On Sunday, I will finish my last class with Capital Rowing Club’s Learn to Row program. Can you believe it? I can’t – honestly, where did the time go. When I look back over the other posts I’ve shared about my experience, it seems unreal how far we’ve come in just a few weekends. We started off floundering in big, bulky barges and now we’re learning to feather our oars and row as an eight person team. It has been a total blast and I am sad our weekends together are coming to a close.
How cool is this photo one of the coaches took with the panorama feature? It looks like a time lapse of us lifting the boat overhead to walk it down to the dock.
Most of us are feeling more comfortable with getting the boats on the water and ready to row. This includes opening and closing the oar locks, putting the oars in (the right way!), and adjusting the foot stretchers. We’re not fast by any means, but we’re definitely more efficient than we were when we started.
Although, I have to admit, getting into the boat is still not my strong suit. Check out exhibit A in the lower right hand corner. I’m obviously poised for something, but I’m not sure it’s a graceful landing.
Once in, we gave the boat a shove and we were off for our penultimate practice. The man in blue serving as our coxswain was a more experienced rower on the CRC team, and it was great to have his knowledge on board. He was really able to help us focus on keeping our form and composure throughout the practice – reminders we desperately needed as the boat started to pitch and bob when we tried rowing together, eight at a time.
This practice was one of the hardest yet, for two main reasons. One: we began rowing “by eights,” meaning everyone in the boat rows together at the same time. The more rowers rowing at once, the more unstable the boat can become. There were a few white knuckle moments. You get the picture. Two: we also added in “feathering,” which is a word to describe a flicking motion with the oars to help them travel more smoothly through the stroke. Doesn’t sound like much, but it has to be done exactly in sync with the rest of the boat and it has to be done just so…or else your oar gets stuck under water. No beuno.
While it was a rocky practice trying to tie everything together, I still can’t complain about being out on the water in the sunshine. Seriously. We rowed past the Navy Yard, the baseball stadium, and waved at the cyclists at Hains Point. It was a beautiful day and enormously fun. I’m looking forward to celebrating our little group’s “graduation” on Sunday and hear more about ways to stay connected with CRC as part of a regular program.
Here’s a short video of our boats working on feathering and rowing by eights. What do you think?
In the eight months I’ve been fit crashing, very rarely have I done any workout twice. With so many gyms and classes to crash, I didn’t feel like I had the time or luxury to sign up for a whole boot camp session or buy a 10-class pack at a spin studio. I thought it would make the content on the blog less diverse and perhaps less interesting. Boring even. This discussion is something I’d like to explore in more depth at another time, but the point I’d like to make today is that I decided to take my chances when I signed up for the six-week Learn to Row program at Capital Rowing Club.
And I’m so glad I did.
While crashing a crossfit class here and a jazzercise class there is fun, I wasn’t sustaining any level of fitness. I was “crashing” – jumping in and holding on by the skin of my teeth, trying to keep up and enjoy the ride. And I have!
But a part of me missed the routine, the feeling of making improvements, of watching new muscles form and new skills develop. Feeling part of a team and the camraderie of sore muscles, hard practices, and sweat. While only a few weeks long with a few more to go, I have truly enjoyed hitting “reset” with CRC and reconnecting with many of the things I love so much about sport.
That said – here’s my second update from class (including a VIDEO!). To read the first recap, click here.
Learn to Row class is like a lego set. You learn something one day, and the very next you build on it. And then you keep building and building until you see your Millennium Falcon (or the fictional lego creation of your choice) begin to take shape. And then you start to get really excited and want to build the entire fleet. That’s the best way I can describe my experience so far. In weekends two and three, we did more erging, but began to do precision drills and sets based on stroke rate. In other words, it began to feel like the real deal.
Building on the what we learned about the boats the first weekend, we then started to break big parts down into pieces and get familiar with every little nut and bolt. Literally. We practiced popping rigger spacers in and out, taking riggers on and off the boat, adjusting the foot stretchers, and ever so gently putting the boats back into the boathouse. I still feel like I need to write notes on my arm to remember all of the terms (port? starboard? stern? bow? weigh enough?)…hopefully there won’t be a quiz at the end of class.
And the best part of making it past the first weekend? Rowing in a real boat! Here we are gliding ever so gracefully past the Navy Yard (oh…to have a sarcasm font. This sport is a lot harder than it looks, people!).
Things were a bit shaky as we got used to sitting in that tiny whisp of a thing. We desperately tried to learn how to “set the boat,” which in laymans terms means trying to get the boat to stop rocking for one darn second. If we’re lopsided, it’s really hard to get good strokes in and it’s also really hard not to get nervous about tipping into the Anacostia. I love water, but from what I’ve seen of this river, it wouldn’t be my first choice for taking a dip.
I went into the class thinking that once we got into the boats, practices would consist of a lot of rowing. Fast rowing, slow rowing, in-between rowing…but just plain row row row your boating all up and down the Anacostia. I am pleasntly surprised to say that I was horribly wrong. Practices on the water consist of lots of drills and instruction. This is great because it gives us a chance to translate what we learned on the erg into the boat, and we often have immediate feedback from a coxswain or coach to help us get it right.
Another thing that came as a surprise was that, while there are eight people in a boat, we don’t all row at once. At least not yet - we need a lot more practice before we do that. Sometimes only two people row, sometimes four. We tried six once but…well we weren’t quite there yet. But rowing by two or four means there are periods during practice when you get to take a breather and enjoy the scenery (win!). Here we are floating by the Nationals stadium.
Our Learn to Row class has really lucked out with the weather so far. Boats go on the water rain or shine, but each and every weekend we’ve had clear skies, brilliant sunshine, and warm(ish) temperatures. It certainly has made the hours fly by and, because the boathouse is on the very edge of the District, the class feels like a little mini vacation from the usual DC sweat scene.
I know a picture says a thousand words, but with any sport, video really tells the whole story. Here are a few snippets from one of our practices to give you a better idea of what goes on out on the river. Thanks to Coach Bob and Rachel for snapping the photos/video for me – I couldn’t do the post (in more ways than one) without their help!
I’ll have a few more posts about the Learn to Row program for you in the coming weeks. If you have any questions, leave a commment and I’ll do my best to answer!
Apologies for the radio silence yesterday. I have been feeling too “plugged in” lately and decided to take 24 hours to detox a bit from blogging and feeding the social media monster. Nom nom nom. Thanks for understanding and hanging in with me. I wanted to share a few photos from my run yesterday, the first since the half-marathon. And boy oh boy, was that obvious. My legs felt like the Tin Man as I jerked forward across Memorial Bridge. I could almost hear them clanking and creaking with each step. I only went about three miles, but it was enough.
It was an incredibly blustery and gray day, definitely not the kind of day you wish for when running across bridges. But something about the short loop from Iwo Jima to the Lincoln Memorial just gets me every time. It’s intoxicating. Hits me in the gut in the best way possible. Reminds me why I love this city and how lucky I am to run all over it.
I don’t know if I’ve ever been so enamored by gray, cold concrete as I was yesterday. Perhaps I was feeling particularly artsy. Or just lucky to be out there soaking it all in.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the distance, the pace, the tempo, or heart rate. But sometimes, you just have to run from the heart. Plain and simple.
Enjoy every step. Take it easy, stop and walk, breathe in deep, and give thanks for the gift. At least that’s how I felt yesterday.
I’ll be flying to London this evening for an adventure. What adventure is that? Oh, any old adventure will do, but I hope it’s a good one. I can’t wait to share the runs, the workout classes, the sightseeing, the icky airplane food, the corgi chasing, and everything else with you all when I return next Monday. Until then, I’m taking the week off to soak in each moment and embrace the vacation.
Crash Course: My Bootcamp offers small, outdoor group training sessions in the DC, VA, and MD area. Each 45-minute workout includes 15-20 minutes of mobility followed by 30 minutes of high intensity interval training. Classes use traditional bodyweight exercises and a variety of fun tools like TRX, the rip trainer, sandbags, kettlebells, and the infamous fire hose. Yes, it’s like a playground full of toys for adults who are addicted to sweat. For pricing options and bootcamp locations, visit the My Bootcamp website.
where: Bryce Park, Northwest DC
bring: water bottle, gloves optional
perks: small group, being outside
sweat score: 7 out of 10
wear: whatever is most comfortable for being outside
I had heard about My Bootcamp through Revolve spin instructor extraordinaire Grant Hill, who just happens to be the company’s founder and president. Grant invited me to come crash one of the bootcamp sessions and I was more than happy to oblige. The best part? The Northwest DC location was just a hop, skip, and uphill jump from my apartment. The website lists it as “Cathedral,” but it’s actually in Bryce Park across the street on the corner of Wisconsin and Massachusettes (I wandered the grounds of the National Cathedral in spandex for 10 minutes before figuring this out – oops).
We wasted no time getting down to business, beginning class with a few warm up exercises and mobility stretches. Oh yes, that included bear crawls across the cold pavement. I remember the moment this photo was taken, because it was just as I began to get frustrated with how difficult I found the simple act of crawling. Maybe it’s my coordination, or the fact that I haven’t crawled since I was in diapers, but let’s just say it’s a whole lot harder than it looks. If you want a quick and effective warm up and don’t mind getting a few weird stares…I highly recommend it.
Next, Grant explained that we were going to do hill repeats while carrying a 60 pound sandbag. Notice the look of amusement on everyone’s face. I may have been behind the camera, but I was also thinking “you’ve gotta be kidding.”
So not kidding. We each had to carry the bag up the hill twice while the rest of the group did a series of planks, push ups, burpees, and abs. This photo was obviously taken during the first lap, because by the second I was a sorry mess. That thing felt like it was full of bricks and I quickly discovered there was no efficient or convenient way to carry it. I think at one point I attempted to swing it between my legs with the hope of finding some sort of forward momentum…bad idea.
After the hill repeats of death, Grant demonstrated the circuit portion of the workout. It was a HIIT series, with short bursts of intensity followed by short periods of rest. This little device is a TRX rip trainer hooked up to a lamp pole. Using it feels like shoveling really heavy snow or chopping wood.
Then we did one arm rows with the TRX. Check out that view – not bad, right?
Followed by kettlebell swings.
And the entire thing was topped off with a round of fire hose waves – basically yanking the heavy fire hose up and down to create a wave-like motion. I felt this big-time in my arms, shoulders, and abs. After a two minute break, we started over again for round two. Coming off of the sand bag hill repeats, I was really feeling fatigued at this point and could already tell I was working muscles that were going to fight back in the morning.
During the circuit, Grant walked around to each of the stations, correcting form and offering encouragement. He wasn’t in your face or overly energetic. There was no “rah rah” feel or drill sergeant attitude. But it was enough to let you know that he was paying attention and wanted you to do it right.
When we finished, I was ready to call it a day. I walked over to my backpack and started to sit down. But next thing I knew Grant was demonstrating a tag-turned-mortal-kombat routine and telling us to pair up and join in. Tag? As adults? First crawling and now tag?
You can see how well that turned out for me. I’m not exactly known for my cat-like reflexes or my speed, so let’s just say this is an area for improvement. After about five minutes, Grant called “time” and we were officially finished for the day. It was a busy 45 minutes and I really enjoyed the class. I can’t say I was drenched in sweat by the end, but I can personally attest to being sore for the next 48 hours straight. I’d definitely give the class another try in the future. I love that it’s outdoors, that the equipment is effective and fun, the exercises are creative and functional, and that it’s right by my apartment. A win all around!
After bootcamp I walked a few blocks to Hawthorne Organic Juice Bar. It’s on Macomb Street just around the corner from Wisconsin Avenue. They offer an assortment of fresh juices, smoothies, and yummy organic foods.
I choose a juice combo with kale, apple, carrot, ginger, and cucumber. It was just the kick I needed after being trounced at bootcamp. Another plus? The three block walk from Bryce Park to Hawthorne was an excellent cool down. I can see this being a dangerous combination in the warmer months…until then, I’ll be practicing my tag and foam rolling my calves.