I am A Rower ...
LISTEN TO SHALARM’S STORY
“I wondered whether rowing was really for us, as young black people from Hackney ...”
As a personal trainer I had run past the club many times, but I’d never thought to try rowing. My aunt had rowed at the Lea though and suggested it, so I joined a Learn to Row programme with a couple of active, competitive friends.
I also wondered whether rowing was really for us as young black people from Hackney – but there were a lot of people from the area on the programme, and they looked like me.
My biggest fear though was capsizing because I’m not the best swimmer – and a lot of us did go in with a fear of ‘oh my days, how deep is the water?’ But when our cox stood up in the boat that made me realise the boat was pretty sturdy.
We started on the rowing machines – the first surprise was that most of the rowing movement is in your legs, and secondly that it’s more tiring than it looks. As our technique got better on the water, we rowed against each other in 4+ boats. My boat won one race and lost one – but we had to race back-to-back so that’s my excuse.
During the course, I posted a photo of my crew, who were all black, on my social media, and friends of mine said, ‘I didn’t know we had access to this’. Sometimes it takes people to see someone from their area or walk of life doing something for them to realise they can do it as well.
After the course, I wanted to incorporate rowing into my work as a personal trainer and Lindsay, Head of the Lea’s Schools Programme, arranged for me to start coaching with a secondary school in Leyton at the club and school on rowing machines.
My favourite part of rowing has been the unity. When you’re all working together, the speed the boat picks up is crazy. The adrenaline is great. Not only are you putting in all you can, but so are three or seven others, all with the same mindset and goal – to get that boat from point A to point B fast.