I think what frustrates people the most about their physical fitness goals is when the focus is on an ideal end goal. From my experience, when I focus too much on losing a certain amount of weight or looking a certain way, I’ll be more likely to give up. I’ll miss seeing how my stomach has toned because I’m too focused on the remaining belly fat. The problem is there aren’t immediate results in fitness.
“I’ll pass on the pizza, then.” Fitness is a choice that can come with a price that maybe we’re not willing to pay: who doesn’t like free pizza? “It was fine until I remembered why I don’t like eating pizza: my stomach was feeling gnarly for a few hours after that.” Sometimes it’s worth enduring certain short-term hardships for long-term gains. For me, the pleasure of eating pizza isn’t worth the pleasure of good fitness.
No matter how much willpower we have, when surrounded by a nearly endless supply of food that we enjoy unabashedly, it’s difficult not overeating. How can we prevent ourselves from binging on too much food? (Or binging on anything?) Is it through carefully considering our portions? Distractions? Or keeping our eyes on our long-term goals?
10-minute rowing sets take a certain physical and mental endurance. I don’t want to push people away from exercising by saying it’s taken me nearly 600 days to get to the point where rowing twice daily for 10 minutes isn’t difficult, so let me instead focus on the most immediate reward for this level of physical and mental dedication: active meditation. There is no better feeling than setting a pace, rowing in peace, then figuring something out.
“Are you planning on exercising at all this weekend?” “No.” How does one stay in decent shape when faced with the impossible odds of collecting as much information as possible? Is it enough just to eat decently and avoid terrible foods? Sleep decently and pace oneself? When you enjoy the work you do to such an extreme level, how do you make sure not to burn yourself out? Is this all easier said than done?
I’m writing this paragraph facing a vending machine. “I wanna focus on this. I’m feeling a little stressed out.” This vending machine has two things I’d enjoy snacking on right now, cream sandwich cookies and strawberry wafers, with some others I might like as well. My body feels tense. I am aching, craving these sweets as an efficient muscle relaxant. I’m tense, the writing doesn’t feel natural, and I don’t have enough time to row.
Fitness has taught me mental endurance. If it’s a dull, external pain, like some heavy rain, that’s different than some sharp, internal pain, like some back pang. Those dull pains will usually be fine when you push through them, with regret being the only pain point, whereas sharper pain should always be respected and addressed. When I learned to tell the difference, it made enduring cold rain for a set more worthwhile than staying home.
The natural inclination when you’re out and about is to eat luxuriously. The day I wrote this rowing machine column update was the first day I ate any pizza at all in over eighteen months. I ordered it mostly by mistake, as I thought the chicken alfredo flatbread was a spaghetti pasta with flatbread rather than the pizza I received. I went with it anyways. Would I have ordered or eaten it under normal circumstances?
Let’s say you’ve set up a decent home gym with everything you might want or need. If you’re an avid indoor rower like me, it’s got your rowing machine, your maintenance tools, and creature comforts to make it easier for you. Then when you travel abroad, the question is: how you can schedule the rowing in during your day? Even if you just do 5-minute sets, scheduling can prevent you from achieving your goals… right?
Through accident or intention, I lead an interesting life. I still have the scar from when a board with a nail nearly impaled my sternum (near my Xiphoid process) at the minimum wage furniture moving gig. That excitement can be exhilarating or overwhelming. What happens when life in the fast lane goes… too fast? How does a thrill-seeker slow down? Can we? My stress management process includes a twice-daily active meditation on the rowing machine.