I almost skipped rowing last night. The drive home from work had been drizzly, and I had half a review of Mutiny on the Bounty to write, and I'd just gotten two new Netflix in the mail, and this Poached Eggs Over Rice recipe called to me, with its long-cooking brown riciness, and I've gotten sucked into Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love and must spend a certain amount of time with it each day. I am nothing if not gifted with the excuses.
I'm so glad I went. In rowing, there are three basic categories of hard workout. There's the "just start rowing and I'll tell you when to stop, unless you keel over first" endurance row, and there are the sets of sprints that leave your lungs seared and your mouth tasting faintly of metal (also known as "Saturday"). And then there's the heavy-lifting row, which is my favorite kind of row: slow and heavy and all about muscle mass. We row by pairs, so that the boat is heavy and sluggish. We row with one arm tucked behind our backs to build our upper-body strength. We practice pushing as hard as we can and using the momentum to creep back up and do it again. It's all about straight backs at the catch and getting that extra bit of pull with the arms at the release, and it can be transformative for a crew: suddenly everybody settles their weight back at the same time, and the THUNK of the oars feathering gets loud and urgent, and the coxswain says he can see the bow rise out of the water with each stroke. It's the kind of row that looks easy from the shore but leaves everyone sore the next day. Sore, but happy.
Which is way better than The Notebook any day.