Patricia Carswell |

Life on the river: rest – our training secret weapon

Award-winning blogger and journalist, Patricia Carswell, shares her latest rowing adventures in her exclusive British Rowing blog – Life on the river

Remember those strange, uncertain, early weeks of lockdown? In common with many people, I spent them in a jittery, frenzied state of mind. By night, I’d lie awake with my mind racing, running through plans that would have to be changed and fretting about loved ones far away in self-isolation. By day, I’d beetle about the place being ridiculously busy.

With much of my work falling away and with nowhere to go, I buzzed around the house fulfilling every lockdown cliché going. Tiger King – got the t-shirt (literally, for my husband’s lockdown birthday). Sourdough – got the starter. Zoom – got the app (and eventually managed to unmute myself).

And exercise. Oh my, the exercise. I got well and truly carried away. Beguiled by all the variety, I signed up for everything I could find. Yoga, Pilates and boot camp with a local personal trainer. Ballet classes on Facebook live. Brutal, but brilliant rowing studio classes via Zoom. Online strength, spin and core sessions courtesy of my leisure centre. I devised my own HIIT workouts, rowed for miles on the rowing machine, went for moonlit strolls and dawn hikes. I even gave PE with Joe a try (told you I was a walking cliché), only stopping short of dressing up on a Friday.

It was only a matter of time before there was a reckoning

Riding a powerful wave of adrenaline, what I singularly failed to do was rest.

Looking back, I can see now how foolish this was. I knew perfectly well that recovery was an important element of training and essential to stay healthy and Covid-free. But somehow, in that surreal, warped world I’d been thrust into, I clean forgot about it.

Overdoing it on the rowing machine

It was only a matter of time before there was a reckoning.

It came, sure enough, in the form of a mystery virus. Not that virus—I was tested, twice—but a strange, head cold/stomach bug that went on and on, leaving me weak and light-headed for weeks after the rest of the symptoms had vanished.

Rest was forced upon me and, with it, came clarity. I suddenly remembered the value of doing nothing.

I’ve since watched the British Rowing webinar on recovery and read the article on immune function and reminded myself how important rest is, not just for general health but for sporting performance – as important, in fact, as hydration and nutrition. Duh. Obvious when you think about it.

Little by little I felt myself returning to health. Now that I’m almost back to my usual, perky self, and have even had my first, glorious outing back on the river (hurrah!), I’m not making the same mistake again. I’ve cut the number of classes and sessions I’m doing and have incorporated rest days that involve nothing more strenuous than a bit of walking. I’m meditating daily and even having the odd afternoon nap – feels outlandishly decadent, but I’m learning to see it as self-care.

I can’t absolutely promise that if you invite me to drinks on Zoom, I’ll stick to sparkling water, but you have my word that I’ll be drinking my cocktail with my feet up. Chin-chin.