I love to row. I love everything about it, especially the rewards of the effort in terms of health, fitness, and sense of accomplishment. But, I will admit, it’s a fight. A fight with resistance. It seems crazy to me that sometimes I have to fight myself to get on that rower when I love it so much.
The Enemy Within
“Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet,” writes Steven Pressfield, author of the War of Art. In this book he writes extensively about resistance and how it is the enemy “of any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower.” And I agree that this is how it is for me too. So many distractions are there to keep me doing what I love. “I should take the dog for a walk.” “Look, I need to put the dishes away.” “Wow, that’s a lot of laundry, I better do it.” Stuff like that that pushes me away from my “work.” But, it isn’t any of those things, it’s internal. As Presser states, “Resistance is the enemy from within.”
I remember being a teenager and playing football for Nyack High School. Every summer, after the school year ended but before formal fall football season began, players and aspiring players would meet up every evening to practice (without our coaches). The team captains would lead our practice sessions, going through calisthenics, conditioning, and learning plays. Every June before school let out, Coach Lankau would emphasize to all of us the importance of these voluntary sessions and encouraged us to go so that we would be ahead of the game when the season started. I will always remember him saying “The hardest part is going to be telling your friends ‘no.’” In other words, you were going to have to fight resistance. And how right he was! It was summer vacation for crying out loud! It was hard to say no. Hanging out with my friends, swimming, biking, whatever, just being kids, having a great time, and as the afternoon came around, I had to say “see you guys tomorrow.” And of course the distractions came, “c’mon Giles, stay a little longer,” “Do you really need to go?” and the worst one, “the coaches aren’t there, they’ll never know you skipped.” I could feel the pull. I was leaving all the fun and heading for the dust bowl we called a practice field to run, crawl, and roll on the ground until I was exhausted, sweaty and covered with dirt. But I did it. I used to think that my friends were the objects of my resistance but now I know that the resistance came from within me.
And now that I’m an old fart, you would think that I wouldn’t feel that resistance because I’m “experienced” (aka OLD) but, I do. For me, resistance comes in the form of procrastination. I might find a million things that I could do before I get on the erg. They run through my mind like rapid fire flash cards demanding an answer. And they have pull; they do. But, I have learned to defeat resistance. How have I defeated resistance? Fear of failure. If I give in to resistance and miss rowing then I have essentially quit. Quitting is failure. Having a bad rowing workout isn’t failure. Not meeting a personal best isn’t failure. Quitting is failure. And I think if you gave into failure the first time, it would be easier the second time, and third. Then the next thing you know, you ain’t rowing. So I row. I feel like if I failed I would be letting everyone down. It might sound silly, I know most people wouldn’t care. But, my family knows I row and if I quit I feel that I would be letting them down. I want The Warden to be proud and I want to be an inspiration to my kids until I’m staring up at the grass. (two of them have bought rowers so something is working) And who knows, maybe some of you out there, our even one of you, might be bummed if you didn’t see my Facebook or Instagram posts, or my blog.
But most of all, I would be a disappointment to myself. I’ve gone down the journey of “Rowing Through My Retirement” for two years now. Fear of failure makes me afraid of how I would feel about myself and I don’t like to think about it. So I just keep rowing. Resistance be damned.
P.S. If you struggle with resistance too, I really recommend Pressfield’s book. His art is writing but could be applied to anyone’s passion in life.