Someone asked me the other day if rowing was hard. I had to think about that for a minute because I’ve been rowing most of my life and after my college years, but I never really thought about it that way.
Yes, rowing is hard. It involves learning the proper form and technique. Athletes’ training requires long hours under the sun and on the water without break.
While rowing is one of the most physically and mentally demanding sport there is, you can’t deny that it’s also one of the most exciting and most rewarding.
My name is Petra, and today, I would like to address these questions and more for everyone who is either considering rowing, whose child is interested in rowing, and/or for those who are curious.
Is Rowing Hard Work?
In a nutshell, my answer here is yes.
Unlike other sports, such as bicycle riding, baseball, soccer, wrestling, or football, there are no breaks. While the race itself may not last very long, imagine yourself running and lifting weights at the same time, as fast as possible.
That’s an interesting picture. I’m tired just thinking about it!
Rowing uses 86 percent of the muscles in the body at the same time. So not only are you using nearly every muscle you’ve got (I think your eyelids get a break) you are using them as hard and fast as you can possibly move them.
If you’ve ever seen a real racing shell or a team sitting in the boat, you’ll notice that those boats are skinny with a capital S! As you are pushing your oars through the water as fast as possible, you’ve got to stay balanced.
All it takes is one quick turn of the head for the boat to become unstable and you risk throwing everyone into the drink!
Perhaps a more accurate scenario would be to ride a bike uphill as you are pumping iron. You’ve got to maintain that balance, which takes even more effort!
Why would anyone put themselves through something like this?
If Rowing Is So Hard, Why Does Anyone Do It?
Trust me, there are days when you will ask yourself why. Why are you getting up at the crack of dawn to train? Why are you putting up with blisters on your butt or a sunburned face?
There are lots of reasons why rowing has been such a popular sport since at least the 1800s ( it goes back further than that, to be honest).
As with all other sports, it’s all about the adrenaline, the endorphins, and the thrill of winning a crew.
If you’ve got a competitive nature, you find the physical exertion tiring, yes, but the payoff is well worth it.
It’s not just about winning the race, however. It’s also about loving how hard you can push your body. Some people find a physically demanding team sport such as rowing a personal journey towards physical fitness.
It’s a mind over matter type of conditioning. You go out in the cold, in the heat, and you push yourself beyond what you thought was possible. This struggle to keep going and overcome or ignore any pain fills some people with those feel-good endorphins, which are pretty darn addicting.
Some people are just born to be athletes, others not so much, but a good rower knows that at the end of the season, it was all worth it.
Is Rowing a Hard Team Sport to Learn?
It’s hard because rowing, like bike riding or basketball, has a learning curve to it.
As with any other sport, to each their own.
I’ve seen some youngsters pick up the rowing stroke like they did it in a former life. I’ve seen other rowers, usually masters rowers over 40, who struggle with it their first year but then become training maniacs.
First, you need to learn the proper rowing stroke. Good form and technique matter, which is why so many rowers use an erg to help keep themselves in shape. Even after you’ve got the hang of the rowing stroke, you need to learn to perform races with teammates.
You need to learn working with a team. It’s not just the technical aspect that you need to learn. If you are rowing at a collegiate level, or if you are rowing for your local club or boat house, you need to learn to work as a team.
Like every other aspect of life, some team members are easy to get along with, others aren’t your biggest fan, but you need to work with them anyway.
Masters rowers usually find the challenges of teamwork easier than learning endurance if they are new to the sport, but with some good training, good coaches, and hard work, everyone can learn the sport of rowing.
Why Is Rowing So Difficult?
I once read that rowing was the sport of masochists, which made me laugh out loud.
OK, I suppose that to someone whose exercise revolves around yoga or Pilates, rowing would seem like it was a bit crazy, but I promise you that I’m not a masochist!
That being said, it is not uncommon to see people literally collapse after a regatta.
What makes rowing so difficult is the combination of physical struggle for the entire body to endure and the stress of competition.
The sport requires you to be mentally tough. Athletes must learn to ignore that their feet are freezing and their hands feel like they’re on fire.
To win, you must be willing to give everything towards your rowing team, from the training to the actual racing.
Of course, there are those who say that rowing should be fun, after all, it’s a just a game, right?
If that’s your attitude, that’s fine. I do understand that some people simply aren’t competitive in nature, and they don’t really care if they win or lose.
If that’s you- don’t bother joining a boat club. Just row for your own health and happiness. Or use an erg and race against your friends.
Rowing is hard, and it takes commitment. For those who love the sport, however, it is terribly rewarding.
Perhaps, when all is said and done, a good rower is a masochist.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that rowing competitively is hard work.
Coaches like to say that if your hands aren’t bleeding at the end of the day, you did well.
There is some pain involved, but I think that is true with nearly every competitive sport.
Is it worth it? Only you have the answer to that one – but I personally say YES!
Keep rowing on, my friends!
Written by Petra Amara – RowingCrazy.com
CEO & Founder of RowingCrazy, National Rower, Coxswain Womens Eight Team, Rowing Coach & Writer
Petra is a Mother of two and owner of Rowingcrazy.com. Petra lives and breathes rowing, she also has a passion for writing which lead her to start RowingCrazy.com to share her rowing experience and expertise with others.