Posts Tagged ‘rowing blogs’

It’s been a while since I’ve recommended any rowing blogs, but there’s a new kid on the block that I simply can’t ignore. Rowing Journal, the brain child of photographer Iain Weir, aka Shutteritch, is a truly democratic rowing blog, set up “to give you a platform to voice your opinions, experiences, observations or simply to pose a question to the rest of the rowing community.” Anyone, it seems, can join and post on it, and my goodness, they have done.

Now this was a pretty risky strategy. It could, let’s face it, have been dreadful. Let the world at large say what they want, unfettered by the rules of the river or even the rules of grammar, and the results could be grim. But here’s the thing. Rowing Journal has turned out to be a really classy read. Funny, controversial, at times infuriating – everything, in short, that a blog should be. I don’t know how it’s moderated – perhaps it’s self-selecting, the rowing community being made up of mostly excellent people. Either way, it works.

Posts range from totally recognisable rowing stereotypes to thinly disguised rants, with even the occasional motivational love-in. My personal favourite to date: “I just need to move my footplate, hang on” – a lament that had me laughing, as they say, out loud.

All of which is pretty annoying for a fellow rowing blogger. I would have loved to tell you that as rowing blogs go, it wasn’t nearly as good as Girl on the River, but sadly I can’t. It really is worth a read. Just promise me one thing. Now that I’ve introduced you to the younger model, you won’t go and leave me for her, will you?

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As it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m going to be inviting you to share the love a little today. No, not a mass, online love-in. No garage-forecourt-flowers, chocolates or teddies, either. Just a heart-felt plea to be a little kinder to your fellow athletes.

I can’t help noticing that there’s the rivalry that naturally exists between different sports often tips over from friendly respect to downright scorn. This is especially so on the internet, where the gloves are, it seems, permanently off.

The rowers love nothing better than a good belly laugh when they see non-rowers flinging themselves about on the erg, and don’t really believe that anyone else is quite as hard as they are.

The bodybuilders talk disparagingly of cardio bunnies, as though long hours pounding the pavements or slogging it out on the running machine is worth nothing compared with their tin-shifting power, and love to tell tales of the high-rep, low-weight cissies they saw at the gym that day.

The runners look on anyone with muscle above the calves as hulking neanderthals next to their gazelle-like litheness.

And the triathletes and Iron Man guys… actually, I’m not sure that they have any energy left to think, but I’m pretty sure they feel a cut above the rest.

So just for today, let’s call a truce. Let’s show a little respect for athletes in other disciplines. And if you find yourself next to me on the erg and see me smirking, just take a glance at my monitor. It’s bound to give you a laugh.

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A month ago I told you that I was going to trial the Step Success Actiped+ pedometer. As I said then:

Much more than just a pedometer, it forms part of an online fitness tracking programme. It comes with a memory stick to connect with your computer; you update your score by shaking the Actiped near the memory stick; it then magically syncs your data (OK, OK, so I’m not a scientist). Having analysed a full fitness and health questionnaire, including weight (shameful after Christmas), height, diet, alcohol consumption (ditto) and fitness regime, and with sophisticated inner workings that notice for how long your foot strikes the ground (which informs it about your speed), it aims to give an accurate reading of how far you’ve travelled and how many calories you’ve burned.

Particularly pleasing for a competitive type like me, it has pitted me against a group of equally sporty types (including award-winning body builder, Nicola Joyce), with a leaderboard showing how we’re doing.

So, how was it? I have to say I found it much more motivating than I expected, especially when Joel, the Step Success founder and boss, kicked off the year with a rowers vs. runners challenge (and anyone who knows me I can’t resist a challenge). Normally I don’t need any extra impetus to get myself out to boot camp or rowing, but for running and walking sometimes need an extra boot up the booty. That’s exactly what the Actiped gave me. Comfortably in the lead most of the time, mostly because Joel was off sport for a couple of weeks thanks to an injury, as soon as I saw his step count creeping up towards mine, it was all the incentive I needed to haul myself out into the ice and drizzle.

Pleasingly, it also allows for manual entries for other activities like rowing, cycling (and even ironing, though I rarely find myself doing that!), so if your activities are more wide-ranging you can still log them. And, if you’re proud enough of your achievements to want to make them public, it syncs with Facebook so you can share your step success with the world.

It fitted well on both trainers and various shoes and boots; if you’ve got laces or a strap of some kind, you’re good to go. I haven’t used it so much this week as I’ve been living in Ugg boots (freezing in Wales!) and there’s nothing to attach it to. Occasionally I’d forget altogether to put it on; it can take a while to get into the habit.

Here’s a glimpse of what I would see when I logged on (click on the screen shot to get the full screen):

Step Success is mostly aimed at getting the unsporty and unfit into the habit of exercising, but I think it could really work for someone who is already fit but who is prone to finding excuses not to get moving (especially in the winter). Being pitted against others is great for motivation, and it’s heartening to see the calories burned and distance covered (cooking is a gratifyingly active activity, I discovered). It also won against my husband’s cherished Garmin when out on a family walk; his nerdometer (as we affectionately refer to it) failed to get a signal in the woods for much of the time, whereas my Actiped+ kept recording throughout.

It’s not yet perfect; it can’t tell whether you’re slogging up a hill or jogging comfortably along the flat, and I’d like to see more options for the manual entries, but Joel tells me that there are plans afoot for subsequent models to detect hills and/or heart rate. This would make it a more serious rival to some of the watches available. Definitely worth a try.

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Even though I’ve been shockingly busy the last few weeks, it hasn’t stopped me trawling the net for the best rowing and sports blogs, and this week I’ve come up trumps.

My hot favourite this week comes from the gorgeous Esther Lofgren, who is a member of the US women’s rowing squad. If that fact in itself isn’t enough to get you clicking on her blog, who could resist the title? Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger. Come to think of it, I’d quite like this emblazoned on a T-shirt. Esther’s elite status and superb choice of title aren’t the only reasons to give her blog a whirl: it’s actually a great read. This month I’m loving her erg music playlist (it even got the thumbs up from the uber-choosy SonontheRiver) and alongside the insights into life as a world class athlete, there’s useful advice for even the most inexperienced rower (her post on rib injury saved me this week from turning a rib strain into a stress fracture, so thanks, Esther).

If you need a bit of inspiration, my next rowing blog is Pacific 2012 from the utterly hardcore Charlie Martell. Next time I’m feeling feeble about the prospect of a mere half hour erg, I shall remind myself that in May next year, Charlie will row solo and unsupported for 6,000 miles across the North Pacific from Japan to the USA to raise funds for two charities, and to set a new Guinness World Record for the first and fastest solo Briton. Phew. The blog features some interesting thoughts on how to go the distance (more advanced than just “man up”) and nutritional advice which, pleasingly, takes budget as well as performance into account. If you’re reading this at work, I should just say that the bit about the charities might make you well up a bit. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Finally, moving away from rowing to a more general sports blog, there’s the satisfyingly rigorous Sweat Science, described as “fitness myths, training truths, and other surprising discoveries from the science of exercise”. As a health and fitness writer, nothing irritates me more than urban myths and misinformation when it comes to sports and health and let’s face it, there’s an awful lot of rubbish spouted on this subject. Consequently this site is my idea of solid gold. It brings you the results of proper, empiricall- tested research, all presented in language that an Ordinary Person (even a rower!) can understand. Bookmark it and don’t let the snake oil salesmen take you in.

So there you have it. PB-inducing playlists, injury advice, inspiration, tear-jerking charities and gold standard science, all wrapped up in three rowing and sports blogs. You are, of course, most welcome. Happy weekend and happy reading.

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I’ve been in a fair few races where our prospects of winning have been thwarted by someone catching a crab. Now I know it’s only human to feel a bit, ahem, annoyed with the person who messes up, but this strikes me as a reaction too far:

Now go back and watch it again, and this time take a close look at the man at no. six. When seven flies back into his lap, he takes both hands, hurls seven bodily out of the boat and carries on seamlessly with the next stroke, without even missing a beat (and leaving him to take his chances across a lane of racing eights).

I’m desperate to know what happened next. Are they all still talking to each other? Did the seven man survive? What was the cox saying? Really hoping someone who knows them might pop up and tell me.

The moral of the story, of course, is to be really, really nice to the person who sits behind you. If you catch a crab (and remember, even elite rowers occasionally do), you want the man behind you to catch you.

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Although rowing legend Matthew Pinsent  declared this week that #FF stands for Friendly Follow rather than Follow Friday (and who am I to argue with the likes of him?), I shall continue with my three-week-old tradition of running a Friday blogspot.

A last-minute recommendation has had me clicking on Carlos Dinares. Its raison d’etre is the promotion of the dynamic erg, but if you don’t mind this there are some brilliant articles about rowing, with a useful  focus on how to make the boat go faster, so it’s definitely worth a rummage.

Next up, and closer to home, is the surprisingly poetic Rusty Rigger, a blog brought to us by Bristol Ariel Rowing Club (just far enough away from Monmouth to prevent them from being arch-rivals). There are lyrical descriptions of the river, enough pleasingly Grumpy Old Man observations to make me chuckle and more honesty than most rowing blogs tend to manage (not every outing is a good one, after all). Go read.

In a brief departure, this week I’m also recommending a tweeter rather than a blogger – please, please take a look at @YoureARowerWhen. It is, as the name suggests, “dedicated to all the crazy things about rowers that non-rowers just don’t understand” and gave SonOnTheRiver and me a good half hour of laughs reading its tweets and laughing in recognition.

And finally, in a shameless bit of self-promotion, I’m going to point you in the direction of Rowperfect which has an eclectic blog featuring – oh! – none other than GirlonTheRiver in a guest post this week – but also news, views, some regular funny stuff and other rowing-related bits and pieces. Always worth checking out as you never know what you’re going to find.

Have a great weekend. And if you happen to find yourself at Monmouth Head, come and say hello – I’ll be the frazzled one frying bacon and looking longingly at the river.

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