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Rowing reflections: reviewing our pandemic routine

In conversation with U of T team president on training during the pandemic
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COURTESY OF VARSITY BLUES
COURTESY OF VARSITY BLUES

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March brought lockdowns and regulations, the Varsity Blues rowing team has faced all the trials and tribulations that the rest of the Blues community has faced. As a team member, I watched as we focused on keeping morale high while regulations prevented us from training together over the course of the summer and into the fall. 

I sat down on behalf of The Varsity with rowing team president and third-year Rotman commerce student — and my friend — Katie Gay to talk about how she made sure that the 2020–2021 season could still be fruitful and fun.

When the school year came to an end, athletes were held in suspense as to what their training would look like for the upcoming year. As measures started to lax in the summer, Toronto’s two rowing clubs, Argonauts and Hanlan, were quick to help U of T athletes get back into boats: “The athletes were able to go down pretty much six days a week to the boathouse,” Gay said. 

Crew boats were not allowed except for those rowers who lived together or were in designated ‘bubbles,’ so we spent a summer in single rowing shells. Every morning, we would wave and chat to each other from our own boats as we rowed by, trying to emulate the sense of community that would be so effortless if we were all rowing together in the same boat. 

As on-water training continued into the school year, training opportunities at the university for secondary workouts grew as well. “Our coach worked really hard to make sure we had access to [rowing machines],” said Gay. “The team also got to attend their strength sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, ensuring that the athletes got “their two-a-days in.” 

Gay admitted that morale has been a consistent issue since COVID-19 started. “My morale has been an issue,” Gay confessed. 

Our teammates, however, kept her going. “I’ve been very impressed with how the U of T team has been able to keep the morale up,” Gay said. “I credit that to a lot of the younger, incoming athletes, which shows good promise for the upcoming years.”

Gay emphasized that the goal for this year was not banners or medals but “to get to next season.” The team is focused on creating goals throughout this training season to keep motivation up: they are performing a RADAR week, for example, which is a week that consists of three gruelling tests on the rowing machine to determine fitness. 

“As much as some of the athletes are not RADAR’s biggest fans, it has been keeping our training up because it gives us something to work for.”

All in all, the team is focused on sticking together and keeping goals in their sight as they work through every hurdle. As Toronto enters a lockdown in the winter, the team is facing another demoralizing stretch of time without team strength sessions or on-water practices. But if 5:00 am practices and twice-a-day workouts have taught us anything, it’s that we can get through any challenge with a little determination.