This just in—the New York Times has reported that those who are more mindful when exercising are generally more satisfied with their workouts and more likely to stick with it.
For rowers, this comes as no surprise. The very act of getting in a tippy boat and coordinating oars, body, and breath on a moving body of water calls for complete attentiveness.
Just take a look at that photo above. I shot it last week on one of those weirdly warm winter days in the San Francisco Bay Area when the wind is as soft as a sigh and the ocean lies quiet. Do you see that quad out there? The four rowers have come to a stop and while I was too far away to hear, I can safely guess their conversation went something like this:
"Anyone feel like we're rushing the slide?"
"Maybe if we took the stroke rate down a bit…"
"I was thinking we could take it up, maybe do a pyramid piece…"
"How bout we work on getting our oars out together?"
Mindfulness? Let's just call it an obsession. Rowers, whether scullers or sweep rowers, are the epitome of mindful exercisers. And that all-encompassing, being-in-the-present, analytic deep dive into the connection between mind, body and boat is exactly what draws us to the sport.
Yet, to the outside world rowing looks extremely boring. There are no balls, hoops, or goals. There are few hero moments when the sweat-drenched athlete strikes a Gatorade-ad worthy pose as thousands cheer. We can't swagger to the espresso bar post-row with an ad-splattered jersey and a mud-speckled face beneath our helmets the way Marin mountain bikers do. No, we're the geeky, baseball-hat-clad people wearing tattered T-shirts from regattas past and worn out spandex get-ups that might well pass for cast-off (maybe even reject) items from the Startrek wardrobe. It's a solid bet that no one is looking at us like heroes.
But here's the thing—every row, even every erg session makes us happy. There is something to that mindfulness thing and that's what keeps us coming back. So next time you see us at Peet's, overlook our goofy gear, excuse our endless rowing speak, and take a look at our smiles. We may just be on to something.