Every Meter Earned
I slap my legs a few times.
I stare at my monitor watching a few of my teammates furiously slide back and forth on the horizons of my vision. My heart is racing and I loosely grip the handles of the rowing machine. Here I go again.
There exists an odd community around erging (an erg is the technical term for rowing machine.) Even though erging can be seen as just a training tool for rowing, an entire cultish subculture exists around this one machine. This community sprung up because of the competitive nature of rowing. There are only a few seats on the top boat and a rower’s strength is measured on the erg, thus those who have the fastest times often are starters.
I enjoy erging because I can see exactly how hard I am working every stroke. I know what my limits are and I know when I am pushing myself. Every workout is a challenge and I can set small goals to get marginally better every week. The constant feedback of the erg allows me to track my progress; however, my reasons for erging extends beyond my satisfaction of completing a hard workout or breaking a new PR.
I enjoy erging because it is a constant in a life of many arbitrary variables. When I pull on the flywheel, my score reflects exactly how much power my legs are exerting. The disappointment of studying five hours for a math test only to do subpar does not exist. I never experience the pain of training and cutting for wrestling only to get pinned in the first minute of my match. Gone are all the stupid mistakes that render hard work meaningless. No longer do I have to wonder if my painstakingly crafted words were rejected by an English teacher who doesn’t agree with the premise of my essay. I just pull on the erg and can forget about everything else.
In most applications hard work only correlates with success. Studying for a math tests helps you improve your score, but it does not ensure anything. In erging every meter is earned. Every single rower needs to exert the exact same amount of work in order to attain equal times.
Like anything in life there are factors I can not control. I am only 5’7” and 145 pounds. I will never pull times as fast as men with Olympian physiques. I will never be truly amazing at the sport, but at least I know I can reach my full potential as long as I pull hard enough. I do not have to doubt myself and wonder that if I studied a different way or just remembered one more formula I would have achieved success. When I erg, my best is truly enough.
When I step off the erg I feel fulfilled. Erging is an escape from the constant disappointments of life. All my questions, all my anxiety and regrets seem to slip away. For once I can truly feel proud of myself. Maybe the constant sinking feeling that plagues me can be attributed to unrealistic expectations. I feel at Hopkins that I have to perfectly succeed even if it is impossible. Like most Hopkins students, I have flown through my high-school career with flying colors, but now as I am taking the hardest classes and burnt out from years of hard work, I can see myself faltering and I am disturbed by it. I guess I should come to terms with this harsh reality, but in the meantime I can forget about the stress of sustained perfection. The distracting and upsetting noises of life are drowned out as my heart pounds during the final five hundred meter sprint and Ben Washburne yells in my face to row harder.