In first year, when I walked past the rowing stall at the freshers fair I dismissed it with a simple “i’m not getting up that early, ever”. I’d always admired rowers for that, they seemed to train constantly, at godforsaken hours, yet still be on top of everything. I proceeded to waste most of my first year doing absolutely nothing. I didn’t get properly involved in any societies, didn’t make any great friends and in general spent far too much time messing around in halls and doing coursework than was strictly necessary.
This year, when I walked past the rowing stall I thought, if I can muster the discipline to handle this in my schedule, I’ll work more effectively and have teammates that I’d see regularly ( = friends!). On top of that, rowing is one of those sports that people do start at uni, so it was less daunting to pick up compared to something like basketball or tennis. To its credit, the Imperial boat club does have a really good program for beginners aka novices. This year also had a record intake, especially for girls meaning more opportunities in general.
To start with there was 4 sessions a week, land and water training. If you’re a gym rat, rowing might be for you. We spend a large amount of time in the gym doing weights, circuits and dying on the erg (rowing machine). But we do it all to be better on the water, and thats where the real learning curve is. Learning all the jargon, the technique, how to handle the blade, move up and down the boat (yes the seats do move, that was a surprise to me), how to transfer power from your movements into the water to move the boat. It’s much less stable than a rowing machine, the boat needs to be balanced, the water can be rocky, and every stroke is different.
Then there’s keeping in sync with the rest of the people in the boat. First, you wrap your head around all the things you’re supposed to be doing. Then, you have to be doing it all at the same time as the person in front of you. Its literally the definition of team bonding. We have to “become one” (cheesy I know), no one person can carry the team, but if one person slacks off everyone can feel it. At times, the environment can become a tad competitive as people try to get into better boats or preferred seats. For me, it seems unnecessary in a novice crew, but it is good motivation to work hard and turn up to training.
I was warned when I joined rowing, its a cult. Its easy to become obsessed, suddenly it takes over your life and it seems just so important. On one hand, thats what I was after, something to take up a large amount of my time outside my degree, after all what better way is there to make friends but to see them everyday. On the other hand, I quickly had to learn to put it all in perspective. It’s still just a sport, an extracurricular, I can’t just dismiss everything else, especially my degree.
Nowadays, I can’t imagine what I’d be doing if I wasn’t rowing. Once you realise you can handle your coursework on top of all those commitments, it opens doors to all these opportunities you never considered before. Literally, procrastinating less is difficult when you have hours to spare, but give yourself less opportunity to procrastinate and you’ll be surprised what you can fit in. In fact, you get used to a certain level of stress and business, and when things quieten down you find yourself a little bit lost…
Get out there, go do the things you enjoy, find some new experiences. Uni can be stressful, what with trying to do well in your degree, applying left right centre to jobs and internships, it can seem counter-intuitive to pile more on. As a compulsive perfectionist I found it hard to let go of combing through every assignment 10 times, and spending as many hours as I could fit in on a coursework that really should only take 2 hours. Trust in your abilities, accept your limits and don’t make too many sacrifices for some obscure future gain. Thats my motto for this year, and its going well so far!