On September the 30th, I came to the end of a 30-day rowing ladder challenge. The way this worked was simple. On the 1st of the month incorporate 1000m rowing into a workout. On the 2nd, 2000m, on the 3rd, 3000m, and so on adding 1000m on a daily basis for 30 days. I didn’t just row. I still included a lot of lifting and other movements into the workouts to break the rowing up at times, and to also attempt to hold onto as much strength and size as possible across the month.
While mixing in a lot of other movement made workouts a lot longer, psychologically it helped break the metres down, and kept things interesting. It can be a lonely place sitting on an erg for a great length of time in a single piece. There were a few days where I just tackled the distance alone. One I was particularly happy with was day 21. With an extra 97 metres thrown on the end, I did a half marathon row for time, 21097m in 01:23:28.7, holding an average pacing of 01:58.7/500m across the distance. Prior to this, I had never held a sub 2 minute split pace for a 10km or 60 minute row yet alone rowed that distance. The increase in my aerobic base in a relatively short period of time was huge, and I got pretty good at rowing…
On day 30, I could have ‘just’ rowed 30000m. I thought about doing 42195m, a marathon, but instead I stretched my boundaries further, with a distance a little more than 1.5 marathons in total. The 64903m I decided to row to finish the month at 500000m was one of the hardest individual efforts I have ever done, especially with the accumulation of fatigue from the previous 29 days thrown in.
The psychological discipline needed to stay on that rower for nearly 5 hours, as well as the physical distress, was what, on reflection, if not so much at the time, I liked about this challenge. I finished that final row in 04:56:10.3, hitting my target of sub 5 hours. I didn’t move from that rower once during that distance. It left its mark.
The aim of the month was to test myself in a way that took me far from my comfort zone. I’m not an endurance guy; it’s not something I particularly enjoy, which is why I knew this would test me mentally as much as physically. I could have picked a challenge that focused on my strengths, but what value and learning experience would there really have been from that?
It was a long month, but at the same time it flew by pretty quickly. I learnt a lot about myself, and the depths I am capable of going to to improve myself in some small way. I feel a better person for coming out the other side of this strongly. “You are capable of more than you think” was a sermon of Rob MacDonald (GM and Training Director of Gym Jones) that I held closely across the 30 days.
There were several times I wanted to quit. Workouts were long. There was not a part of my body that wasn’t hurting by the end of that final day, but if I could rewind 30 days, I wouldn’t change a single thing.
You never know what you are truly capable of until you test yourself, and put yourself in situations you are unsure what the outcome will be. What you can achieve in the four walls of a gym can say a lot about your character away from it. It is all transferable. The mind is primary.
I have to thank Jay Collins, another Gym Jones guy for the inspiration for this challenge, and some well timed advice and support along the way, and also to my good friend Stuart Walton, who did an awesome job of pacing support on and off across that final large distance. Lastly, thank you to everyone else that offered support and some kind words along the 30 days. It was all very much appreciated.