How I Started Rowing

My retirement rowing story. 

I retired in August of 2018 – sort of. After over 40 years in the Information Technology industry I unexpectedly packed it in. I believe that you should love what you do and look forward to doing it everyday. But, after drastic changes in my company’s leadership and direction it stopped being fun for me. I dreaded going to work. I was in a lousy mood every day, I wasn’t much fun to be around and found myself complaining a lot. Dale Carnegie once said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do.” Sooner than this fool intended, I resigned, or quit, or retired, whatever you’d like to call it. I just stopped working without the envisioned joyful fanfare of retirement parties, luncheons or happy hours that go with it.

Now what? 

I never had any real hobbies like fishing, or painting, or photography. My passion was work.  Work was finished and now I had nothing to do. So, do you know what I did? I did nothing. Woo hoo! Every day was Saturday! Slept in every day, drank lots of coffee (and beer), ate out a lot, and basically just did what ever popped into my head that day. What a terrible mistake. One year into this, I found myself in awful shape. At 65, I was enjoying retirement just a little too much (what do you mean I can’t have all the beer and pizza I want?) My weight climbed to 203, (I’m only 5’7”) and my BP was VERY high (not sharing because the numbers would scare you – they scared me). The doctor put me on two BP medications (I don’t like taking meds, even Tylenol) and I knew I needed to lose weight.

The solution

I started working out. By that I mean I started running on the treadmill. But, there was one problem. I HATE running. Always have. I was inconsistent with my workouts because I didn’t enjoy them. And because I didn’t like them I had no incentive to get better. Granted, I did lose a few pounds but not enough to make a difference. Luckily for me, my wife went to Florida to visit her brother. My brother-in-law, a good athlete in his time, also gave up running because the impact was hurting his back and he took up indoor rowing for physical fitness. When she returned home, my wife suggested I try rowing. After a little research, I dove in and bought an indoor rowing machine – a WaterRower.  (Full disclosure: part of what influenced my decision was that I watched House of Cards on Netflix and Frank Underwood used a WaterRower and I thought it looked fun. And it is.)

Not knowing the first thing to do, I started following Austin Hendrickson on his Training Tall YouTube channel to learn how to row. Once I learned proper technique, I FELL IN LOVE WITH ROWING!! Because I was in love with it, I wanted to get better at it.

Now I had incentive to eat better so I could row better. No crazy diet or  anything but, definitely cut the sugar and the bad carbs. My rowing got a little better and that gave me incentive to add in some strength training so I could row better. Again nothing crazy, some body weight exercise and dumbbells (none over 25 lbs.)and my rowing improved. The bottom line health benefit is that in one year I have lost 40 lbs., dropped 2 pants sizes (working on the third) am off half my meds, BP is back to normal, my resting heart rate is in the high 50’s, and I feel great. 

Even after more than a year I look forward to getting on that rower everyday. But frankly, it’s not the health benefits that incentivize me to row. I just found the thing I love to do. If you’ve never tried rowing, I hope you do, I really recommend it. You may wind up loving it, like me.