The benefits of rowing
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.