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Learning how to row!

If you are a gym goer, have you ever looked over to the rowing machines (“ergs”) in your gym and seen that person who is clearly doing it wrong? If you are not a gym goer, just imagine seeing someone on the erg, that is doing it wrong. It is not that difficult is it! However, how many of us actually know the correct technique? I can tell you one thing, I’m one of those who thought I knew, until I met Jen…

The steps are quite simple (at least so they say) just remember:

  1. Legs

  2. Body

  3. Arms

  4. Arms

  5. Body

  6. Legs

However when you are finally on the erg, feet strapped in, and you start to row, these six little steps very quickly become something a bit more like this:

  1. At the start of the rowing position (known as The Catch), don't hunch over.

  2. Keep your back strong, and keep those shoulders level and back.

  3. Still at The Catch, don’t move your shins beyond perpendicular!

  4. And yes, you may allow your heels to lift!

  5. Keep your head neutral, arms straight, shoulders level (we are getting closer to moving, just one more thing).

  6. Keep your upper body leaning slightly forward from the hips.

  7. NOW move, I mean Drive!

  8. Drive by pressing with your legs, dig those heels in nicely (you have to read that with a Jen accent, otherwise it’s not as effective)

  9. Keep that back strong! If you know what a deadlift is, think about the deadlift movement. If not, just keep that back strong!

  10. Keep driving with your legs, but before they are straight, swing your back through the vertical position (strong Drive people, Drive!).

  11. Now you can add in the arm pull.

  12. Did you keep your hands moving in a straight line?

  13. Are your shoulders still low and relaxed?

  14. Nicely done - you completed The Drive and you are now at The Finish (even though you really only have done the first half of the rowing stroke).This is also referred to as the back-end. And nobody wants a sloppy backend, so…

  15. Use those steel abs to support your upper body that is leaning back slightly.

  16. Legs should be fully extended.

  17. Handles should be held very lightly, relaxed grip (why is this so hard to remember?)

  18. Keep those wrists flat!

  19. Prepare for The Recovery (think more active recovery than relaxed recovery).

  20. Firstly, extend those arms until they are nice and straight.

  21. Then lean slightly forward from the hips. No knee movement yet!

  22. Have your hands cleared your knees? No? Keep leaning! Yes?

  23. Great! Bend those knees and slide happily forward. The Recovery is now completed.

  24. Welcome back to the start, sorry, The Catch!

  25. And now, REPEAT!

Actually, to put this into context, REPEAT for more than 1.5 million times, add some (a lot) of waves, sun, salty water and little sleep, and you have the recipe for rowing the Atlantic!


When Jen, Emily, Erin and I officially became the oarsome foursome of One Ocean Crew, Jen was the only person who has actually rowed before!

(Picture of Jen taking part in the Henley’s Women's Regatta)

Given that we were right in the midst of the UK’s first Lockdown, the newbies quickly jumped online to purchase the ergs that are now standing in our living rooms. We had a few coaching sessions with Jen via Zoom to learn the six (in reality 25) steps to “master” the technique, followed by many many many many many hours of rowing. However, as you may imagine, rowing on the erg is very different to rowing on water…

Erin, who is never too far from the coast line, bought herself a one person rowing boat and she has been taking every and any opportunity to get on the water on a regular basis! Those of you who follow One Ocean Crew on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter would have seen the amazing nature scenes that she has captured and her very happy face whilst being out on the water.

During the brief period of reduced lockdown restrictions, Emily and I were extremely excited to find a London based rowing school that was willing to teach us the basics of sculling (which is rowing with two oars, not just one oar) on the River Themes, near Putney.

After several wobbly moments, endless laughter, scraped knuckles, bruised thumbs and amazing views on the River Thames, we were finally becoming competent rowers! We quickly learned the essence of timing and synchronisation, and were reminded of the importance of teamwork! No teamwork, no timing, no moving forward.

However, as we are all back in Tier 5 lockdown restrictions, we are back to our Zoom erging sessions, bound to the numbers and stats on our erg monitors, the ever growing playlist and the occasional look at the Zoom screen to remind ourselves that we are in this together.

One thing is for certain: every tough minute on the erg will make the actual row just so much more enjoyable!

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