Try Adding Distance

Part of my New Years (non-whiny) resolution was to go the gym more often. It is a resolution that I have (mostly) adhered to over the past six months. When I go to the gym, I row. I love the rhythm, the fight against the machine, and the fact that no else at most gyms know what to do with it. Rowing is a grueling workout, which is one of the reasons I like it. Even when the workout is bad, it’s good. It also gives me a chance to crawl inside myself for 20 or so minutes and muddle through the tumult in my head.

For a couple weeks I kept my workout distance consistent at 4k, and was able to drop the time almost every workout. When I added 1k meters to my workout, the distance completely outstripped my ability to improve. When rowing the 4k, I was able to row every split evenly, with very little variance in performance. I was even able to throw in some intervals rowing at way above my normal split, just for funsies.  But when rowing the 5k, my splits varied widely, arced, and crashed for a few months.

Measurement on an ergometer is pretty easy. The average split time is recorded and displayed at the end (if you can still see through the sweat.) Also, for every 500m you row, there’s a split and strokes/minute displayed. Essentially, it tells you how hard you went out, at what point in your workout you died, where you rallied, and if you pushed hard at the end. There are no lies, deception, or excuses on the LCD, only numbers. My takeaway from this screen is always that I was not consistent enough.

I’ve seen parallels in my own life and career performance as well. While working on Creative Portfolio Display, an extremely intense, but relatively short duration project, I was able to push hard, crash, and push hard again. The entire project was feature complete in approx 3 weeks. While handling the ever growing DBA responsibilities of be.net, I’ve had an extremely difficult time being consistent with a task that requires constant work over years. Performance there has been inconsistent as the data outgrew it’s architecture.

In personalities and friendships, I’ve come to value the people that remain consistent over time. People who continue to struggle by doing meaningful work that is of constant quality over years and years.¬†Intensity is often hailed as the more desirable between consistency and intensity. But the people who have been the most valuable in my life and career are those who have stood beside me for years.

In the end, it is the miles that make champions.

Jun 23rd, 2012