Row, Sweat, Row

one woman's obsession with rowing and Bikram yoga

I’m not the only one… March 29, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — amykleine @ 8:25 PM

I received a comment today from a woman in the UK who found my blog when searching for “rowing bikram yoga.” She was surprised to find someone else out in the universe who is combining these two activities.  I decided to write another post for her to follow!

This Saturday, April 2, the rowing team is back on the water.  I am feeling ambivalent about this, though I recall feeling the same way last year.  First, I am not looking forward to the early morning schedule.  In order to get up at 4:45 AM and feel human throughout the day, I have to go to bed by 9:30 PM at the latest.  This makes the evenings somewhat stressful as I get all of my things together so that I can run out the door in the morning.  I realize that this is a choice – no one is making me adhere to this schedule.  It is somewhat complicated by the fact that my husband is also on the team and does not like the idea that we would be on different schedules.  Second, I have been enjoying the “freedom” to mix up my schedule.  I have been doing yoga, attending Cross Fit classes, and doing a few erg workouts each week.  Once we are back on the water four days/week, there is less time for other activities.  Third, I am apprehensive about what boats I might be in.  Ultimately, I know that I have a choice and I need to be satisfied with how I am spending my time.  To be continued…

As I mentioned, in addition to Bikram and rowing, I have recently added Cross Fit. To give you an idea about what it is, here is what we did yesterday: warm-up consisting of squats, leg swings, jumping squats, and box jumps.  Then, we worked on back squats (the barbell is on the lower shoulders).  We were doing 5 reps at 75% of max weight. I don’t know what my max weight is, but I got up to 63 pounds (that’s not very heavy) and the coach wanted me to focus on my form.  There is something about squatting with a barbell that makes me feel pretty powerful.  Next is the WOD, or workout of the day.  We had 4 rounds of: 2 kettlebell snatches with each arm, 10 walking lunges with dumbbells and 20 full sit-ups.  It took me 6:30.  The women who have been doing CF for awhile finished in under 5 minutes. It’s yet another activity at which I don’t excel but I persist because I know it will benefit me.

I have not yet figured out how I am going to blend all of these activities and maintain a life, but I will keep you posted!  This week my activities are: Sunday, teach Indoor Rowing class at 9:30, Bikram yoga at 4:00.  Monday – Cross Fit at 5:30 PM.  Tuesday – yoga at 5 PM.  Wednesday will be erging in the AM; Thursday will be yoga in the AM and Cross Fit in the PM; Friday will be either CF or yoga in the PM; Saturday will be rowing (on the water) in the AM, yoga at 4 PM.

Weight Watchers update – in the last four weeks, I have basically lost one pound.  I have been hovering at 12 pounds lost for a month.  My goal is to lose three more pounds to see a certain number on the scale, but I feel good where I am now.  I have gone down a full size (from 8 to 6), and just spend $250 having five pairs of dress pants altered.  I think that my body will continue to change, particularly by introducing weight lifting in Cross Fit.  I plan to stay on the WW plan (meaning tracking every day) for at least three more months.  After that point, I will try maintenance on my own without tracking.

Bikram Yoga – I was recently away on a work trip for a week, and I wrote on Facebook that other than my husband, I most missed yoga.  Jeff is not on FB, but my mom told him about it and now he likes to say “I wish you missed me as much as you missed yoga.” Please. Of course I miss him more!  However, I suppose it shows that my body craves something about yoga after several days away.  So, every time I think I can give it up for awhile (just to free up time), I realize I would miss it too much…My studio is hosting a posture clinic on April 30 with a master trainer.  I’m looking forward to that workshop in order to refresh my practice and see what I can improve.

Erg update – I  beat my 30 minute goal for the Baltimore Burn. My average watts were 149, for a split of 2:12.8.  Also, I recently did a 2K test as required by our coach. My goal was 8:10 (193 watts average), but I did not achieve it.  My first and last 500s were 2:01.9, but the middle 1K was 2:08.  The triumph for me was that I did not quit.  Jeff was there encouraging me.  He said that he knew I wanted to give up as soon as I realized that I would not make my goal.  But, I have quit during a 2K before and I have regretted it for days.  So, I just pushed through it and ended up with 8:20.  It turned out not to be so bad compared to several teammates.  The next 2K test is May 16.

More to come….




Our collective weight problem February 27, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — amykleine @ 8:39 AM

Because I am back on weight watchers, I have been reading blogs of other (mostly) women who are also on the plan. I am inspired by their journeys, which are usually much longer and more difficult than mine. These women are losing 50 – 100 pounds. My goal is to lose 15 pounds, redevelop good eating habits, and then maintain the weight loss. In 8 weeks, I have lost 11 pounds and have not yet gained any back (though I have a feeling that this week that might happen). The program works for me because I am disciplined about tracking what I eat and because I exercise A LOT. I took a day off from exercise on Wednesday of this week and realized that I had gone 30 days without a day off. Not because I was trying, just because I truly enjoy it and it is an engrained part of my life.

Last night, I caught the tail end of the show Heavy and an episode of Hoarders in which everyone was morbidly obese. I am increasingly saddened and concerned about our obesity epidemic in America. I find myself wanting to help others live a healthy lifestyle, access nutritious foods, exercise, etc… In my job, I have the opportunity to work on this through programs that provide fresh produce to low-income communities. Also, I am now teaching indoor rowing classes which I hope to extend to the poor neighborhood next to our boathouse. In these small ways, I hope to help people become healthier.

It’s funny – when I tell people I am on weight watchers, they look at me as if to say “you don’t need to lose weight.” Right, because the people who need to lose weight are significantly overweight and by comparison, I look thin. What I know is that if I don’t reign in my eating habits, the I WILL look like I need to lose weight (okay, maybe not because of all of the exercise I do, but you get the point).



I’m back January 29, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — amykleine @ 9:46 AM

I have been reading the brilliant blogs of others and decided it’s time to start writing again. My blog will remain boring without the exciting features that I see out there, but it’s mostly just for me anyway. I just read over the post I wrote in May 2010 about the dreaded 2K test. I’m happy to report that I improved my time to 8:18 by August – still not quite my goal, but much better. I had a pretty terrific rowing season last year, winning several medals with the fabulous women of the 8+ and even competing at Masters Worlds in Canada. The Fall season was tough for me as I struggled with my stroke and thought about throwing in the towel. I stuck with it and rowed at Head of the Charles. Our boat had a hard time getting “it” together, but we ended up having a really good race so it was a wonderful way to end the season.

Fast forward to now. I have become an indoor rowing evangelist. I attended a Concept 2 certification class in November and have started teaching indoor rowing classes at our club. I am also doing some mini-clinics at the YMCA to teach people the proper use and benefits of the indoor rower. I am probably overly enthusiastic about this form of exercise and I surely annoy many people…but thus far my efforts seem to be well received. I was elected to the Executive Committee of the Baltimore Rowing Club in a new position – Community Outreach Director – and I am quite passionate about bringing to sport of rowing to people who don’t know that it exists. In particular, we are developing a new youth rowing program for kids in Baltimore City Public Schools that will combine academic supports with rowing. Several of us attended a conference in NYC last week hosted by Row New York which is a fabulous program for girls in the NYC schools. I met the (relatively new) Inclusion Director for US Rowing, whose job it is to diversify the sport. In other words, the goal is to see Olympic boats that reflect the diversity of America. Pretty cool.

I continue with Bikram yoga. I tried another form of yoga for awhile – Power Yoga – which I enjoyed and found challenging but too intense to combine with my on-going rowing training. I have now done well over 300 Bikram yoga classes and it continues to be an important part of my routine. I wouldn’t say that I’m really improving because I am not going often enough to see changes in my postures, but I still love the way it makes me feel and I am convinced that it keeps me healthy, both by not getting ill and also by keeping my muscles loose. My worst nightmare is to have an injury that would prevent me from rowing…so I do what I can to take care of myself.

On the rowing front – my current goal is to increase my power to weight ratio. I recently learned about using watts as a benchmark. Here is how it works: if you pull your body weight in watts, your ratio is basically 1. The average person cannot do this for more than a few minutes. My goal is to have a power to weight ratio of about 1.4 for 2,000 meters. We do weekly “burst” workouts during which we record the watts for each 40 second piece and then we calculate an average. I managed to improve my ratio from 1.23 to 1.38 in one week. I started back on Weight Watchers on January 3 and in three weeks have lost 6 pounds. I will talk more about WW in another post. So, the idea is to shed some weight until I reach a point of equilibrium – the point at which I am the strongest and lightest. On February 5 is the annual Great Baltimore Burn at which I always participate in the 30 minute row because I can mark my progress from year to year. This year, my goal is to pull my body weight in watts for 30 minutes. The last time I did the 30 minute row was in 2009 (the 2010 event was cancelled due to a massive snow storm). My average split was 2:17.6 and it was a big accomplishment at the time. To achieve this new goal, the average split will need to be around 2:12.5. It will be tough and the last five minutes are going to hurt, but I know I can do it.


Time for reflection May 19, 2010

Filed under: erging,Uncategorized — amykleine @ 3:03 PM

Over the past two weeks, I have become haunted by the 2K erg test. Our coach announced that we all needed to complete this test as a measure of our fitness, strength, mental determination, etc… The 2K test is hallowed and hated in the rowing world. It is absolutely dreadful beyond words and I had not done one in two years. I enjoy rowing, and I am fairly “serious” about it but I do not like to torture myself. I was incredibly anxious about it and wanted to get it done before the weekend was out. So, two Sundays ago my husband drove me down to the boathouse and sat with me while I pulled a sad 8:30. It was not good, but it was better than I had done before. By two seconds. Of course, it is just about the slowest time on the team. Many of my teammates are well below 8 minutes. Not a good feeling, my friends, and hard not to compare. I told my coach that I wanted to do a new one and I set a goal of reaching 8:12 by August 12, my 36th birthday. He gave me a workout of doing 500 meter repeats at my goal split. So last Sunday, my husband drove me down to the boathouse and we did five 500 meter pieces together. My average was 2:02 – better than I expected. Feeling newly confident, I decided to go for a new 2K today. After coxing in the cold damp morning (being crammed into the bow of a 4+), I went up to the erg room, warmed up for 10 minutes and then had our best female rower on one side and my coach on the other side to attempt a better 2K. My goal was 8:20. Just hold a 2:05. How hard can it be? Off I went, the first 500 was okay. My split started creeping up in the second 500 – 2:07, 2:08, 2:09 – coach is pushing me “get it down to 2:05 right here. 2:05!!” I couldn’t do it. The split would not come down and my legs were in so much pain that I STOPPED! I think it was exactly 1160 meters to go. I was totally crushed. Best female rower gave me an encouraging pat on the back. Coach got up and left the room. Husband came up and told me that he knew today was not the day. It was not a good feeling at all. In a later email exchange, Coach basically said that he doesn’t know how else to help me overcome my mental block. He made the point that we cannot stop in the middle of a race because the time is not “right” or we are having a bad day. I obviously know this and would never / have never stopped (though one can give up without stopping). So, great. Coach now sees me as a quitter so why would he put me in a boat with anyone?

Lots going through my head about this: maybe I’m not cut out for it after all, maybe I don’t really want to be competitive, maybe I should join another program, maybe I’m just not good enough. No fun to go down this road. I don’t have an answer today, but I wanted to write it down for the record.


The Fifth Day May 1, 2010

Filed under: Yoga general — amykleine @ 8:50 PM

I have more or less abandoned posting to this blog, but today I was inspired to write. Bikram Yoga Hampden is celebrating its 5th anniversary and Sarah, the owner, hosted an open house with free classes and a party in the evening. Today was my fifth day in a row of classes, which is extremely rare for me. In fact, I may have only done it one other time in the last year and a half. It happened by accident, really – I was just able to go every day and so I did. Normally I have conflicts that prevent me from getting to the studio on consecutive days (next week I’ll be lucky to go three times).

I have not felt particularly well the past few days. I had a sore throat earlier this week and got over that on Wednesday and then I developed some stomach problems. I took an immodium and gas-x before class today and was sure I’d struggle to get through but I went because I didn’t want to miss the special event. I wore my “best” yoga outfit, brought my special yogitoes towel and took the spot in the front row to the left of the podium. We had fewer new people than I expected, so I was surrounded more or less by experienced folks. I knew by the time we got to eagle that I was going to have a great class, and it was fantastic. I would rank it in the top five classes ever (out of 200 now). I have to wonder if there’s something magic about the “fifth day” or just about coming so many consecutive days. The best way to describe it is that I wasn’t struggling against the tension and tightness that I normally have – and it took four days to work that out. It probably helped that I did not row this morning (I was the coxswain of the 8+) so I was not already fatigued. I was able to do a few things that I rarely, if ever can do: I kicked out on the left side in standing head to knee for the entire 30 seconds. I did not lock the left knee, but I have never held it for the whole posture. I stayed in balancing stick on both sides without coming out early. I got my butt on the floor in fixed firm. And everything else was just strong and didn’t feel painful in the same way.

The downside is that I cannot expect to feel this way often, because I won’t have many “fifth days.” Of course, I could if I really wanted to, but I’m not willing to make the sacrifice it requires. I want to repeat something that Sarah’s dad said this evening at the party when he was telling the story about how Sarah opened the studio. He said that we need to learn to embrace our “ordinariness.” We are always bombarded with the idea that we are inadequate, that there are so many people out there who are better than us and we will never get there. Well, I need to embrace my practice just as it is. With no locked knee, with a sore back in pada hastasana, with a less than parallel thigh in triangle, and a smile on my face at the end of each class – just because I got through it:)

Here’s to Bikram Yoga Hampden – and to five more years!


Burn Out April 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — amykleine @ 8:29 AM

I have not been inspired to update my blog recently. One reason is that I haven’t felt that I have anything new to add to my previous posts because I have described many rowing workouts and yoga sessions. Also, I have been traveling so my schedule has been erratic. This week, I traveled to Pittsburgh for a conference. I had the opportunity to see the Three Rivers Rowing boathouse (the old one) and I visited the lone Bikram studio. The boathouse is much nicer than Baltimore’s but the yoga studio is not! In any case, it is always interesting how these two pursuits give me ways to connect to people and places wherever I go.

We are back on the water now and are mainly focusing on skill and drill for the month of April. I rowed stroke seat in a quad the last two days. The weather and water conditions were dramatically different making yesterday wonderful and today a challenge. I noticed how much I was enjoying rowing yesterday and how strong and controlled I felt in the boat. My impression was that winter training has really paid off!

As for yoga, it seemed that I hit a wall this week. I started feeling bored by the series because I’m not making progress. I still can’t lock my knee, still can’t touch my forehead, etc… Nothing is changing. In fact, I am starting to slip backwards partly because of rowing and partly because I stopped pushing myself. I don’t want to give it up, so I am going to just keep going even if I don’t really want to be there. I went to the 6 PM class last night and even told someone that I did not want to be there. I was easy on myself during class, not pushing too hard in the postures and focusing on the stretching. By the end of class, I was glad to be there. It’s funny how the body benefits from the yoga even if the mind does not want to go. In fact, I have heard people say “I don’t even know why I am here.” It’s matter over mind!


Faux Bikram April 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — amykleine @ 7:25 PM

As  I have reported before, I always try to attend Bikram classes while I am away from home. I am visiting my mother at her condo in Venice, Florida and had planned yoga (and rowing) as part of the schedule. Last year, I found Bikram Sarasota and went to two classes. The studio is smaller and has fewer amenities than my home studio, but it was fine. My husband had found another studio owned by a woman who was trained in Bikram but had modified the series and therefore calls it “hot yoga.” I was intrigued, so I attended a class at that studio on Friday afternoon. I was curious about how the series was modified to include, as the website claimed, more stamina and strength positions. I will try to recall the series for you.

1. Praniyama deep breathing – no change

2. Half moon with hands to feet pose – no change

3. Awkward. Small change – in the first part of awkward, we lifted our hands up toward the ceiling.

4. Eagle – no change

From here, we did not start the balancing series. We turned sideways on our mats and…

5. Warrior pose into triangle, first set. Triangle only, second set.

6. Separate leg stretching, but instead of grabbing heels we put our left hand on the floor and stretched the right hand up and then reversed.

7. Separate leg head to knee. No change.

8. Standing head to knee. Instead of immediately clasping the foot, we lifted the leg with hands in prayer position in front of the chest. Only if the knee was locked were we to proceed to grip the foot.

9. Bow pose. No change.

10. Balancing stick. No change.

11. Tree and Toe Stand. No change.

12. Savasana. No change.

Here, before spine strengthening, we did a brief series that included downward dog, plank, and a pushup.

13. Spine strengthening series – same expect that when we pushed up at the end, we did child’s pose.

14. Fixed firm. No change.

15. Half tortoise – we held one set for longer instead of doing two sets.

16. We did one rabbit, then one camel, then one rabbit, then one camel. Big change.

17. Separate leg stretching (what is the name of this posture?). No change.

18. Spine twisting pose. Before going into the twist, we stretched forward to touch elbows on the floor.

19. Kablipati breathing. No change.

I must be missing something, but I captured the essence of the modifications to the series. My assessment is that it was more similar to Bikram than I expected and I couldn’t quite figure out the reasons for altering it expect that perhaps the owner does not want to have to be a Bikram studio. Or maybe she really believes that the series is better this way? In any case, I decided that I wanted to go back to the Bikram that I know and love. Also, the teacher was not very effective. She spoke in a monotone, which is unlike what I am used to at home. She used the familiar dialogue but I don’t know if she attended teacher training. She did not give a single correction (and I noticed people who could have used them). I only heard her say “nice, Sarah”, “nice, Katie.”

I forgot to mention that when I was changing before class, a woman asked me if I have done this before and I told her that I practice Bikram yoga. She said “what’s that?” Well, after seeing that this yoga is essentially Bikram with a few changes, I thought it a shame that she didn’t even know what it was. Maybe I am more of a devotee than I even realized!

After that experience, I decided that my next class would be at the Sarasota Bikram studio. On Monday morning, Jeff and I went to the rowing club (where we also went on Saturday for a long row in an 8+) and rowed singles with a few other people under the watchful eye of a coach. We decided to leave in time to make it to the 10 am yoga class. Well, we pulled out at 9:30 and I knew we would be cutting it close. I did not think we would make it, but I got to the studio with about two minutes to spare and they had not started yet so I threw down a mat right in front, still in my rowing shorts and sports bra and started my practice. The room was quite full and had good energy. I had a great class! It did not feel as hot/humid to me as normal – I saw the temperature reached 102 at the highest. Also, as in many studios, we turn our bodies and keep our feet on our own mats for the separate leg stretching / triangle / head to knee portion of class which is SO MUCH EASIER than having feet on the floor outside the mat. Not that I minded today.

OK, that’s my recap of two yoga classes while in Florida. Didn’t get to practice as often as I’d like, but some is better than none. I’m looking forward to being back in my home studio (absence always makes me fonder)…though with rowing practice starting back up my yoga time will be more limited. I’ll be lucky if I can do four classes / week and three is probably more likely.