Behind the Oar: “Be Joyful, Be Kind, Be Water”

Leanne Yenush

For Mike Furtaw, the scary side effects of an innocent midday run were enough to make immediate, dramatic changes in his routine.

“I would run regularly,” he recalls. “But last year, I went out for a run one day, and out of nowhere I came down with vertigo. I couldn’t even open my eyes – for 72 hours. I couldn’t leave the bedroom without help from my wife. It was crazy.”

Furtaw admits that the episode forced him to relinquish control like never before.

“I couldn’t do anything, honestly. Vertigo taught me to really give up control. After the episode, I wanted to get moving again, but I was scared to run. So my wife and I decided to look at rowing machines. We came across Hydrow, bought one in December, and haven't looked back since.” Since users are seated for the duration of the workout, rowing machines are considered one of the safest and most stable forms of cardio.

Furtaw sat down with Hydrow Athlete Mike Dostal to discuss Hydrow, new routines, and celebrating lifelong wellness.

“Be like water”

Like many people, Furtaw moved to working remotely when COVID hit. It was during that time that an important wellness seed was planted.

“In those first few months, I would have things playing on the TV in the background while I was working. One day the new Bruce Lee documentary was playing – it’s called Be Water –  and the ending sequence is him talking about how learning to be fluid like water can help you create more joy in the moment and in your life.”

“Fast forward to the vertigo episode, and subsequently buying a Hydrow, and I found myself thinking a lot about that documentary. I decided to watch it a second time, the whole family watched it with me, and its message really resonated with me.”

Furtaw notes how one of his biggest challenges in “being like water” was to embrace moderation and actually do less in his workouts with regard to intensity.

“We think the vertigo was caused by me overexerting myself on a hot day and not really hydrating,” he says. “My doctor reminded me that I’m in my forties and that I needed to learn moderation. Now I row and I also walk a lot – we live right by Lake Huron and on a river, so there are beautiful places to walk – and I’m reminded of Bruce Lee’s message in almost every workout I do.” In addition to feeling better, the rowing and walking has helped Furtaw lose 40 pounds and lower his cholesterol considerably.

“What's so great about your story,” Dostal replies, “Is that it's not only about the meters for you. It's nice to row a million meters, join the Million Meter Club as you’ve done, and then go on for the next milestone. But your experience has been more holistic, more of an overall wellness play.”

“It’s about looking after yourself in all these different areas, one of them being exercise,” says Dostal. “Being able to do that on the Hydrow is great.”

An unexpected community

“Was there anything about Hydrow that surprised you?” asks Dostal.

“Yes. I never thought I would actually engage with other Hydrow members,” Furtaw replies. “I'm not on Facebook or Instagram. So I didn't think that I would get involved with the community [using Hydrow’s social features like Invitations]. Now I totally geek out about it, and my wife does too.”

“That's the difference maker. You're with a trained Athlete on the water and have a leaderboard. It feels like you’re on a team. Obviously you're at home in your own house during all of this. But that really surprised me.”

Furtaw was also surprised at how one-on-one Hydrow feels.

“I know there are live rows. I was on one with you when I hit my 250K milestone, Mike, and maybe I did one other one. But to me, the recorded rows feel just as live and just as one-on-one. I'm pumped to get up at five in the morning every day and get on there. That's never happened in my life. I mean, I like exercise, but not like that.”

“I find myself able to push through because it's in my house. When I used to go to the gym, I had to leave my house, often in the cold since I'm in Michigan. I feel like I'm one on one every time. Hydrow motivates me to get out of bed, and I feel accomplished afterwards.”

“Peaks and valleys aren’t everything”

“I think a big part of my journey with Hydrow has involved approaching it through a lens of wellness and not fitness. I was lost in thinking that fitness meant doing maximum cardio or doing it for as long as possible. It's really more about the way up and the way down. You spend most of your life trying to work up from a down moment to a peak. You spend most of your time climbing up or down the mountain, not on top of the mountain.”

“And so those moments where you have a rough morning, where you don't want to get up, it’s all about walking the path up to the peak again. The peak and the valley are temporary. Finding joy along the way makes the process so much more satisfying. It’s been good for me; my wife says I’ve completely transformed in the past year.”

“I think that's how you ended your message to me,” says Dostal. "Be joyful, be kind, be water. It's a great way to be.” 

“Kindness matters. Joy matters,” says Furtaw. “My mission now is to try to share that as long as I can.”


Follow Mike Furtaw on Hydrow. Username: @TheGary47

Learn more about the Million Meter Club here.

Want to add a daily boost to your day? You’ll love #HydrowWinTheDay - learn more here.

And check out a few of our other Behind the Oar member stories here, here, here, here, here, and here.