Several years ago, my friend Elizabeth Burke and I rowed twice a week through the Seattle winter. We ventured out without fail as dawn was breaking - rowing two single shells or a double. We'd row from the Fremont Bridge to the Chittenden Locks and back, or maybe across Lake Union and on to Lake Washington. Sometimes we'd come back to our home at the Lake Washington Rowing Club and wipe the ice off our boats. But we always came back with an irrefutable sense of moral superiority! We'd done it again!

Rowing - particularly Rowing Through the Winter - provides a richness of metaphors...instructive in my life as a Family Physician and the Home Dialysis CarePartner for my profoundly ill husband, Steve Williams. Now that Steve is gone, rowing reminds me of consistency and focus - so critical during grieving. Rowing requires balance, as does my life.

Row with me this winter. Linda Gromko, MD

Friday, November 19, 2010

Who Would Want to Erg on a Day Like This?

"Erging" is rowing on an indoor rowing machine. I know you can improve your rowing technique on an Erg. And with a little heavy metal pounding in the background, you can get a very effective workout. Some people erg competitively, and there's at least one local Erg meet every year.

But why? Why erg when there's a perfectly good waterway right outside?

Yesterday morning, Catherine and I took a double, three women rowed in single "Pigs" (broader based open water boats), and another woman rowed a single Pocock.

The water was a little choppy, but no white caps. But by the time Catherine and I passed the flagpole at Seattle Pacific University, the stripes of the flag flew horizontal - enough wind to make us decide to do "laps" in the sheltered cut, rather than venture out into Lake Union or up to the Locks.

We made up for any lack of distance by doing serial "Power Tens" and "Power Twenties." It was a wonderful morning.

I used to do a lot of spinning - indoor cycling on exercise bikes. The instructors, often competitive road cyclists, would crank up the music and force us to "Push for the line!" - driving the speed and intensity of the workout.

I was such an avid spin cyclist, people would ask why I didn't even own a bike.

I simply don't want to take the risks of riding outside. I've flown over handlebars before, and I really need my clavicles intact. Besides, spinning is the most efficient aerobic conditioning you can get in an hour - in the safety of a gym.

But with rowing, I'm happy to take a calculated risk. I have good lights and a high visibility baseball cap. The concern of hypothermia will prompt me to buy a floatation vest. I have fallen out of a boat several times. I've had plenty of bruises, but no boney injuries and no need for a helmet. And unless it's a downpour, I'm reasonably waterproof.

I know some folks would say spinning is to outdoor cycling as erging is to rowing.

But rowing brings such a full experience: the wind, the weather, the color of the sky, the blue herons and swimming water creatures. You don't get any of that on an erg!

Here's to rowing through the winter - the real way!
Linda Gromko, MD

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