I am A Rower ...
LISTEN TO LOUISE’S STORY
“I’m not a natural cardiovascular endurance athlete – rowing was the first sport that actually cared that I was strong, and that recognition was a revelation to me”
I was never very sporty, but at university I ended up being dragged to try rowing and surprisingly I liked it. I made the 3rd 8+ but I quit in the end because the reservoir froze over in winter, and I wasn’t up for 5am gym practices five days a week.
So, that’s how I started rowing ... and how I quit rowing.
I spent years thinking about that feeling on the water though, and when I was 30 a friend mentioned a Thames rowing club was running a beginners’ course. I thought ‘now’s the time’. I’m not a natural cardiovascular endurance athlete, my body ratio is all wrong for rowing; long torso, short legs, and I’ve seen people come into the sport and surpass me quite often. But rowing was the first sport that cared that I was strong which was a revelation to me. Within a year, I was training six days a week, and I’ve never looked back.
My first rowing challenge was telling my husband Bob that I needed to be down at the river for 7.30am now every Saturday and Sunday morning. The second was when I had my first child.
By then I had swapped clubs to the Lea which was only a 20-minute walk from our house and had been training with the Club squad before I got pregnant. It was Bob who told me I needed to get back to rowing when our daughter Rivka was nine months old to have some time for myself. I rowed on the weekends with the novices so my technique could make up for my doing zero land training. But it was tough. I would come home after and he would say, ‘she hasn’t stopped crying.’
Rowing is one time when you don’t have to manage things though – in an 8+ for example you get in the boat and someone else tells you what to do, so it’s a great sport for the big managers, the organisers or people who have complicated multitasking lives.
And there’s great freedom on the water. Coaching juniors, I see that particularly. Teenagers have always got someone ready to direct them in what to do. But in rowing, we’re on the bank and they have to be responsible for themselves – with that comes a freedom and maturity.
I’ve had to step back from squad rowing since having my second child – but coaching keeps me current, technique-wise. I’d like to row Henley Masters again – and win – when my children are older. And in that respect, I will always be a rower. I’ll always be looking towards the next crew, time or goal to beat.