My relationship with rowing is a bit like what happens when you fall in love with an unsuitable boy. Maybe you’ve been there yourself. He’s the last person your mum and dad would choose for you. He treats you badly, rarely returning your calls, and he’s mean to you in front of your friends. You respond by trying too hard – far harder than is good for you. But then just as you’re starting to despair, just as you’re about to listen to your friends’ advice and turn your back on him, he gives you That Smile. He makes you feel like you’re the only girl in the world, and suddenly everything is wonderful and it’s all worth it and you forget everything your parents and your friends told you and it’s TOTALLY on again.

Well, it’s a bit like that with rowing and me. It’s the last sport my GP would have chosen for me (she prescribed gentle exercise – moderate at best – and rowing was definitely not on the approved list). It treats me badly, with losses, humiliations, crashes, tears, always in front of my friends. So I respond by trying harder – training much harder than is good for me – harder ergs, heavier weights, more circuits. My health suffers, I start to relapse and remember what my doctor said. But then, just as I’m starting to despair and I’m about to listen to my GP’s advice, it gives me That Smile.  I win a race, I meet one of my sporting heroes, someone compliments my technique, and suddenly everything is wonderful and it’s all worth it and I forget everything the doctor told me and it’s TOTALLY on again.

The last few months I’ve had more ups and downs with my health than I’ve really wanted to admit. I’ve had minor relapse after minor relapse (for those new to GOTR, I am in long term recovery from ME/CFS and although I’m mostly fine, I am prone to set-backs and fatigue). Ever the optimist, each time I’m feeling a bit better again I forget (literally forget) that I haven’t been well and throw myself back into training with a vengeance and the cycle starts all over again.

In my heart I know the sensible thing would be to do something like walking or swimming or, I dunno, frickin’ chairobics, instead of rowing. But what can I do? Rowing got hold of my heart and won’t let it go. There literally isn’t any other sport I enjoy.

So rowing it is. I’m going back to the bad boy. I know there’ll be set-backs and pain and you’ll all get frustrated when you have to watch it go wrong again and pick up the pieces. But it’ll all be worth it when we have a great outing or win a medal. And who knows? Maybe I can be the one to change him…