So... I kind of suck at rowing. Every time we do the row machines in a workout I'm pretty much the last one to finish. I'm moving fast, but as far as accumulating meters goes I'm so very slow. Like this morning, when we did 4 sets of 500 meters (along with other fun stuff). There I am, disco music pushing me, my heart pounding, my hip flexors aching, and I feel like I'm rowing through a tar pit. With little dinosaur arms. Everyone else jumps off after finishing their 500 meters and I'm still struggling through the last 50-100. When I get up I feel rubbery and weak—until, miraculously, the last set, when I somehow feel okay. Kind of good, even.
I have a little pep talk I give myself when I discover something I suck at. It goes something like, WOW, this is great! A learning opportunity! Gee, let's find out why I suck and this and I'll be stronger in the end! Totally cheesy, yet effective. This is how I learned to do box jumps, and it's how I learned how to properly poach eggs.
So what I've learned about rowing, from practicing and pestering my coaches for advice, is that I'm doing it wrong. The key for me is to focus more on pulling long and hard, and pushing my elbows back.* Because the rowing machine doesn't care how fast you can hustle; it cares about how strong you can pull. Learning this didn't automatically improve my rowing. Clearly I am still struggling to implement this knowledge. But at least now I know what to do to improve.
Being curious when I discover something I suck at is important. But I think almost as important is not taking myself too seriously. And that can be much harder, sometimes. It's when I admit that I'm just a fool who needs help that I have my best breakthroughs. And when I admit I'm a fool I can be more open and playful and willing to experiment.
So that's me. I'm just a fool playing around. Sure, my teeth are gritted and I'm sweating. I'm working hard. But also, this is my play time.
*This is for me, particularly, not necessarily for other people. I probably also have some mobility/strength challenges in the glutes and legs which will improve over time. For more general tips I like Breaking Muscle's 17 Commandments of Rowing.