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Saturday, 04 July 2015

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LEAVING my 22nd Olympic sport with bloodied knuckles and aching shoulders, I looked, and felt, as though I had just taken part in a round of boxing.

But my injuries were not from spending time in the ring, they were caused by a leisurely row on Talkin Tarn in Brampton.

Olympic rowing is renowned for its competitors’ legendary displays of strength and stamina, as athletes push themselves through the pain barrier in an attempt to win gold.

And despite Cumbria having an abundance of lakes, when looking for a rowing club to take part in the sport myself, there was only one to be found.

Situated just outside the picturesque village of Talkin, Talkin Tarn Rowing Club was formed in 1859, and is the oldest rowing club in the North of England – with the exception of Tyne RC.

Arranging to meet instructor Harold Hodgson on a Thursday afternoon, I opted to take part in a recreational session with the intention of learning the basics.

London 2012 will see 14 Olympic Rowing events ranging from Single Sculls, featuring solo rowers, to the Eights, contested by teams of eight rowers plus a cox.

All events are held over a 2,000m course, with the competition taking a total of eight days.

It was decided that I would make my rowing debut in a double scull, allowing Harold to sit with me while I received my instructions.

But, before being allowed out on the water, I had to prove myself on an indoor rowing machine.

Although I only occasionally use the rower at the gym I would have thought I knew how to use it properly.

However, jumping on the machine and being guided by Harold, it transpired that I did not.

The indoor rowers at Talkin Tarn are used to perfect your technique and Harold set about talking me through the motions whilst correcting my posture.

Managing to get to grips with the movements out of the water proved relatively straight forward, but I was struggling to imagine how they would work once on the lake.

Happy that I had learned enough indoors, Harold led me to the water’s edge.

Trying my hand at kayaking back in November, had proved very successful, helping to build my confidence on the water and erase my concern over capsizing.

But rowing was a whole new ball game and I was happy to have an experienced instructor in the boat with me.

Beginning the lesson, I tried to imagine I was back on the rowing machine, but battling against the wind and water upset my technique.

Struggling to keep the paddles at the correct angle meant my strokes were far too vigorous, resulting in the bars grazing my knuckles, and the boat moving far too slowly.

“Remember to stay relaxed,” coached Harold. “Let the boat glide as far as it possibly can before taking another stroke or you will use up all your energy.”

Beginning to get the hang of it, I was finally able to appreciate my surroundings.

The 65 acre lake is set amid 120 acres of farm and woodland and, captivated by the beautiful views, I stopped worrying about my technique, which made my paddling a lot smoother and far less erratic.

After an hour on the water we finished our session, and it wasn't until I was back on dry land that I realised my leg and shoulder muscles were aching from what was an enjoyable, yet strenuous work out.

I may never make it as a competitive rower, but I will definitely be hiring a rowing boat this summer to have fun paddling at my own pace. Fancy having a go yourself? Contact Talkin Tarn Amateur Rowing Club on 016977 41050.

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