Row Strong, Live Long

Row Strong, Live Long

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Hello to a Better Body!

Row Strong, Live Long

I tried once again to zip and button the only pair of jeans I could even attempt to get on. Each time I washed them and they shrank, I would feel discouraged and ashamed. Then they would stretch as I wore them, and I’d be back in my world of denial until the next time I washed the pants and tried to zip and button.

“How did I get this way?” I would cry out at the face in the mirror. I had the answer — years of neglect. At fifty-two years of age, I was at my highest weight ever. My doctor was warning me to lose weight and start taking better care of myself before I began to have more problems. I was already taking medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and my blood sugar was getting too high.

I knew she was right. I did want to live a long, productive, active life. I did want to be able to get on the floor and play with my grandchildren. I did want to be able to do things and go places without always getting out of breath — even if it was only to the grocery store.

Looking into the mirror at my moon face, puffy eyes, and the muffin top spilling over my too-tight jeans, I made a decision. Now was the time. I’d been an athlete during high school and college and knew I was still the same person who enjoyed the thrill of pushing myself to the limit, the feeling of exhaustion after working hard, and the gratification of seeing results. I only had to find something I could do at my age and start doing it.

Walking — I’d tried it the summer before but got discouraged. Weight lifting — I couldn’t get excited about working out with weight-lifting machines or free weights as I had in younger years. Spin class — an old basketball knee injury kept me from being able to endure the intense workout. Aerobic class — the knee injury again, too much impact. Water aerobics — wasn’t I a little too young? I had an excuse for every activity.

Eventually I ran across an advertisement for an indoor rowing class in a health publication and was intrigued. I’d tried rowing machines in my early twenties, but a class for indoor rowing, conducted like a spin class, sounded fun. As I read the benefits of indoor rowing on their website, I was even more interested. No impact — good for my bad knee. Builds long, lean muscle mass — definitely needed that. Complete upper and lower body workout — not getting any kind of workout at the moment. Relieves stress — now we’re talking. Ultimate calorie burning exercise — sounding better and better. Very efficient workout that allows one to accomplish more in less time — sold!

By the next week I was in my first class. With my foot straps tightened, damper setting adjusted, water and towel within reach — I was ready to go. Or was I? Could I keep up with the others? Would I be totally embarrassed if I couldn’t? Would I be the largest woman in the class? Could I lean over far enough and pull hard enough? Could I push with enough strength to get any results? Would I pass out?

As the questions ran through my mind I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror in the front of the room. I saw my moon face, puffy eyes, and the muffin top spilling over my too-tight workout pants and remembered my decision. Now was the time. As I looked into the mirror I willed myself to just start — no matter how out of place I felt, how difficult it was going to be, or how long it took me to get the hang of it — just start. If I couldn’t row for a long time and keep up, I’d try harder the next day and then the next. I just had to start.

That was fourteen months, two million meters, two half marathons, thirty pounds, and three sizes ago. I’ve had many encouraging compliments, but the biggest thrill is what I’ve been able to do. I’ve had the opportunity to row with the Clemson University rowing club on the lake and will begin training to compete at the Atlanta Erg Sprints. I’m completely off of my blood pressure and cholesterol medicines, have no blood sugar issues, and I feel better than I have in years. I’ve been so excited about my newfound love of indoor rowing, I take any and every opportunity to tell others. If someone comments on how much weight I’ve lost or how I look, I tell them about indoor rowing. If someone says they need to start exercising, I tell them about indoor rowing. If someone wants to lose weight like I have… you guessed it, I tell them about indoor rowing.

Am I where I want to be? No, but I’m not where I was either. Getting fit at any age can be done with determination and commitment, but the key is to find something you enjoy doing and start doing it. It’s never too late. For me, it’s indoor rowing. I plan to, as my coach says, “row strong, and live long.” And the moon-face, puffy-eyed, muffin-top lady in the morning rowing class? That lady is no longer there.

~ Beth K. Fortune ~

More stories from our partners