Rowing is often not the first thing that springs to mind when considering embarking on a fitness campaign but according to Patrick Brady, the coach from the Donegal Rowing club, it’s a low impact, workout that exercises nearly every part of the body.
Donegal Rowing club has around 60 members and over 50% of those are women. They meet on Donegal Pier, and during the summer row nearly every day of the week.
On every Wednesday until October they have an open evening when anyone can join them and have a go.
These sessions are hugely popular and visitors are taken out for short rows when they can pick up some of the basic techniques and see if they like it. Membership for a year is cheap at 50 euro for adults and 30euro for youngsters. Members’ ages range from 12 to fifty plus.
I joined the group on Wednesday night and talked with some of the women members about what they get out of the sport. Deborah Bonner who was the club when they were active in the 80’s said: “You’re out in the fresh air. It’s affordable, healthy and great craic.
“For me it’s a better option than GAA, soccer or basketball. Every night I look forward to giving it a go. There’s also a great social side to the club. People make friends and join our social events.
“In May we ran a “Superhero Sunday” when representatives of the emergency services, the coastguards, RNLI, An Garda Siochana, the ambulance service, the mountain rescue and fire brigade joined us for an open day. We sat in their vehicles, had our photo taken with them, did face painting and had burgers. It was awesome.”
Billie Anne Johnstone, who is in her third year with the group, said: “I love the water, it’s so peaceful. It’s good for your arms and legs and exercises you from head to toe.
“In the summertime many of our members are out all day and kids often come straight from school.
“Last year I took 12 young people to the All Ireland Rowing Regatta in Carnlough and they loved it. They competed against clubs from across the country and won their heat for a place in the final. I was so proud of them”.
According to Billie Anne there are around ten rowing clubs across Donegal and in the summer they regularly compete at regattas. At present the club owns six boats, two of which were bought with a grant from Donegal County Council. For the rest of their expenses, they fundraise.
Billie Ann explained that the crews are normally four members and a Cox. The Cox is the boss on board who steers the boat and ensures it’s straight and all the rowers are operating as a team. What they say goes.
To many youngsters starting out, being part of a rowing team is a huge opportunity for learning the importance of respect and co-operation in everything they do.
Patrick Brady has been coaching the group for the past two years. At college and in the70’s, he rowed and these days he volunteers for personal satisfaction and to give something back.
Patrick says: “I do sessions with all the crews and find that different boats require different techniques. The first thing I do with members is to get them used to the basic concepts of co-ordination and timing. It’s very easy to pick up, no matter what your age-group is.”
At the end of the night the group persuaded me to have a go and I took to the water with a team of ladies. I’m no spring chicken but found it relatively simple and easy once I got into the swing of things. Being on the water was calm and uplifting.
If you want to get fit and make, new friends why not give it a go.