Arms, body, legs, legs, body, arms…

Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this before but I LOVE ROWING.

When I’m not working on our Always Oarsome business, I’m usually doing something else rowing related. For example running the Learn to Row courses at Warrington Rowing Club. Here’s an insight into what it’s all about.

Learn to Row November 2017
Team L2R

So approximately five times a year, Jen and I run the Learn to Row (L2R) course at Warrington Rowing Club. Although WE organise this we also have the help of a super group of volunteers from our senior and sometimes junior squads. It’s a six week course – two hours a week on a Sunday morning – open to anyone over the age of eighteen.

We generally get a mix of ages and usually more women than men! However this time the majority of the group were over forty and sixty percent were male!

The big day arrives and our “clients” begin to turn up. Some people book on with friends, some come as couples and many come along completely on their own. It’s quite a brave thing to do – to start to learn something new with a group of unknown people.

Some are nervous, some excited, some reluctant – usually those who have been dragged along by a friend! I know this feeling I was recently dragged along to my first kayaking lesson – it was brill by the way!

Most people have watched rowing on the TV – you know The Boat Race? Those “kids” make it look so easy – believe me they have trained for hundreds of hours both on and off the water!

I’m not trying to put anyone off – we have great fun in our L2R sessions and by the end of the course the attendees generally have a good grasp of the rowing technique.

Let’s begin

The first session begins with a quick introduction and safety briefing. Next we check that our “victims” are wearing the appropriate kit. We do not want anyone to be unsafe on the water or uncomfortable.

Following this we head to the gym and the fun begins. Several of our clients may have used a rowing machine (erg) in their local gym (the tricky ones!) and many have never sat on one before (also tricky but less so!)

We go through the basics of the stroke to give them an idea of what to expect and some pointers to bear in mind when in the boat.

Arms, body, legs, legs, body, arms”.

How difficult can it be? Believe me it’s not that straight forward, even less so when you think about it! Eventually we have them all rowing together and we stop the torture, er I mean finish on the ergs and Jen gets the cake tin out – they get really excited, momentarily, until we say we are just collecting valuables to lock away while we are on the water!!! No cakes or biscuits I’m afraid.

And so to the water…

We have really stable, safe boats especially made to make learning to row easy. Think very large plastic baby bath and you’re on the right lines – except these definitely float and are very tricky to turn over!!!

The boats are carried to the landing stage and put on the water and the oars fastened into the gates – the amount of information and new words we have given these people in this first half hour is phenomenal and we haven’t even started rowing yet!!!!

During one of our earliest courses, about week four, one of the ladies asked the question many people wanted to but didn’t dare, apparently!

“What exactly do you mean when you say ‘tap down’?”

After explaining this term we vowed to say at every session please do ask if there are words or terms we use that you are unfamiliar with!!

‘Tap down’ is the very first part of the rowing stroke so to not understand it causes a problem from the beginning!

The students are then seated in the boat and they float to the middle of the water and the real rowing begins.

This is where the ‘team’ part of rowing kicks in. You can have the fittest, strongest, tallest, most competitive people in a boat but if they aren’t team players they are scuppered – the whole lot of them.

A smaller, weaker crew who listen and row together as a team can quite easily make the boat go faster purely with teamwork.

So basically in rowing you follow the person in front of you – moving when they move – their arms, their body, their legs, their legs, their body, their arms. Simples!!

(Remember I said earlier it’s not as easy as you think? Well, even as I sit here writing this I am going through that motion at my desk to make sure I have the correct sequence arms, body, legs, legs….. you must get it by now?)

Putting this into practice does get very tricky because, of course, you are bobbing about in a boat on the water at the same time and water doesn’t stand still!

Miraculously, it all ‘sinks in’ and before very long we have ROWERS!

We have grown our very own team with everyone working together and listening and encouraging each other.

It’s difficult to explain just how proud we become of our ‘newbies’. We look forward to catching up at each session and recapping on things learnt in the previous weeks.

From the safety launch Jen and I see a group of people concentrating, thinking, imagining, smiling and laughing, but most of all we see them working together to make the boat go faster.


The next course starts in 18th February 2018 there are two places available!

Hands On!

Winning Team at Dee “Build for five!”
“We’re off!”
 “Let’s go!”
 “…and settle”


What the Dickens am I talking about?

So last Saturday was the ‘Head of the Dee’ – a rowing event where the actual race lasts for less than twenty minutes, however the prep before and after the race takes significantly longer!

Regardless of training, coaching, choosing the crews and making the entries, all of which are carried out by other ‘teams’ often behind the scenes, the main prep for this event started on Friday around 5pm.

Participating crews are instructed to be at the club to derig and load. Woe betide anyone who turns up without a rigger jigger!

“Where do you want Smile?”
“Are we splitting Kevin?”
“Which blades?”
“How many trestles?’
“Check if that’s tight enough please”
“Fasten the seats in!”

This usually takes a couple of hours depending on the number of boats and indeed trailers going to the event.

As we wave the trailers off our thoughts turn to carb loading and food prep for the following day, an early night and definitely an early start!!

Silly ‘o’clock Saturday morning and we hook up said trailer and drive to Chester. One last check – ties are tight, riggers stored safely, seats tied in, tool boxes easily accessible and we’re off.

Navigate round the Roman walls – some more accurately than others. Arrive at allocated car park and try man handling a trailer full of boats down a muddy slope into a space big enough to park a mini!

“Hands on Marge!”
“Let’s put Kevin back together”
“Where’s Boizel’s box?”
“We need more tall people”
“Cox’s meeting in ten!”
“Who’s got the numbers and safety pins?
“All singles and doubles to boat immediately!”

And so boating for the first division begins. All boats are on the water and must row up past the starting post over four thousand metres up river. There could be as many as one hundred and fifty crews! Imagine how long it takes to get them all on the water and up there? If you’re one of the first it seems like ages!

We are racing in division two so now we can relax, eat, drink coffee and watch the first division come down. It’s great when the weather’s good but on a rainy day… it’s wet!!

12.45pm and division two start boating.

“Last toilet stop!”
“Have we taken the blades down?”
“Check foot restraints”
“Hands on!”
“To waists”
“Bring the bow round”
“Whoa ahead!!”
“Excuse me please err excuse me err watch yourself err mind your backs”
“Easy – feel for the edge – and down”

That’s us getting from the trailer to the water’s edge with the boat!!

Always Oarsome rowing in Dee Head Race 2017Blades in and we head up the river. Umpires and marshals along the way pass the time of day and shout instructions at us. We have been notified where we need to wait and we must NOT under any circumstances turn the boat around in preparation until we are told. Very tricky in windy conditions as the boat seems to develop a mind of its own!!

At last we are told to make appropriate kit choices and turn the boat around.

“Warrington start paddling’’
“Here we go girls – let’s give it our all – nothing left in the tank – this is our race – we can do this”
“Build for five!”
“We’re off!”
“Let’s go!”
“…and settle”
“make it easy for bow – up two – back up stroke – we’ve got overlap – let’s have them – keep it there – this is nice – ratio – last 500 let’s go”
“…….and easy there!”

They are the best words ever!

Now we ‘just’ need to paddle back to the landing stage, lift the boat out, collect the blades, derig, load the trailer, count the trestles, push the trailer up the slope, hitch it on to the car, drive back to Warrington, unload the trailer, rerig, put blades away, and lock up the club.

6.30pm – call at fish and chip shop, drive home, and pour a large glass of liquid refreshment.

All this happens because we are part of a team – the Warrington Rowing Club team and best of all our little sub team – our crew – our quad. We had a fantastic row because we work together (we have photo and video evidence!) we back each other up, we respect each other and we listen. Our bow person might be the smallest in the boat but she is the most powerful part of our crew leading the way, keeping us informed and encouraging us every minute – all fifteen minutes and thirty seconds!

We also know we worked together because our team WON!!

At an Always Oarsome rowing day, you’ll learn how to do this amazing sport! Read about one of our team building days and what others have said about us. And contact us to find out more. GO!