How to improve your form when your form is flawed. Sometimes you rebuild from scratch.

posted by Joshua on May 2, 2017 in Fitness
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Speaking of approaching 1,000,000 meters rowing, my friend who was coxswain at Princeton who suggested how to improve my form, responded

It’s really impressive that you’ve been so intentional about improving your form!

I wrote back to describe my process of improving my form. Since I don’t know how to evaluate my form, I don’t know if I’m improving it, but I’m happy with the process I’m going through, so I’m copying here what I wrote her.

I’ve kept changing it since then anyway. I’ll post a newer one soon.

Actually, I found changing my form transformative for forcing me to change in a way I hadn’t expected. At first I tried little adjustments, but got nowhere. I started telling myself that my form at the time, however different than you recommended, was probably good enough. After all, it got me 5,016 meters in 20 minutes without injury for a lightweight 45-year-old.

Then I thought: “Bullshit! She was part of a world-class team. She knows what she’s talking about.” And once you pointed out the problems in my form, they were glaring.

I thought, “Quit lying to yourself and excusing complacency just because it’s hard.” So, instead of trying to change something fundamentally flawed, I decided to rebuild from scratch. Instead of trying to maintain the level of performance I’d reached, I chose to sacrifice my performance in the short term to improve my form.

So I suffered rowing slower than before, focusing on form, knowing that form is more valuable than performance in the long term. I had to go through a similar change in my deadlift around the same time.

Still, all this happened without knowledgeable people seeing and adjusting my new form. I watched more videos of others, seeing more than I had before, based on your feedback. i hope I didn’t reinforce new flaws. If I did, I’ll just refine more.

I appreciated your feedback a lot and kept returning to it. As you could tell from the article, I’m finding rowing more rewarding the more I do it, however oppressive it can feel in the moment. It’s funny how that word, oppressive, describes the feeling for me sometimes while rowing. Also, of course, thrilling, invigorating, challenging, full-body, intense, and many others that I like more. And, when I’m done, liberating and so on.

I hope you don’t mind the long email. I realized as I wrote it that I would copy it into a blog post (keeping you anonymous, unless you prefer to be mentioned), so I allowed myself to develop some thoughts that were on my mind consistent with what I write about.

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