Runcorn rowers maximise their training during lockdown

The club’s rowers are training hard for when their club re-opens and crew activities resume on the water

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A women's squad Zoom session

Located by the River Weaver, Runcorn Rowing Club is just over half an hour from Liverpool and the club’s website claims that it offers rowers the ‘best stretch of water in the North West’. With group activities on the water suspended because of the Covid-19 lockdown, rowers are thankful that the club’s varied programme of online challenges and training classes are keeping them in shape for when things return to normal again.

Club captain George Perrin says: “Clearly, as we move forward, we will have to be very careful to ensure we continue to abide by government and British Rowing guidelines to minimise risk to members and society.

“The demand for time on the water is considerable – after all we are a rowing club. The next phase is to cater for those who can, and want to single, whilst looking after those more attuned to crew rowing, so it will be a mixture of sculling, zooming and quizzing.”

Since the lockdown started, like many clubs up and down the country, Runcorn has organised Zoom sessions to keep members connected.

George says: “We are acutely conscious that the rowing machine is the main rowing tool, but we also have almost daily gym sessions over Skype and other video facilities. The juniors are being set tasks such as designing a body circuit and the seniors are undertaking virtual weekend outings on the rowing machine as they normally do.”

Women’s Vice Captain Jackie Hamer has given the squad a six-week plan on the rowing machine which can also be adapted to cycling.

Rowing is my main recreation, so it is a big loss socially

The women’s squad also have three main sessions a week via Skype starting on Mondays with core and yoga. Their Wednesday session is ‘Spell your way to a stronger core’ where each letter of the alphabet relates to a circuit training exercise and a different word or phrase is spelled each time. After doing squats on Friday the squad relax with a chat over a glass of wine.

A member of the masters’ squad, Mark Staden lives in a household of six – and with regular requests to help with school-work, training gives him the chance to find time for himself.

He follows the weekly plan, competes in the virtual Runcorn race league and does the strength and conditioning class with his son, a keen rower, and the reason why he took up the sport himself a year ago.

Mark says: “Physically I’m getting better but, as I’m determined to improve, I’m doing some extra so that’s helping too. Due to the contact with other club members and the activities being provided, it’s great for my mental well-being as well.

It is those who take advantage of times like these who are more likely to become champions

“Over the last year, the sport has become a big part of my life not only in terms of rowing, but in terms of helping out at the club, and supporting my son and his rowing activities; therefore, it’s a big gap. However, on the plus side it does mean I don’t have to get up early at weekends and travel over to the club for training or for races!”

Fellow masters rower Bill Aldridge was lured back onto the water when his son took up the sport, learning to row at university, as Bill had done himself in the 1970s.

“Rowing is my main recreation, so it is a big loss socially,” he says.

“Fortunately, physically I have no issues. I have a rowing machine at home, plus a weights rack and bike. Mentally, I am okay. Still working, and able to exercise. It’s just the boredom of land training, and not getting on the water.”

Looking ahead to brighter times, his ambitions are: “Go faster, win a medal at Nat Champs, and win Vets Henley.”

Mark adds: “Whilst it’s a huge disappointment for everyone that races have been cancelled, it’s a great opportunity for all to improve. It is those who take advantage of times like these who are more likely to become champions.”

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