the time to read.


Be Present

Concept 2 Life #2: Be Present

You have to have a target in mind. It is based on past performances, but it is only a target. You can remember your past, but you can’t live there. When you are on that machine, you have to be wholly there in the moment.

You can’t even look to far ahead. You can imagine the next segment. You can envision completing the work and what the results will look like in the future. But when in the saddle, it is only the next stroke that matters. All there, right now.

I first learned this lesson running on trails. Definitely no looking back. You can look ahead a bit, but you better be sure of your next foot strike. And though the headphones might help some zone out, I prefer not to do it. When I am on a trail in the woods, I want access to all my senses, especially my hearing.

Being present when rowing, running, or engaging in any exercise, is great training for being present in life. It is frustrating when you are speaking and you see the lost look in the face of the person you are conversing with. Imagine how they feel when they see that same look in your face. Now imagine when nothing else matters but that present moment. No distractions mentally, no interruptions from the outside. Just you present, able to listen to your partner, children, co-workers, or friends. Able to get the most out of your meetings, the most out of life.

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. –Lao Tzu

Quality Produces Speed

Concept 2 Life #1: Quality Produces Speed

As I am getting to know more about my new Concept 2 Rowing Machine, I am learning more about myself. Can I become a world-class rower? Not a chance. But can I become good? Really good? I think so. There is only one way to find out. I have to do it. I have to go through the experience and find out just how much I have mentally and physically.

First 5k: Slow with a high stroke rate

Last month, I rowed my first 5k. I thought my performance was pretty good and even posted it to my new Facebook group (Concept 2 Logbook). When the comments started rolling in, I was shocked. Members of the group asked about my stroke rate. Why was it so high? I didn’t have a clue about stroke rate and thus began one of my first lessons. For more, watch the Dark Horse Rowing video below:

With a lower stroke rate, I am able to maintain my form and really concentrate on a solid powerful stroke. The better my stroke, the faster I can cut through the imaginary water. But when I don’t pay attention to my stroke rate, it has a tendency to go higher. This may seem like I am doing more work, but the reality is that I am going slower. The faster my rate, the sloppier my form and the less power I have through the stroke.

I really noticed this when I copied a workout I saw on Instagram from Troy Atkins (@erglife on IG). The workout was a 2k warmup, a 5k workout, followed by a 2k cooldown. Midway through the 5k, I started to fatigue. I was drenched in sweat and struggling. As I continued to tire, my stroke rate began to rise and my pace began to slow. Simply put, I was not putting enough effort into each stroke.

I wonder…have I gone through life like this? I mean, not my whole life, but has there been times I have been busy, super busy, without getting much done? Has the quality of my work diminished in an effort to get more done? You know, I think there has been times. And where exactly did that get me? Not very far. Why? Because quality of work will always triumph and in the long run will cause you to go much farther and faster in life. Quality. Each time. Every time.

You can take the shortcut, but will it get you where you want to go? You can’t half-ass it and expect to get the same results as you would doing the full routine. You will only cheat yourself and fall short of your potential.

Quality produces speed. And if you have to go slower to produce quality, you will get where you want to go faster.

2k/5k/2k: Faster splits with a lower stroke rate