First time sprints

November 12, 2011 by Joshua
in Blog, Fitness

This morning I woke up planning to do my first 2,000 meter sprint on my rowing machine. I had a great experience I’ll describe after extolling the machine’s benefits. Anyone who knows me knows I rarely promote commercial products. Non-commercial products like GNU/Linux, fresh fruit, and public libraries, I promote all the time, but commercial stuff, rarely.

This thing has been great. I got it after Thanksgiving last year and have loved the workouts it gave me. I can’t help recount how great it’s been.

  • Super-convenient — from waking up in bed I can start working out in under thirty seconds. Running in Central Park takes at least thirty minutes just to take the train there, another thirty minutes back.
  • Excellent workout — along with push-ups afterward, this thing gives me as good a workout as any workout I’ve done, not counting team sports. It builds muscles all over, works heart and lungs, and makes me sore all over. I can choose any level of difficulty at any moment by pushing harder or not.
  • Cheap — I bought it for $500 used on Craig’s List. No more costs ever. I expect it will last a lifetime. A quick check for a Crunch membership said $250 enrollment fee, $20 processing fee, $51 prorated dues, $85 prepaid dues, less a $125 discount, for a total due for the first month of $281, followed by $85 monthly. This thing pays for itself in under four months.
  • Enjoyable workout — Switching between rowing for time, distance, intervals, or speed gives me different feelings so it doesn’t get monotonous. If you don’t push yourself it can be meditative or a flow activity. If you push yourself you get an f’ing intense workout.
  • Always improving — My speed and consistency consistently improve. Last night’s row was thirty minutes at nearly my fastest speed, 2:04.3 minutes per 500m. A month ago I wouldn’t have conceived of that speed for that long. This time that speed was relaxing because I’d gone faster already. I expect to beat 2:00 minutes per 500m in my next few rows, about 20 seconds faster per 500m from my speed when I started eleven months ago.
  • Easy motivation — every time I’ve put on my workout shorts, I’ve worked on the machine. That means I don’t have to try to motivate myself. I usually just do what I love or use minimal motivation. I can do it when I get home at night or first thing in the morning. Sitting in the middle of my apartment, how can I avoid it? I think it looks great as a well-engineered piece of machinery, as well as displaying my values.
  • Weather doesn’t matter — I prefer using it in the winter for the cold breezes from the window, but I can’t deny something cool about the sweat that pours off me on hot days. I just have to mop it afterward and give myself longer to cool off. Then i eat salty food and it tastes amazing.
  • No equipment needed — One of my main attractions to running and ultimate frisbee were the minimal equipment needed. An erg starts off as a big piece of equipment, but once you have it, you don’t need anything else. I row in a pair of shorts — no shoes, shirt, or anything else. Even running needs more.
  • Enduring — I’m over 400,000 meters in my first eleven months using it and my enjoyment using it continues to increase. I may get bored one day, but it hasn’t started approaching.


  • No sunshine or outdoor breeze — the one major shortcoming of this machine is that I don’t get sunshine or feel outdoor breezes over my skin. The doctor even said my vitamin D was low. Hmm… I may just run outside tomorrow just for the sunshine. This downside isn’t so serious considering I can just go outside and run when I feel like it.

I highly recommend the Concept2 rower for anyone who has a body. If you want to maintain or improve it, all the better. People consistently comment that rowing is in the same class as swimming, yoga, and cross-country skiing for best overall workout. Unlike them you don’t need a pool, instructor, or snow to do it.

Sprint Results

This morning I sat down to do my first 2,000 meter row, a bit over a mile. For some historical reason 2,000 meters has emerged as a competitive distance. Never having done it before I was curious how I’d do.

I warmed up for three minutes, then planned to sprint. I started at 1:50min/500m, which is fast for me, then soon realized I couldn’t keep that up for more than a minute.

Suddenly my speed dropped to 2:08min/500m, which is significantly slower than I can row for thirty minutes. I had gone way too fast at the start and now faced a terrible performance.

I briefly considered this exercise pointless. I started off wrong. Why bother continuing? Before stopping I came to my senses. First, it was my first time and I have low standards for my first time. I want to motivate trying new things. Second, who am I trying to impress? No one. I’d rather trudge through a messed-up first time, being honest with myself, than have a better first time, but fake a data point. Besides, a poor first performance would only make my improvement that much greater.

How often does this unexpected difficulty happen in life? You start too strong, then feel like giving up?

For just this reason I decided to stay with it. I sucked up having a poor first performance and stuck with it. My first 2,000 meter row was over eight minutes, over a 2:00min/500m pace, which I consider crappy. But you know what? I’ll do that much better next time and I learned the feeling of a full 2,000 meters.

More importantly, I’ll keep motivating myself to do new things, retaining low standards for first times doing things, and not giving up.

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