Three weeks in is when the honeymoon phase starts to show its first cracks.
Small problems appear. Just tiny red flags. I know they’re small because they can be easily avoided. Blisters, backache. Dog tired days from sleepless nights. They’re signs, true, but not stop signs. It’s easy enough just to keep going and ignore them.
After all, each day at the erg means a new potential record, and that’s exciting. New is exciting.
And the problems, they’re small things.
Small problems don’t always lead to big, bad habits, but bad habits always start from small problems.
I’ve been stacking 500m intervals for the past three weeks with a goal of going 'the distance.'
A half marathon for sure.
Within six months.
Kind of a crazy goal, and early in the experience to make one, but why run from a commitment when I’m enjoying things so much? As gains started to add up, as Personal Records trended in the right direction, the idea of a marathon seemed, seems, not so crazy.
I’ve been down this path before, and I knew that it was easy to get misaligned. That the small aches today would turn into big aches tomorrow. So here, when things are early, when things are new, I decided to not let those problems become habits. Instead, I turned to my heart of all things.
I started researching how to do this right.
I knew, know, I wanted to be the kind of person who rows marathons. I hadn’t before buying my erg, but the moment I sat down, that idea of that person became encompassing.
I found Steady State Rowing   by trying to solve the wrong problem. I was drinking a lot of water while rowing and wanted to find a good means to do that which didn’t sacrifice efficiency. The water was a symptom, the problem was me. I was rowing wrong, inefficiently. I needed a stronger heart, improved aerobic ability.
Steady State focuses on hours, not distance. 'It’ll feel too easy,' they claim. But the premise is that by putting your butt in the seat, performing at the right heart rate band, and focusing on technique, a solid foundation is created. From there, from that solid, strong foundation, power and work efficiency can be created.
I ordered a heart rate monitor.
I sat and worked at a rate slower than I wanted. What my body said to do to get done. My body wants to hurry, to get done and move on to the next thing. To quote a personal favorite, “my guts have shit for brains.”
Hours, not distance.
The screen on my erg outputs a wattage bar chart. Each stroke, or every few strokes, adds a new bar, the height relative to the energy created by the stroke. I’m learning to connect the feel of rowing, the speed and effort, to the pace and rate and how my changes impact those bars.
The goal is to constantly and consistently put up the same bars. The bars should be a solid, horizontal line.
I want to be consistent with my eyes closed.
Hours, not distance.
The goal is to have a heart that can do the hours. And to get that heart, the small problems need to be addressed before they become big ones. I know more about my heart now than ever before in my life. I can quote my HRMax and rates and every 10% between 40 and 90.
My next steps are connecting the feeling of my body to the performance of my heart. And from there, hours, not distance.
Eventually, the hours become distance. Eventually, the heart becomes strength.
But for now, hours not distance.