Patience Isn’t a Virtue – It’s a Challenge
I’ve never been a patient person. Ever. I was that annoying little kid in the back seat of the car saying “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” (Side note: The more I reflect on my life, especially my childhood, the more I realize my parents were saints. And yes, they had EXTREME patience with me!) As a high school quarterback, I always wanted to score on the big play, air it out, throw the bomb. I never had much patience for “three yards and a cloud of dust” (and if you knew my high school’s football field there was a LOT of dust). And during my career as an Information Technology leader, I had little patience for processes and people that lengthened projects and production goals. I just wanted to get stuff done. Now, in retirement, I still find myself impatient at times. During a recent road trip we were stuck in traffic and I said out loud “Oh come on already!” To which The Warden replied, “Where are you in such a rush to go?” And she was right, we didn’t have anywhere to be, no timeline to follow, it was just my impatient self. But I’m learning to be patient and rowing is teaching me.
When I started rowing, it started as a weight loss effort. I was overweight and struggling with my health. And, as I have written about before, I fell in love with rowing the minute I sat on the erg for the very first time. I saw results almost immediately. I lost a lot of weight very quickly. And in a year of rowing, lost over thirty-five pounds. Now, almost another year has gone by and I am still ten pounds from my goal weight and have lost only a few since last year. In the past, this would have frustrated me to the point of saying “the heck with it” and I would have just given up and ate a pizza (I mean I still eat pizza occasionally but, you know what I mean).
But rowing, and specifically rowing performance, has taught me to be more patient. Much like my weight loss experience, when I started rowing I progressed very quickly. By watching videos, reading, and taking an online class, my form, technique and fitness improved a lot. My benchmark row times improved a lot, too. For example, within a year I was able to improve my 2000 meter row time by over 30 seconds! But just like the weight loss, another year has passed and improving time has become more challenging. And that is the part of having patience that I just didn’t get before. It’s a challenge!
I’ve accepted the challenge of patience because I love to row. I view every workout as a challenge and now sometimes measure my improvement in tenths of a second as opposed to tens of seconds. I even go as far as writing down my workout goals on a whiteboard so I can hang them on the wall in front of me when I row. Some days I meet or exceed my goals and some days I fail. And learning to have patience has taught me to not be frustrated when I fail but to realize that it is part of the process of improving. Because I know that the next time, or the time after that, or the time after that, I will beat it. And that’s what keeps me going – patience.
Everything was going great. I had reached a fitness level that I didn’t think was achievable at 66. My rowing was improving, my resting heart rate was below 50 BPM, my waist has shrunk, and I was only seven pounds off of my high school football playing weight. Then – injury! In mid-March I began experiencing medial epicondylitis, better known as golfer’s elbow. Golfer’s elbow sounds so terribly lame but, holy shiitake mushrooms it hurts like hell!. After researching it, I am sure that it was caused by some improper dumbbell technique. But what about rowing?!? After consulting with my rowing mentor and watching countless YouTube videos on how to treat golfer’s elbow, I realized the healing process was going to take months, not days, and I was going to have to back off high intensity interval training rows (my favorite thing to do!) and stick with aerobic rowing and take some rest days in-between rows.
And so, I am again facing the challenge of patience. The good news is things are improving, but very slowly. And that’s ok, because I’m willing to be patient with the healing process and know that, with time, I will be pain free and back and better than ever on the rower.
Now, if I could only do something about that damn traffic jam!!!