Tom Courtney offers Rowing Tips 

Tom Courtney offers Rowing Tips 

Getting started

Thinking of making the transition from rowing machine to boat? Tom Courtney has coached everyone from novices to world champions, and here offers his key tips for those keen to dip their oar in.
Rowing is a great all-body workout, but you’ll be in the best position to benefit from rowing if you have good general fitness already (you should be able to do about an hour of low-intensity exercise). Rowing might look like a simple and repetitive movement but, because you’re floating on water and sliding on a seat with wheels attached, it’s not a stable environment.
You’ve also got to synchronise the placement of your 3.7-metre-long oar with your crew mates’, as well as getting it to grip the water underneath you… You start to see the challenge!
If you’re a beginner, choosing the right club is crucial. It’s important that your environment is non-threatening, and that you feel a sense of belonging. The Amateur Rowing Association website has a comprehensive list of rowing clubs throughout England (
Make sure you feel comfortable with the club’s aspirations. To do that, you need to have some idea of your goals. If you already have some general level of fitness, it’s possible for you to be racing after two or three months’ exposure to the sport. That could involve about four to five sessions a week split between land and water work. But be realistic about what may be involved.
If you want to be a recreational rower (just going out for the odd paddle a couple of times a week), then it’s vital that you choose a club that supports that sort of programme. Many boat clubs are set up to win races, which could mean their novice programmes are less supported.
Most clubs will run beginner taster weeks. Expect to spend time on land getting to know how the boat works and learning the rowing movements on an ergometer before you get to go out in a crew boat.
Going out on the water can seem quite daunting at first. Often, novices are overly concerned about falling in and getting wet, but hardly anybody does and learning some simple balancing drills can be real fun.
After just two weeks, novices can get to a point when they can feel the boat moving at speed and the rush of water beneath them. That sensation is addictive. In addition, the camaraderie that comes with a rowing club could mean that you quickly find yourself becoming part of a thriving community.
Tom Courtney is the chief coach of Molesey Boat Club, which provided two members of Team GB’s gold-medal winning four: Andy Hodge and Tom James (

By Tom Courtney in Tom Courtney offers rowing tips | Life and style | The Guardian

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