Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A New Challenge (and a really bad idea?)

So my friend Jeremy, who I participated in Polar Challenge 2011 with, has a new challenge on the horizon - and that its to race around Britain in a boat. Check out the team and their plans here. Unsurprisingly, considering the scale of the task, and his previous rowing experience (none), he has been focused and hitting the gym with dedication and consistency. He often he posts up snapshots of the readout for 60 or 90+ minute rows. While I now think nothing really of a 60 or 90 minute run on trail as something that is difficult, the idea of spending it indoors on an ergo couldn't be more off-putting. I haven't sat on an ergo since 2003, and even then I didn't enjoy it. When I saw the tweets and posts of his efforts, envy was not something I felt.

I would consider myself a goal-oriented individual. I like having goals, I respond well to them, and I certainly enjoy achieving them. That said, the most rewarding ones are not easy. At the moment, physically speaking, although I have a few goals based on hitting certain strength standards and a few races/challenges on the trails scattered over the next year, I have been somewhat lacking in inspiration. Nothing really seems to appeal.

Taking a look at some year totals. It is relatively clear that I've managed to put in some consistent work. (I've only used Movescount since March 2011 so there is some overlap here but it gives a reasonable indication of a rolling 12 month average in March 2012 and now. Excluding the weight training, I think the averages from the year before should be similar too.)

March 2011 - March 2012

Jan 2012 - Jan 2013

Now I've pondered this for a while, and came to the conclusion that until I find something that REALLY grabs me, I should just do something. I also felt I needed to shake things up. I wanted something that was difficult, and something that would be good for me. I don't know why I thought of indoor rowing, but here goes.

So at the moment, it is me vs Jay. The challenge is a 5km ergos. We clocked one this week, and have 12 weeks to improve our times by the most. So starting next week, we have 12 weeks to boost our time. The 'winner' is the one that improves the most. At some point in the first week of April, (if I make it that far) we will both put in another 5km effort.

Now the challenge isn't perfect, Jay has been rowing for a couple of months now, and so within 12 weeks might find it harder to improve. That said, relative to me, he probably still has some gains in his general aerobic capacity to be made. Despite its imperfections, it is a challenge that matches us both.

It will push me mentally, but will also give Jay some added motivation, albeit extrinsic motivation. As we are both in it together it will boost relatedness on the task. We should improve, therefore fostering a sense of competence, and there is certainly NO ONE that is making me do this and so it ticks the autonomy box too. On top of all this, its direct relevance to Jay's circum-GB row, adds meaning (for Jay). For me, the meaning derives mostly from the sense that I can help out a friend. Its also bit of curiosity - Have I still 'got it?' - namely, is my general apathy toward tasks that once appealed a sign of a deeper change? It should also definitely add noticeable boost to my threshold fitness, so mental jiggery-pokery aside, should serve to benefit my wider athletic goals.

Jay's first attempt - 08/01/2013

My first attempt - 09/01/13

Having posted my initial 5km effort this morning, I am even more intrigued by the task ahead. As I walked to the gym I was not looking forward to the effort. My fears were quickly realised as I definitely didn't enjoy it. I also massively regretted doing no threshold/Vo2 work over the last couple of months. I think JFK had it right though when he said that we choose to do these things...

...not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

I will do no more than 3 sessions a week as I wish to work on my other goals concurrently, but won't disallow Jay from doing more should he so wish.  Hopefully I can use my training nouse and experience to 'out-improve' him, but at the end of the day, it is a challenge with an outcome that is beneficial and positive for both of us. That said,  I'll certainly be dusting off the old POWERbreathe. Game face on!!

I tweeted about the challenge before I did my session this morning and a club member commented on the task:

It reminded me of an interview I read about Morgan Spurlock who on recalling when he came up with the idea for "Super Size Me" a friend had commented:

"that sounds like a really great, bad idea!"

If this goes anything like I remember the film, it could be an interesting 12 weeks. Hopefully it won't involve vomiting, the general onset of organ failure or any other long term risks to our health!


  1. Sounds horrible..might see if I have time on the boat next week to post a time for 'banter'..a one off will almost certainly be enough for me though ;)

  2. I'm in, will post 1st attempt Saturday morning
    Thanks to @drewladega1 for alerting me