I have become the Tinman from Wizard of Oz, not because of his missing heart but because of his rusted joints. Nothing moves correctly. I am going to do an ocean row around when I turn 65. However, I have a tremendous amount of work to do. While in the UK, I took the time to visit Charle Pitcher at Rannoch Adventure. Charlie is a very personable guy with many world records for rowing and sailing the oceans. So he has amassed a tremendous amount of experience. He passed on a lot of personal advice as he showed me all the different boats and how they are created.
Charlie said to spend a considerable amount of my training on flexibility; this is important because you need to move around in this small boat and the new normal when you are freezing cold and wet and the boat is rocking in every direction. He said after that, work on strength training. He and many others have said that arm strength is a small part of rowing an ocean. However, during my ocean survival course I lacked the upper body strength needed to pull myself into the lifeboat. Another consideration is pulling myself back into the boat should a capsize happen while I am on deck.
I have found as I have aged that my mobility has become an issue. So I have started to map out my plan for regaining my mobility and strength. I am 62, overweight and out of shape. Can I turn this around and row an ocean by 65? The countdown is on, so I have to gather a group of advisors who can get me to my destination.
52, 55, 57
This interest in rowing an ocean started about ten years ago when I saw a guy on the news who had done a crossing. My interest was piqued, and I was rather excited by the idea. To row across an ocean powered only by you. I started to read everything I could find on the subject—blogs, videos, books, news articles, boat manufacturers etc. As the years went by, I was gaining weight and not as physically active; I started to think this was a pipe dream. Something like this would not be possible. How could a 52-year-old, 55-year-old, or 57-year-old… ever consider doing this. It just didn’t seem likely.
So where do you start? How do you plan this sort of thing? A lot of what must be done simultaneously: exercise, diet, mobility, planning, and taking courses. So I started by taking a course on ocean survival, which included a lot. This gave me the basis to relook at a dream I once had.
I need to regain mobility, lose weight, and gain strength. Upper body strength is critical not only to row but also to aid in mobility and getting back on board the boat should I need or be forced to go overboard.
My program has begun. The first thing I booked was a private pilates session for my mobility. I wanted to see what Pilates could do for me. Would they understand what I need to do? Before that day, I had attended a workshop that required us to sit on the floor for part of it. I found that to be a difficult task. Getting on the floor was easy; getting up was another story.
So can a person with difficulty getting up from the floor row across an ocean? Not tomorrow, but with the proper training, you bet I can.
I met with a physiotherapist to determine my physical limitations. Karen put me through a series of mobility exercises to see what I couldn’t do. At the end of the testing, she found no limitations. I will work daily with a pilates instructor in private sessions charted for progress for the next 2-3 months. And at the same time, fitting in a swim and a bike ride. How to start from mostly immobile to mobile. I am not saying that I wasn’t mobile. I did regular stuff every day, but I was not exercising every day because my life got in the way. Now I am back on track and slowly becoming more mobile.
Anyone can row across an ocean with the right training. I have seen incredible stories of people who started as immobile due to an injury, illness or age and then, through hard work, dedication, and determination, managed it cross the ocean. It takes months of planning and preparation, but it is achievable.
Getting back to Pilates. I was always nervous about Pilates because I took a class at a recreation center, and it nearly did me in. Private sessions are much better because of the one on one assistance. The instructor ensures you know exactly what you are doing. They are creative in getting you to work on one muscle or the next.
The Part About Balls
Let me take a minute to talk to you about balls. Balls are the most fun toy one can play with. I have two cats, and they love to play with ping-pong balls. I buy the orange balls by the box of 12 and will throw them all on the floor. This drives the cats wild as they chase and hit these balls in every direction. It is great fun to pick up a hand full of balls and throw them across the room.
However, at Pilates, they are trying to take my joy of balls away! Here are some examples of joyless balls - while laying on my back, the instructor will have me put my legs in a tabletop position and hold a ball between my knees and at the same time while holding a weighted ball in each hand while doing inward flies. These balls could be more fun as they are adding complexity to every movement. They have other half-ish balls that you stand on to do other exercises. Okay, enough talk about balls… they are still fun…
No Pain... wheres the fun in that?
Another exciting thing about working one-on-one is that occasionally you might feel pain in one or the other part of your body. I always let the instructor know, as they have told me repeatedly that there are many ways to work any particular muscle group. If this hurts, we can just adjust this or that, and the pain goes away, and I still work that muscle. How cool is that?
In this studio, I have access to pilates machines known as reformers. They add resistance to the exercise in unique and creative ways. I have met many people who said Pilates and this studio have changed and saved their lives. As we get older, it is so important to have mobility.
Last October, I could travel first to Seoul, South Korea and then to Bangkok, Thailand. I noticed that very old people still had tremendous mobility and were active even in their senior years. They don’t have the weight issues we seem to have in North America, mainly because of processed food. It's pretty challenging to find food that does not have sugar added in some shape or form. The only way around this is to make food from scratch using whole foods. I will discuss this further in my next blog as I follow my steps to becoming an ocean rower.
I will bring you with me every step of the way.