YOUTH MATTERS Best way to keep fit by Kate Argent

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I’ve never been a great sport enthusiast. At school, I loathed lacrosse, put up with netball and preferred tennis indoors. Watching it from the sofa, that is.

So, a couple of months into university, I was more than a little surprised to be spending less time sinking shots and more time sinking into mud, having signed up to one of the most demanding sports on campus: rowing.

I must have taken a wrong turn at Fresher’s Fair or developed some sort of bizarre hard-edged streak over summer.

The tiresome cliché about ‘finding oneself’ at university did not, I had believed, involve finding myself sitting in a narrow rowing boat halfway down a river.

I had rather grim imaginings of a strictly teetotal, bed-before-nine-type lifestyle and almost snatched up my wellies to take my lycra-clad self as far away as possible from the cold, ramshackle boathouse.

But there is something about this sport. Yes, the 6.30am starts were significantly more painful than my beaten, calloused hands and yes, it was a far cry from the romanticised images I harboured from my experience of water sports thus far: sails on a dinghy billowing against the open sea.

However, despite the gruelling training regimes, this sport takes you, throws you about a bit upon the water, and you fall for it, hook line and (God forbid)... sinker.

The idea of coastal rowing flickered briefly through my consciousness, but I quickly suppressed it. Or so I thought.

So, naturally, a week later I was to be seen sitting in a VI at my local beach, being tossed between angry, swollen waves that threatened to engulf our little boat.

But for some mad reason you embrace the elements and push on. You are a part of the engine that drives the vessel, so throwing up your oar in despair would be very silly indeed.

This summer I shall be avidly supporting our young athletes taking on the world at Eton Dorney, and am particularly excited one of the Men’s VIII crew rows just a little way upstream from my boat club.

Surely an excuse in itself to continue rowing that particularly stretch of river...

Coupled with sailing, I cannot imagine a better way to enjoy keeping fit.

I must say I agree with The Wind in the Willows’ Ratty when he states, “there is nothing... half so worth doing as – simply messing around in boats!”