Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fitness Days of Yore

In my quest for better health, I've gathered quite a collection of exercise equipment and have a small personal gym in my basement. All of this crazy working out has been helpful. I've lost about 40 pounds in the last 6 months. Not too shabby!

The rowing machine is my favorite of the workout gear. My husband got me a super-sweet tricked out pro model rowing machine just like the one I used to work out on when I was a collegiate rower. Using the rowing machine makes me long to get out on the water, though. I haven't been in an actual rowing shell for several years.

If you've never been in one, it's hard to understand the way it calls to you. The calm of the water. The very slight slicing sound as the boat cuts through the ripples. The whoosh of eight seats rolling to the top of the stroke all at once, the click of oars locking into place, the splash as oars plunge into the water, and the swish and power surge when all 8 rowers pull their oars through the water in unison. It's mechanical and musical all at once. I still dream of that sound.

I didn't know it was my last time on the water, and therefore I don't remember the details. I was 19. In the best shape of my life. I assume the last time was an end-of-season practice. In my part of the world, the cold rowing off-season is spent working out in dingy university weight rooms, running stairs in coooold stadiums, and jogging mile after mile through rain, sleet and snow. That winter the nagging pain in my shin turned into a nasty stress fracture that just wouldn't heal. I hobbled around campus with both legs so sore I wasn't sure that I would make it to class. I did have the benefit of university trainers and doctors, since it was an NCAA program. After some bone scans and lots of time in physical therapy rooms, I had to admit that the shin splints and fracture weren't going away. My scholarship wasn't stout enough to warrant the constant pain of training. So I quit, and finally knew what it was like to sleep past 5 a.m. during the week.

I didn't know then how much I would miss rowing, or how ingrained the rhythm and delight of it were in my life. My heart beats just a little bit faster whenever I see a rowing shell, whether in person or on TV. My first thought upon seeing almost any body of water is whether or not I could turn and eight around in it, or whether there are too many obstructions to have clear passage in a boat with a hull thin as eggshells. When I use my rowing machine, I can close my eyes and imagine I'm on the lake with my team. Whoosh, click, splash, swish.