Fitter by degrees

Rowing with Josh (Apple Fitness+)

Just a couple of weeks into the rowing machine life, and I’m here to check in with myself. I may not look physically different (still on the same hole in the belt loop) but I am feeling better in all kinds of other ways.

It wasn’t too many months ago that I was struggling with hip pain and back spasms and finding it hard to do basic things like putting my socks on or doing up my shoelaces. I feel so much better in that respect it’s almost unbelievable. And not all to do with the rowing machine. This is to do with movement in general and walking in particular.

As if all that isn’t embarrassing enough, I’m ashamed to report that according to my Apple Fitness app, I only ‘worked out’ (meaning a walk or a ride, or whatever) eight times in June. No wonder I couldn’t reach my feet to pull my socks on. The count in July was 31; in August 28; in September 33. So the prescription is clear: move, move, move. You’re not necessarily going to lose weight; that’s never the way with exercise. But that sense of feeling old, stiff, immobile, that can be addressed.

I’m just back from a bike ride. I dumped Strava months ago, so there are no metrics on pace and speed. All I have is a kind of mindful sense of what hurts, how much it hurts, and so on. Another measure I have is what gear I’m using.

My ebike has 8 gears. I generally ride between 5th and 6th, in the zone where the assistance from the electric motor is actually tailing off to nearly nothing. In 5th, I’ll be doing around 25kph, or the legal upper limit for assistance on a pedal powered electric bike. In other words, I’m fit enough that the tiny bit of assistance I get at that speed is all I need. In 6th gear, you’re doing between 26kph and 29kph, with the assistance often cutting out altogether. All of which preamble is just to note that today I spent a lot more time in 6th gear than usual, and looking down at my bike’s display, I could see I was often charging up hills at around 26½ kph. All pretty good for me, and nothing was hurting too much.

I’m not sure how accurate my Apple Watch’s estimation of my VO2 max is (it’s only an SE, so doesn’t have all the available sensors), but it’ll do as a measure because I don’t want to do the maths. My Health app has been telling me my VO2 is low for ages now. At it’s worse, it was down at 19 (at my age, anything under 30 is poor, according to what I’ve read). I don’t really believe I’m that unfit, because I’m not that sedentary, but this estimate from the Watch is all I have. Anyway, two weeks of rowing has seen the Watch’s estimate rise up to 21, so things are looking up.

When my OH uses the machine, she just does it steadily for 15-30 minutes, because that’s what she enjoys. But I’ve been using the Apple Fitness+ workouts. I’ve surprised myself here, because if you’d asked me I would have said I would hate them. But I actually really like Josh of Rowing with Josh, and so I’ve been following his workouts of various lengths, which include “all out” intervals. Again, I’d have thought I was totally against this kind of thing, but I suppose I’ve always known that (outdoor) cycling had natural intervals, because you go up and down hills. So I’m sticking with Josh; apart from anything else, I can feel it working.

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