Posts Tagged ‘Take That’

It’s all very well having a lovely stroke, but however elegant your rowing you can totally, utterly ruin the effect when you get off the water if you’re attired in dodgy kit. Whatever anyone might try to tell you, what you wear on the river MATTERS. If you don’t believe me, just take a close look at the people who tell you it doesn’t. Precisely.

Luckily, I’m here to tell you what not to wear, so if you need sartorial salvation look no further. My thoroughly scientific research on the subject (asking around on Twitter) has unearthed horror stories of coxes in skirts (honestly), gimp suits (shudder), on-board rucksacks (eh?) and cashmere scarves (worn with precious little else – don’t ask), and I eagerly await photographic evidence to back this up. Until then, here are my top five fashion no-nos.

1. White

So many reasons not to wear white. It gets instantly dirty as soon as you get anywhere near the clubhouse and grubby clothes are never appealing. It becomes see-through when it gets wet, and remember, ladies and gentlemen, rowing’s a water sport.

But by far the most important reason to avoid white…

See what I mean?




well, I think in the interests of decency I’d better illustrate this with a picture instead of a description… (probably best not to click on the photo for a full-sized view. Seriously, don’t.)





2. Novelty all-in-ones

You know the sort. Roman centurions. Skeletons. Storm troopers. Dare I say it, animal prints? (whoops, guilty… I got carried away at a regatta…)

Now I canvassed opinion about this and the general view is that these are just wrong, wrong, wrong. My Twitter pal, @scullinggirl, expressed the commonly held view that novelty suits are suitable only for charity events or Christmas, and I’m inclined to agree.

But maybe we’re being too grumpy. Is there room in our lives for a little lycra-based humour? Or is it as hilarious as a repeat of the 1995 Les Dennis Christmas special? Tell me what you think (post it below) and if enough of you post, I might be persuaded to add a pic of me in the said leopard-print all-in-one. I said might.

3. Gloves and pogies

Boy, I hadn’t expected this to be such a controversial topic. Mention handwear and people get really quite cross.

“Pogies are for wimps. Man up!” cried one hardcore opponent.

“We do a sport that means going outside when it’s cold”, said another. “Pogies just make you look silly”.

Now I’ll have to confess here that I am an unapologetic winter glove-wearer. They keep the blood supply connected to my fingers, so I wear them. End of. But that is me and this is you, and I have never claimed to practise what I preach. The truth is that gloves (and even more so, pogies) do make you look a bit soft. You have been warned.

Oh, and as for the gloves worn all year round just to avoid blisters (particularly favoured, as one world-weary veteran noted, by novice men when they start out)? All I’ll say is that even I don’t wear those.

4. Status kit

Does my bum look big in this?

Look, if you’re a GB rower and you turn up for the Olympics wearing a pair of tatty old trackies and a wife-beater vest, that’s probably taking modesty a little too far. What I’m talking about here is perpetually advertising your status as an elite rower. Especially if:

(a) you aren’t an elite rower;

(b) your elite rowing career was so long ago that the kit doesn’t fit any more; or

(c) you’re a member of Take That and can’t actually row anyway.

Now, I’ll acknowledge that the kind of high quality kit that uber-rowers get to wear is pretty special and probably looks and feels pretty classy. I’m sure I’d look lovely in the Leander kit (and now that the boys there are practically my best friends it’s only a matter of time before I’m invited to join them and try it for myself. Cough.)

But until that day comes, you won’t find me sporting the pink hippo. Sorry, folks, but it  just wouldn’t be cool.

5. Nothing

Put it away, boys

“When the sun comes out, the guns come out”. Or so a teenage rower told me as he peeled down his all-in-one at a summer regatta to reveal what his mother had no doubt assured him was a fabulously muscular physique (bless).

I’ve heard all sorts of explanations for this behaviour. Some say it unnerves the opposition when they catch sight of the tremendous six packs on show. Hmmm. Others claim that they just find that thin layer of lycra suffocatingly hot. Again, hmmmm.

The truth is it’s just vanity. I’ve seen those same teenage rowers flexing and admiring their muscles when they thought no one was looking. And then, even more so, when they thought someone was.

Now, I’m not immune to a finely turned ab, but context is everything. And here’s the thing. Vanity is not hot.

My advice, then? If in doubt, cover it up.

So there you have it. You need never destroy your cred again by wearing the wrong kit. Just by rowing badly, and I’m afraid I can’t help with that.

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It’s a bit of a cliché, but one I’m always grateful for. However feeble my erg score (and it’s feeble enough to be kept a closely guarded secret), I can always comfort myself with the thought that ergs don’t float – by which I mean that what you do on a rowing machine doesn’t necessarily translate into what happens on the water.

You can be all grunt and heft in the erg room and achieve massive, macho scores, but if your technique on the water is lousy – if you’re missing the catch until half way through the stroke, or you’re flying up the slide like an elephant on castors – you can waste all of your (admittedly impressive) efforts.

So if there were an erg that mimicked what happened on the water in any sort of realistic way, we’d all be pretty interested, right? Well, yesterday I had the chance to try out some WaterRower rowing machines that claim to be the nearest thing you can get on land to the real thing.

My attempts on the various models were overseen by Leander rower and Olympic hopeful Alan Sinclair, whose most exciting claim to fame – and sorry, Al, for bringing this up rather than your more serious achievements – is being Robbie Williams’ body double in the video for The Flood (just pausing for a moment here to let the Take That! fans pick themselves up off the floor).

Anyway, with Alan there to help me, what could possibly go wrong?

On the WaterRower and still smiling

First on trial was the basic WaterRower, which you’ll probably be familiar with. It was smoother and quieter than a Concept2 (sorry to mention them, but if I don’t, someone will). Other than that, it felt pretty familiar.

What a face! This is harder than it looks...

Definitely a step up was the Oartec Slider. This is a dynamic rowing machine that is designed to give the most realistic feeling of rowing on the water, and is supposed to be kinder to your back. What marks it out from a static one is that the frame moves (if you’ve ever put a static erg on a frame, you’ll have an idea what this feels like). When you push off with your legs, they move away from you, rather than you moving away from them. The whole experience is more fluid – always good in a water sport.

I can’t deny I didn’t quite get the hang of it in the short time I had to try it out, which explains the faces I was pulling (probably just as well that you can’t see Alan’s face as he watches my efforts…). I was pinging backwards and forwards, sometimes hitting front stops and sometimes back stops, which is not how it’s supposed to work. I would imagine, though, that if you can get to grips with it, it could be a very useful bit of kit.

What could possibly go wrong?

Finally, the machine I’d been waiting to try – the Oartec simulator. It’s huge and metallic and looks like something that would-be astronauts might use to test their suitability for space travel (though I’m assured it does fold down into a more storable size). What is so unusual about it is that rather than just having a straight handle on a chain, it is rigged with separate, solid handles for sculling or for bow or stroke-side rowing.

This really is more like the real thing. We had it rigged for sculling, and the motion really did feel exactly like the sequence of movements in a sculling boat (right down to the sculler’s knuckle that I managed to sustain within a minute of climbing aboard). On the erg you don’t use exactly the same muscles, especially on the upper body, as you do in a boat; with this one it was much more familiar.


"Have you started pulling yet?"

it took a little while to get used to it and to get even a moderately respectable score (I’ll never live down my shame when Alan peered at the monitor and asked if that was the sort of score that I’d normally be achieving. No one is supposed to know). But I really think I could come to love it (all right, like it, at least).

For a start it looks really cool (come on, that matters!) and anything that is less like an erg and more like a boat is always a winner for me. Best of all, if you’re looking to improve, you could use it to work on your technique in a meaningful way.

So, as I said, with Alan in charge, what could possibly go wrong? Well, nothing much, except for the small matter of me breaking one of the machines. And which one do you imagine I managed to break? Yes, you guessed it.

Of course, they were all very lovely about it and said it wasn’t really broken and there was just a belt that needed re-attaching or something. But still…

Ah well. Even if my erg scores are nothing to write home about, at least I’ve shown that I’m strong enough to break a monster machine. That has to count for something.

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