I’ve hopped on the rower every single day since Nov. 16, 2020, and made the daily goal to row 10,000 meters mostly for my mental health. I needed that alone time early in the morning before my family woke up to do something healthy for me, to lose myself while breathing heavy, sweating, and watching YouTube videos, just to enjoy one hour where I had no responsibilities. Over the past few months, I’ve felt happier, less stressed, and stronger.
Rowing 10,000 meters at a moderate pace takes me about 54 to 60 minutes, and as my body got stronger and my endurance improved, I started to crave longer workouts. So on Jan. 2 (my 44th birthday!), I decided to commit to doing 10 extra minutes of cardio, just to see how that extra alone time and exercise affected my mental health. Would I feel even better? Happier? More grounded and less stressed? I also noticed that even with rowing 10,000 meters, I still had a bit of the extra weight I had gained during COVID and wasn’t feeling like myself. I wanted to see if doing 10 extra minutes of cardio would help me lean out more.
What Type of Cardio Did I Do?
Since I was already on the rower, most of the time, I just rowed an extra 10 minutes. This meant that I needed to set my alarm earlier, and I’d aim to row from 5 a.m. to 6:10 a.m., then I’d do yoga and stretch for 20 minutes.
If I didn’t wake up early enough, I’d do 10 minutes of walking in the woods near my house with my dogs (which usually turned into 20 or 30 minutes). It’s very hilly in these woods, so I was definitely breathing heavily. It was nice to get outside, and even if it was snowy and 18 degrees, after 10 minutes, I’d get so warm that I had to strip off layers! If it was too cold (under 15 degrees was my personal limit), I’d just walk on my treadmill with the incline all the way up to 12 percent.
Although the longer rowing workout felt good, I also appreciated doing the 10 minutes separately later in the day. It was a nice mental break and felt good to move my body, especially if I did it after sitting most of the day for work.
How Did I Stay Motivated to Do 10 Extra Minutes of Cardio?
In the beginning of 2021, while scrolling through Instagram one day, I discovered habit trackers. Since I’m big into journaling, I thought this would be a fun thing to try. I made a section for “row 10K meters,” and right next to it, I had a section for “10 extra minutes of cardio.” Who knew this little chart would be so motivating?! After my workout every morning, I’d fill in my habit tracker with my new set of brush markers, and it felt good to accomplish these goals before 7 a.m.!
How Did Doing 10 Extra Minutes of Cardio Affect My Mental Health?
Who knew that 10 minutes of extra alone time, extra sweat time, extra breathing heavy, would make such a difference? By the end of the second week, my workout time would just fly by, and that extra 10 minutes never felt like a chore or hard effort; it felt like the complete opposite! Exercising alone felt good, and an extra 10 minutes just felt better.
I’d come upstairs to wake up the rest of the house and feel so calm, happy, and ready to start my day. This amazing feeling is what motivated me out of bed on the mornings I just wanted to sleep in.
How Did Doing 10 Extra Minutes of Cardio Affect My Weight?
Looking in the mirror, after this one month, I looked leaner and my upper-body muscles were more defined — even my PT commented on how psyched I must be that my back was so strong! I didn’t weigh myself for that entire month (because I was also deep into my intuitive-eating journey at the same time), so when I finally stepped on the scale, I was shocked that I had gained five pounds. This reminded me why I stopped weighing myself! What a bunch of BS! I had gained muscle and lost fat. The scale didn’t show that, but the mirror and the way my clothes fit did. Granted this wasn’t just from an 10 extra minutes of cardio. Rowing 10,000 miles also had an effect on my muscle gains. But like I said, rowing daily for about an hour wasn’t helping me get leaner — I had hit a plateau. It wasn’t until I started doing these 10 extra minutes that I started to see more of a difference.
How Did Adding 10 Extra Minutes of Cardio Affect My Physical Health?
The one benefit that surprised me, because it wasn’t one of my reasons for doing 10 extra minutes of cardio, was that my fitness level improved. I tracked every single workout on my Ergatta rower, and by the end of the month, my average split (pace) was faster by 15 to 20 seconds. I wasn’t even trying to increase my rowing split; it just naturally happened from rowing more and getting stronger.
My whole body felt stronger, I had more energy, and the aches and pains I suffered from months before were starting to go away. I was so excited!
I Stopped, and That’s When I Knew How Much Those 10 Extra Minutes Made a Difference!
After the month was up, I made a new habit tracker for February, and instead of doing 10 extra minutes of cardio, I added “Do 10 push-ups” instead. While that small habit does make me feel good, not doing the 10 extra minutes of cardio made me realize how much I missed it! It’s only been two weeks since I stopped, but over the past three days, I’ve naturally just brought it back into my day without even intending to. Now I know why athletes can work out for hours — it just feels so good to move!