The MAD Lifestyle

What's It Like Being Part of a Boat Club?


What's It Like Being Part of a Boat Club?


Hi Patrick! Firstly, tell us a bit about the CUBC?

The CUBC is really defined by only one thing, winning The Boat Race each year. This takes precedent over any other goal, and it is this simplicity that sets it apart from many other programs. This is a big advantage because it provides clear focus to everything we do, but on the flip side it means that if you fail to achieve the goal then there is nowhere to make up for it until the next year.

What drew you to want to join the CUBC? 

I always watched The Boat Race each year growing up, and started rowing age 15 at my local club. When I was lucky enough to receive an offer from Cambridge, winning The Boat Race became a big goal. There are very few events that give you the opportunity to compete in front of a crowd of 250,000, plus a TV audience of millions, as an amateur athlete.

What is it you love about rowing? 

I have always been obsessed with details, so trying to perfect a repetitive movement, which from the outside appears very simple, is very addictive. The better you get the more you realise how much there is to improve! I also love racing, the build up is often stressful because there is a lot riding on the result, but once you start its great fun, it is why we keep coming back for more despite the hard training and early mornings!

What’s the training schedule like? 

Hard! During the academic term training takes up about 35 hours each week. We are completing close to a full time training program, but trying to fit that around a very demanding academic schedule; despite popular belief, there is no allowance made for your academics by the University because of rowing, they expect the same standards as they do from everyone else. Outside of term, when the academics are more flexible, training can take up 50 hours a week.

Are there any training exercises that you really like/dislike?

We spend a lot of time on the water in Ely, it can be very bleak, but we have a saying:‘The Boat Race is won when no one is watching, and when no one cares’. The focus is always on the process, but it is still crucial to remember the end goal. We also spend a couple of hours each week on the rowing machine, which is everyone’s least favourite part… My favourite sessions are strength weights though, I prefer compound exercises like deadlifts and squats because they replicate the rowing movement very well, with the leg drive followed by the hip opening.

Recovery must be an important part of your training; what do you do for your recovery? Are there any special pieces of equipment you like to use?

Recovery is probably the most challenging part of our program; as students we simply don’t have the same amount of time to dedicate to it as professional athletes do. As a result it has to be simple, focussed and time efficient. Without doubt sleep and nutrition are key to avoid illness, and easy to get wrong around academic deadlines. For me though, injury was always the bigger issue, and I learned that stretching and mobility work was key. Before each session guys are always using the Fitness-Mad foam rollers we have in the boathouse and gym, generally focusing on legs and upper backs, and we then complete a thorough dynamic warm up. In addition I do 15 minutes of personal mobility work each evening. This involves some static stretching (hamstrings, glutes, quads, hip flexors) but was heavily focussed around my personal Fitness MAD foam roller and massage ball. Early in my time with CUBC I was prone to rib stress fractures, but I found that using this equipment on my upper back and intercostal muscles prevented any problems.

Apart from rowing, what other sports do you enjoy?

I’ve always gravitated towards cycling in the off-season. I am no longer rowing with CUBC because I am coming towards the end of my PhD, so I have decided to enter an Ironman next year, forcing me into running and swimming. I am not built for running and not a particularly fast swimmer either, so these were both tough to begin with. Over the last few months I have really started to enjoy both of them though; running provides great simplicity and is really time efficient, whereas swimming has a big technique element that draws a lot of parallels with rowing. I’m finding with the running in particular that I still use my Fitness MAD foam roller a lot on my legs to help prevent pain in my hips and knees.

After CUBC, where do you see yourself and what will you take away from your time with CUBC?

I’ve learnt a huge amount of discipline, and it has taught me how to keep moving forward even when I wasn’t making the progress I wanted or results were going against me. I’ve also got some great memories, it wasn’t all plain sailing through my four years at CUBC but there have been some incredible moments, culminating in winning The Boat Race this year. Most important though are the friends I have made; you spend a huge amount of time with like-minded people, chasing a common goal, and as a result form very strong bonds. There are guys who I rowed with for all four years and I know that we will all turn up at Putney to support Cambridge in The Boat Race every year.



Many thanks to Patrick Elwood from the Cambridge University Boat Club! We wish you all the best for the future! 



This post is tagged with rowing, fitness, recovery

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