Row, Row, Row Your Mind

     I looked at the rowing machine’s monitor. Seven minutes in, I was just about to hit 1500 meters. Seven minutes later, 3316 meters flashed from the screen. The coach came around to check the monitors and wrote mine down – for women over 40 in the 7:45 a.m. class that Saturday morning at that Orange Theory, I went the furthest in the 14-minute row.
     Pride came over me – even with a torn meniscus – I won! I snapped a few pictures to memorialize the moment.
     At the grocery store deli counter, while my roast beef was getting sliced, I looked at the leader board picture I took at the gym. The board displayed the top distances rowed by gender and age. The three others crossed the 3700 mark. The deli clerk cleared her throat, commanding my attention. Meat in cart, off I went. “You totally could have rowed farther,” I compared their numbers to mine.
     Despite winning, despite the torn meniscus, I should have rowed farther. But you see, the mind plays dirty tricks on us – tricks that hold us back not just at the gym, but in all of life. 
When Leslie, our coach, told us we were rowing 14 minutes, my mind started a monologue that hit the following points:
  • That is a long time
  • You haven’t rowed that long since March
  • What is this going to do to your knee?
  • And there’s the tightness in your shoulders
  • Is this really a good idea?
  • What would your mother think?
  • You’re better at short distance rowing, 14 minutes – that’s a long time, especially for someone with a torn meniscus who hasn’t rowed that long since March
I dragged myself to machine 3 (it’s the best – under the fan, but not too close to a speaker), strapped in, and started the warm up. The mind game continued.
  • Get Leslie’s attention 
  • Just LEAVE!!!
  • Just go get on the bike
  • Your mother is not going to be pleased
When the warm up ended, we stopped our machines to clear the meters back to 0. Leslie promised it wasn’t going to be that bad and that she’d coach us through it. Off we went.
For the first three minutes I did a “Sunday on the River” row – steady, but nothing impressive. I tried repeatedly to get Leslie’s attention to see if I could just get out of this somehow. My mind was in control, with every stroke it reminded me that this sucked and I sucked at rowing. For the next few minutes, I conceded that I would in fact finish the 14 minutes, even if it was pure torture.
With five minutes behind me, nine minutes ahead, Leslie announced they’d put the winners on a leader board. That was all I needed to hear. I am a girl who likes seeing her name on a leader board. Add to that - I'm actually a really good rower. Just the other day, I knocked out 200 meters in 35 seconds.
I picked up the pace and set a goal of hitting 3200. The instant I changed my mindset everything changed. I hit 3316 at 14 minutes – meaning I covered 1816 meters in the second half compared to 1500 in the first half. And there’s the learning moment.
     In all of life our mindset dictates our outcomes. We make micro decisions (rowing sucks) that manifest into behaviors (rowing sucks, I'm bad at it, so I’m going to go slow), which create results (400 meters behind the other winners). If we decide we’re going to fail or something is going to be hard, that’s the message our mind hears and that’s the story it tells us. And because we like to be right, because it’s easier to think things suck and we're going to fail, we continue this cycle.
But here’s another learning moment: you live in a place of choice. You choose your mindset. What if you chose this: I'm a good rower, I’m going to do my best. You'd probably end up with this: Oh, look at how far I went. In this scenario the rower not only hits their goal but also surpasses it. Pride follows them and seeps into other areas of their life, encouraging them to take greater risks.
One change, that’s all it takes. While I’m pleased with my outcome, I can’t help but wonder how much farther I could have gone – not just on the rower, but in life. Each of us has greatness within. Decide on growing your greatness and who knows how far you’ll go.


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