Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nostalgia can be a painful thing

Everyone who's been around long enough has an activity they miss being able to do on a regular basis.

For me, that activity is rowing.

For the majority of my four years of college, I identified myself as a rower almost as much as I did a student. It may have only been a club sport, but to me, crew was life. The practices were challenging, the regattas were competitive and the friendships forged will last a lifetime. My favorite memories of college weren't made in a classroom or a bar; they were made in a boat.

It's been hard to let go of in the post-graduate life, but thanks to the indoor rowing machine at the YMCA -- also known as an "erg" to the crew-initiated -- at least part of the sport doesn't have to be phased out completely. Not that erging is the part of rowing I'd like to maintain. Most of the people who participate in crew look at an erg with the same level of contempt as a dog owner has with picking up the waste of their pet on a morning walk: it's not something you enjoy doing, but it's part of the experience.

However, since the erg is pretty much the closest thing there is to actual rowing in Mankato, it has to suffice for me to get my crew fix. I normally try to put in about 10-20 minutes on the machine at medium intensity a couple times a week. Nothing too crazy; just enough to remind my body what rowing feels like.

But yesterday, my ambition combined with my sense of nostalgia to take it a step further. I decided to try one of the staple workouts from the old crew days: the 5,000-meter time trial. It's more of a long-distance workout than a sprint, but it still requires a pretty strenuous pace to get a decent time. Being the nerd that I am, I remembered my personal best time in college and wanted to see how close I could come to matching it. At the very least, I figured it'd be a good way to finish up a workout at the Y.

The time trial started out just fine. My form started coming back to me early on and I busted through the first 2,000 meters or so without too much trouble.

However, right around the 2,500-meter mark, I hit the proverbial wall that every workout junkie can relate to. Your muscles burn, your breathing becomes exasperated and your mindset all of the sudden shifts from "This is feeling great" to "What the hell am I doing here? I'm not in shape for this." Rather than trying trying to drop my split during this crucial point of the time trial, I spent most of the next 2,000 meters wondering if I was going to throw up if I tried to pick up the pace.

Thankfully, I made it through the time trial without suffering the embarrassment of losing my lunch in the YMCA Life Center. The time I finished with may have been paltry compared to what I was doing in college, but considering I felt like absolute death by the end of the workout, the time really wasn't all that important.

The important thing was what I learned from the experience: that nostalgia can sometimes be painful to both the mind and the body. Maybe next time, I'll try to get my crew fix by simply wearing an old rowing t-shirt instead. It might not be as rewarding as a good workout on the erg, but at least I don't want to throw up after putting on a t-shirt.

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