How does it work?
In competitive rowing, participants sit in the boat facing backwards and uses the oars, which are held in place by ‘oarlocks’, to propel the boat forward. Each competitor holds one oar with both hands and must pull against the water at the right time, in rhythm with the other rowers - this maximises speed and ensures all the manpower is going into getting to the finish line as quickly as possible. The sport differs from canoeing or kayaking, as the oars in rowing are held in a fixed position rather than able to move completely freely.
Rowing is a great, calorie burning sport - don’t be fooled by the sitting down! The muscles in the upper body are constantly engaged and, because there isn’t a rest period during a competition, you’ll need a high level of stamina and endurance. There is a highly specialised technique to competitive rowing, from making sure the oar hits the water at the exact moment to the oar’s angle. As well as having a strong upper body, a solid core is also needed to bear the brunt of the muscle tension – so delicate types need not apply!
Recreational rowing involves the same core movements and equipment as competitive rowing - it is just done at a less challenging pace! There are many lakes in the UK which have rowing boats for hire - you don’t need a team of athletes, either, as most of them are for 2-4 people to enjoy.
Is it for me?
Most people are suited to rowing - however, if taking part in it competitively is a little too intense, then maybe hiring a boat so you can work at your own pace is a better option. Even though rowing requires strength and endurance, it is a low impact activity, as movement is only in defined ranges -, minimising risk of injury. If you have back problems, however, it’s best to steer clear of rowing, as if the technique is wrong then it can worsen back or spinal injuries. Ouch!
Good to know
If you want to try out rowing in the comfort of a warm gym, many fitness centres have rowing machines which simulate the rowing action and provide a means of training on land. There’ll be no risk of seasickness, either...