Keep your health afloat and stay in the boat

A first-year perspective on why you shouldn’t give rowing the heave-ho

The mornings are getting colder, the alarm clock is blaring at 5:30am and you still haven’t made up an erg score to put on the spreadsheet. It is probably at around this time that you wonder why you made the decision to carry on rowing into Hilary term.

When weighing up the choice between a few extra hours in bed or a cycle ride along a bumpy toe-path before the sun has come up, thinking about the infamously intense ‘erg’ you’ll have to complete on top of your morning outing could easily have you quitting rowing for good. Yet erging can rapidly develop into a fun and rewarding challenge if you do it with your fellow crew members. The beneficial effects on your fitness are many and varied and it is an excellent way to burn off all of those Christmas calories.

Moreover, a true sense of team spirit and togetherness is at the heart rowing, making it an exception to many other sports. Whether it’s expressed through the classic end of row debrief or else pennying your friends on a crew date, being a rower means that you are not just part of your team but part of the whole boat club, and you have the ‘stash’ to prove it.

Of course it is a commitment, but so is everything that is worthwhile and everyone knows that it’s healthy to balance your work with other activities. There is nothing like a brisk morning row to act as a surprisingly effective hangover cure and to clear the mind of any stresses and worries you may have.

All sports and challenges in life are made easier when you have a goal to focus your efforts on. In Hilary, the hope for termly glory is decided at Torpids: the chaotic, bumps-style race. To give up now before you’ve had the chance to compete would be a huge shame. Indeed, the last thing you would want is to get to the final day of Torpids and be the one watching from the riverbank, wishing that you were in the boat. It is said that in life you regret that which you didn’t do, far more than those things that you did. After all, the chance to row for your college at Oxford University will most likely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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So yes ungodly early starts are a bit grim, you do wake up questioning all of your life decisions, and the concept of an erg can seem like something akin to torture. But you never do it alone, and as you catch that other boat in Torpids or even just as you watch the sun rise over the river, you realise that it is moments like these that make it all worthwhile.