Written by Vivianna Smith
Performance360 Member

8 years ago I sat down on an ergometer for the first time in a rowing camp my dad forced me to sign up for. (The day I started talking, I think my parents realized they would have no idea what to do with me). My understanding of the machine was so innocent and pure: you go back and forth, you use your arms and legs, and you stare at a box with a screen. The numbers meant nothing to me, and neither did the machine. Life was good. After a few more times on this machine aggressively taking out my life problems it was then I realized I was born with a gift of being absolutely nuts, and soon after I began rowing competitively. It wasn’t until was I first introduced to ‘my mind’ did I know exactly what the human body is capable of, what your mind can conquer, and how I, myself as a person, would change.

Teamwork is everywhere. In your office, in our gym, in the grocery store-everywhere. For four years, teamwork for me was sitting in a boat with seven other rowers, and one very important coxswain. For those of you who have challenged yourself on a timed rowing challenge, having someone coach you through the madness can make or break your numbers.

Rowers are a different breed. We are psycho. Your mind becomes your best friend, because its all you have left after you no longer can feel your body during a race. We train to push past what we “feel” our limits are. We train to never quit, even when you “feel” like you have nothing left. We train to keep going for the 8 others in the boat relying on you. We train until your mind doesn’t stand a chance against you.

Fast forward to today, I no longer am a rower. I no longer need to produce a certain number on a screen. (Truth be told if I could, I would blow every mother fucking erg screen up). Now, I know my mind so well, it transpires into how I react and approach how I workout each day.

My goal is to demolish what is on the board. I love walking out of the gym seeing stars. My body shaking, silently wondering, “Am I dying?” This is a workout to me. Testing my limits, pushing myself enough to where my body clearly is responding back. Not just my heart rate. Whether you realize it or not, no matter the workout, your mind is what first starts talking to you. It cues to you your legs are tired, your arms may rip off, and another 200m run may take you to the grave. I’ve learned to talk back, I’ve learned to understand all of this and realize my brain quits before my body. I understand that although I can’t feel my legs, they are still there, holding strong and not going anywhere unless I let them. Your body can endure more than it will ever understand. We as humans are incredible.

For me, taking my body to it’s limits is rewarding, and I’ve learned to understand myself and what I am capable of at a level that surpasses what I will ever will be able to explain to someone. Oftentimes I hear people get done and say,” That was so hard!” and often times my first thought is, “How are you talking?”

In college, they used to say if you can get off the erg and say something, you didn’t go hard enough. Like a lot of people, water isn’t the first thing I need when I’m done. It’s air. I walk outside and getting my normal rhythm of breathing back is the best thing in the world. The feeling that comes along with overcoming challenge is highly rewarding to me.


To me, that’s living.

Taking yourself to the brink is different for every person. It may not give you the number one rowing split, the heaviest deadlift, or the fastest time on the timed challenge, but honestly, who really cares about that. Yes, it feels good, but not nearly as good as the rest of your day, or your week after you push yourself to where you never thought you could go. I try very hard to make this a habit.

I do not walk into the gym everyday looking for this feeling. I know myself enough to know when I can achieve this, where I need to improve; to stop and focus on the simple steps, and most days are simply not meant to take myself to my “dark place.”

Adopting this habit and overall understanding of how my mind and body work together plays a huge roll in my life outside of the gym walls as well. The world is a messed up place sometimes. It’s important to find an outlet, an overall way to stay sane, and something that you truly, truly enjoy.

For me, that is pushing myself to my limits. Testing my mind. Overcoming my fears. Through this I have discovered who I am, what I am capable of, and what I can conquer.

That is why I train. That is how I “Become More”.

Learning to understand your body and mind is huge. What YOUR limits are will never be the a cookie cutter of someone else. The beauty is in the overall discovery of what YOU as an athlete can do.

Challenge yourself. You’ll be surprised at what you discover.

Vivianna Smith is a former collegiate rower and a member of Performance360.