Posts Tagged ‘health’

There’s no excuse for it, really. Up and down the country, grown men and women are flaunting themselves in outfits that quite frankly ought to have a warning attached to them. Skintight, unforgiving, impossible to put on and take off without double joints and a lot of undignified wriggling, and most of all thoroughly unflattering, they’re the first major hurdle that anyone getting serious about rowing has to overcome.

I am, of course, talking about the dreaded all-in-one (for the non-rowers out there, it’s a hideous, lycra affair that shouldn’t really be worn by anyone over the age of, let’s face it, about six months).

The more reckless and cavalier (typically, men under 21 whose mothers ought to know better) are even prone to wearing them without underwear, which is a sight that no one (and especially the unfortunate cox) should ever be exposed to.

Now of course there are sensible reasons for pouring yourself into what was described on Twitter by @paddlefirm as a “lycra condom” (shudder). Your hands can’t catch on them at the finish; they’re streamlined, and … er, actually, that’s it. And whilst that’s all very well for international competitors,  I’m not at all convinced that’s a good enough argument for the rest of us. How much wind resistance is your average club rower really creating?

When I had an abortive and phenomenally unsuccessful attempt at rowing as a student back in the 19**s (cough), lycra was unknown to us until an advertisement from “Godfrey Textiles” heralded the arrival of “all in one Rowing Suits” – designed specially for Rowers “in the latest fabric – stretch Lycra” (see below).

How we laughed. How ridiculous did those men look? And what, we reasoned, was wrong with shorts and a T-shirt?

Ah well, we thought. It’ll never catch on.

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“You are soooo competitive”, gasped my friend on the next mat, as she watched me furiously attacking another set of press-ups as though my life depended on it (not, incidentally, those half-hearted, knees-down, girlie excuses for press-ups known in boot camp as “wuss-ups”; we’re talking proper, boys’ press-ups here).

Now there’s no denying that I am ridiculously competitive (and more about this in a later post). Even when my muscles are screaming, I won’t stop if I know that someone else is still going. But I realised last night that there was more to it than that.

Ever since I came out as a rower (and the Godfrey shorts and Monmouth RC hoodie are a bit of a give-away, no doubt about it), I have felt that in some small way I am representing the rowing massive. So I may be small and slight, and sometimes I have to stop when I’m about to faint (low blood pressure and burpees are a lethal combination), but if I give up, what does that say about me as a rower? I have to keep going, because that is what rowers do.

So I may be aching all over today in places I didn’t even know I had muscles, but I can console myself that I did it for all you rowers out there. I hope y’all appreciate it.


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Did you pop any pills this morning? I did. Despite an ultra-healthy breakfast of plums fresh from a friend’s tree plus organic porridge and milk, I still felt the need to down all of these:

They’re fairly run of the mill – a multi-vit and mineral, fish oils, Co Q-10 and ginseng. But are they necessary for someone like me who eats well?

Maybe it’s my imagination, but I think I’m more prone to colds and getting run down when I don’t take them, so they give me some peace of mind. As my health has been a bit shaky over the years, I have also (and very unscientifically) convinced myself that I need all the help I can get.

How about you? Do you rely on Mother Nature and get all you need from what’s on your plate or are you forcing down a big handful of supplements every day?

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Anyone who knew me in my youth might be a bit surprised to see me now. For most of my twenties and thirties I hugged the sofa like a drowning man clings to a life belt and loudly maintained that exercise was bad for you. Indeed, for someone like me who was recovering from M.E. / C.F.S., it was – at least if I overdid it.

So how did I go from couch potato to gym bunny? Well, slowly – that was key. As soon as I overstretched myself I’d lapse straight back into exhaustion, so it had to be done in tiny steps.

First I hired a personal trainer – something I’d always regarded as a bit self-indulgent, but which proved essential. I went to the fabulous Anne Jaques who was patient, encouraging and knew exactly when to make me stop. Over a period of months she got me from screeching after 10 sit-ups to being able to see some – gasp – definition.

Anne then oversaw my transition from gentle walking into even gentler running and from there into boxercise classes (I pack a punch. Don’t cross me; really, don’t).  Boxercise made a massive difference to my fitness and when the classes were discontinued I was fit enough to move on to boot camp (try it if you’re anywhere near Monmouth – it rocks).

And then, of course, there’s the rowing, which I started gently nearly two years ago and in earnest just over a year ago. Now I row three times a week (in the summer months) and do some form of land training (boot camp, usually) once or twice a week, as well as walking the dog up and down lots of hills. Sometimes I still get a relapse when I’ve overdone it and have to do a lot of lying down for a few days. But for the first time in my life I’d say I’m probably somewhere near fit. Not bad for a confirmed sloth.

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“You don’t look much like a rower”, said a friend, helpfully, on learning that my new sport – and burning passion du jour – was rowing.

“I thought you were a cox”, said another.

It’s true, I confess, that I don’t look like a rower. A measly 5’4″ (on a good day) and a weedy 8 stone 3 (OK, more after Christmas and holidays), I’m not going to be powering my way into a national crew any time soon.

And yet… and yet… My physique might not be typical and my technique still leaves a bit to be desired. But rowing is the only sport that I’ve ever actually liked. It’s the only sport that’s ever reduced me to tears of frustration and disappointment and the only one I’ve ever stuck at for more than a few months.

So no, I don’t look like a rower, but I do think like one. And no.

I. Am. Not. A. Cox.


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