The ben­e­fits of row­ing

The Sligo Champion - - SPORT -

ROW­ING is a wa­ter sport that in­volves, sit­ting in a boat and well, row­ing. It’s pretty self ex­plana­tory ac­tu­ally. It’s easy to un­der­stand and is ex­actly as it seems, or at least is the com­mon opin­ion. It ap­pears to be one of the only sports that has very few rules, in the same way run­ning has few rules. You move from point A to B. Sim­ple, right? Well in the­ory at least.

While the lack of many small rules and reg­u­la­tions make it seem as easy as walk­ing from one place to an­other in con­trast with some more ‘com­plex’ sports such as Gaelic where there seems to be a num­ber at­tached to every ac­tion, the real dif­fi­culty in row­ing lies in the ac­tion it­self. In the per­fectly timed and dis­tinct move­ments as row­ers first reach the hands po­si­tion, roll for­wards into bod­ies po­si­tion and fi­nally move up the slide to pre­pare for the mas­sive ex­er­tion of energy re­quired to take a stroke that pro­pels the boat through the wa­ter.

Bear in mind that they have to do this re­peat­edly, over and over again with the same power the whole way through, as in a race there is no room for fa­tigue. Also con­sider that the av­er­age stokes per minute dur­ing a race lies around the thirty to thirty five mark and that the stan­dard dis­tance of a race in the Olympics and World Row­ing Cham­pi­onships is two kilo­me­tres.

So yes, while in the­ory row­ing is a sim­ple sport, in re­al­ity the op­po­site is true.

Just like any pro­fes­sional ath­lete, se­ri­ous row­ers train every day fol­low­ing rou­tines that ex­er­cise mus­cles in the legs, arms, lower back and core. But like in any­thing else, not every par­tic­i­pant is a star.

There are sev­eral row­ing clubs across the coun­try that of­fer row­ing train­ing and fa­cil­i­ties at a non-com­pet­ing level.

I my­self do row­ing and the club that I am part of, Sligo Row­ing Club has many teams made up of mem­bers that range from teenagers to adults who can choose to com­pete at var­i­ous events, such as the Ir­ish In­door Row­ing Cham­pi­onships that I at­tended only last week.

Or they may sim­ply choose to row as part of a so­cial row­ing group as a form of ex­er­cise and meet­ing new peo­ple who share the com­mon in­ter­est.

The rea­son I be­gan row­ing was to be­come in­volved in an­other sport, as I have never re­ally been any good at some of the more run of the mill sports such as gaelic, soc­cer, bas­ket­ball, the list goes on.

When I joined I had been do­ing surf­ing for a num­ber of years, though I con­sider my­self more of a ‘fair weather surfer’, mean­ing that as much as I loved it, you’d be more likely to spot a dodo than to see me in the At­lantic Ocean in the icy depths of win­ter. So this posed a ques­tion, what am I go­ing to do with the half of the year when I deem the ocean too cold to even dip my toe in?

A friend of mine had just started row­ing, he too was not the big­gest fan of some of your more typ­i­cal sports and so it was de­cided that the next time he went to row­ing my brother and I would go along.

This was a few years ago, so my brother would have been about eleven and I thir­teen.

The row­ing club wasn’t any­thing fancy, a few con­tain­ers strate­gi­cally stacked with boats upon boats, the walls lined with oars. I was sent out in a dou­ble that day, an old wide bot­tomed boat that was prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble to tip over, hence it was used to train me.

I re­mem­ber that my brother wasn’t all that happy, as he was not yet thir­teen, mean­ing his back hadn’t de­vel­oped enough to be al­lowed to row so he was given the role of cox.

A cox is a per­son who sits at the back gen­er­ally, or de­pend­ing on the style of the boat some­times the front, and steers it.

They are es­sen­tially the brain of the boat, as not only do they de­cide where it is go­ing, they can also give or­ders to the row­ers in terms of the fre­quency and in­ten­sity of strokes in or­der to con­trol the speed it trav­els at.

Over time I grad­u­ally im­proved at row­ing and I was moved out of the old dou­ble and into a quad with three fif­teen year old boys, as at this time there was no girls team for me to train with.

I kept this up for about a year, even­tu­ally de­cid­ing to drop row­ing due to my thir­teen year old self not be­ing able to cope with the early Satur­day morn­ing train­ing ses­sions af­ter stay­ing up all hours on Fri­day night af­ter binge watch­ing Net­flix. But it wasn’t just the lack of a week­end lie in that turned me away from row­ing, it was also the lack of peo­ple my own age to talk to there. I felt out of place and so I de­cided to leave.

Fast for­ward to a few years later, I’m a Tran­si­tion Year stu­dent, liv­ing life, bask­ing in the new­found glory of my home­work free week­ends and gen­eral stress free ex­is­tence. One day in school we were called to an as­sem­bly and told about the Gaisce award we could ap­ply for, one of the re­quire­ments of which is com­plet­ing a cer­tain num­ber of hours par­tic­i­pat­ing in a sport.

I de­cided I wanted to ap­ply for the Gaisce award and thought over my op­tions.

I had just about ex­hausted every op­tion when it came to sport, hav­ing dis­cov­ered many more sports that I wasn’t so great at since first start­ing row­ing.

Un­like me, my brother had con­tin­ued row­ing through­out the years and had since ended his days of cox­ing a boat and had moved on to row­ing it.

I de­cided to turn back to row­ing and tagged along with my brother to the next train­ing ses­sion he went to.

When I ar­rived, the sight that met my eyes was one very dif­fer­ent from the one I saw that very first day I ar­rived at the row­ing club.

The first thing I no­ticed was the pres­ence of peo­ple, a stark con­trast to the ear­lier days of the club when you con­sid­ered your­self lucky if even a few other peo­ple were avail­able for train­ing so you could fill a boat.

Now peo­ple moved back and forth from the con­tain­ers to the slip­way in their team groups, car­ry­ing boats and oars, some re­ceiv­ing piggy backs from friends wear­ing wellies so as not to have to trudge through the knee deep wa­ter that cut off the slip­way from the grass.

I was in­tro­duced to other girls around my age who had stared row­ing just a lit­tle be­fore me and we were grouped into a team, the same team I still train and com­pete with now.

Since re­turn­ing to row­ing this year, I have seen so many de­vel­op­ments in the club.

Not only have the num­bers in the ju­nior row­ing group in­creased, but there has also been a huge growth in the num­ber of adults that par­tic­i­pate in the so­cial row­ing group.

An in­crease in the num­ber of mem­bers has meant he club has more money to spend on train­ing fa­cil­i­ties, such as the new gym that is un­der con­struc­tion be­hind the con­tain­ers and the pur­chase of new rac­ing shells to use in com­pe­ti­tion.

It is an ever ex­pand­ing es­tab­lish­ment, and one I be­lieve will achieve great things in the fu­ture.

Af­ter all, very few could have fore­seen the rise of the O’Dono­van broth­ers among the ranks of the elite row­ers, hav­ing come from a small row­ing club in ru­ral Sk­ib­bereen.

So if you’re con­sid­er­ing tak­ing up a new sport, why not give row­ing a try? You never know, maybe you could be Ire­land’s next Olympian rower.

Brian Colsh and Killian McCarty in the men’s club dou­ble scull.

Ava (sec­ond from left) with cox Rory Clarke and team­mates Jeanette Michalopoulou, Is­abella Michalopoulou and Rosie Spooren­berg at the Car­rick-on-Shannon re­gatta.

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