It starts at 5am on a cold dark winter morning. Carrying your boat and blades down to the water as the sun is just thinking about getting up. And while the rest of London is still warm and fast asleep, your next ninety minutes are filled with a combination of technical exercises, paddling and some sections of “work” where you hone your racing skills.
No matter how hard you work – even when your legs no longer obey you, and your lungs feel like they’ve turned inside out – your hands still haven’t warmed up by the time you finish. And no matter how hard the calluses on your hands they’re still raw, as the oars have discovered that last piece of soft skin.
But no matter how painful that seems – and trust me, it is – we do it day after day, week on week. It becomes something you can’t live without; there’s something uniquely gratifying about feeling the synchronisation of boat, oars and body, the sense of gliding along a river while the city around you is still sleeping, a feeling of being at one with yourself and nature, and as the heart rate soars and breathing deepens there is a lot to be said about the feeling of knowing you are alive.
But this is what it takes to earn your chance to sit in the boat with your team mates who are one day your rivals, and the next day your crew mates. It takes the early mornings on the river, and the late nights in the gym either on gruelling rowing machines, or with the weights bar, seeking that next piece of power.
And in between these sessions we go to work. (Weekends are easier. We get to lie in to 6am and we’re not on the water til 7.)
But fast forward to the summer racing and these hardships have become a bargain. Your winter club rivals have become a band of brothers. Trust in your team mates is earned, you’ve pushed each other, hardened by training and racing, as we’re held at the start focused in our boat together we take on the rest of the country – and any overseas challengers – with hot days, cool rather than icy water, and multi-lane racing. Yes, it still hurts. A lot. But winning is the sweetest medicine, as the kilometres banked through the year now pay out dividends.
But how do we do this? It’s not just about how hard we work. It’s how we work hard. A combination of smart training and smart recovery.
Throughout the season we are constantly being tested both on the water and on the rowing machines. The data from these tests give us insights into where and how to improve, helps us change training loads to improve our output, and incorporate exercise to strengthen our weaknesses.
Personally I use a combination of weight training and pilates to strengthen my body to the demands of rowing and to improve my posture, enabling me to fully use the levers I have. As well as this we eat well, keeping fuelled – this is one perk of two sessions of rowing training a day and a physical job – my daily calorie demands of up to 6,500Kcal mean plenty of eating and drinking, along with regular sports massage sessions to work on tired and tight muscles.
Working at Ten Pilates is a physical job but one which I enjoy and one where I have all the support I need to complete my training. I have access to some of London’s expert trainers, advice from London’s top Physiotherapists and access to London’s top sports therapists.
Since working with Ten, my performance has improved and I don’t believe this is a coincidence, any athlete seeking to find the next gain would do well to follow a similar model, Pilates helps strengthen the body, and Ten’s unique circle of care ensures a quality of communication between trainers and therapists that provides help and support wherever I need it.
If you ever want to know more about rowing, Pilates, or rowing and Pilates then please ask – just be warned – I love talking about it almost as much as I love doing it.