My second week on the crew team, our coach pulled the women’s team around after practice. Since we’d made it this far, he figured we’d stick the season out and it was time to lay down some ground rules, especially since most of our team are true novices. I’ve found his rules to be valuable, so I thought I’d share them.
1) Eat. You are now an athlete. You will need the calories, especially as you build more muscle mass. Chances are you will need to eat more. You can carry granola bars with you, eat 4 medium meals a day, drink protein shakes, do what works for you.
Cutting calories while doing two workouts a day is not safe.
If you’re a vegetarian or have a dietary restriction, ask questions and plan what you eat so you don’t end up nutrient deficient.
2) You are not to step on a scale. Your body is going to change as you adapt to the sport. Muscle weights more than fat. Your weight doesn’t matter. What matters is that, because you are doing the work, you are getting stronger. (Our team doesn’t separate by weight class).
3) If anyone gives you shit about how you look or eat, crush them. You’re going to have the muscle to do it in no time. You’re all god damn Wonder Women and don’t you forget it.
He then walked over to the huddle of novice men and gave them the same lecture. They are also god damn Wonder Women.
If some fool says your muscles make you look too masculine, smash them. You are an amazon princess. Wear that dress. Show off the muscles you’ve worked so hard for. Your monster quads and hella fine calves are feminine and beautiful because they are on your body. Rock a short prom dress if it makes you feel beautiful. Go strapless and show off the muscles in your back and shoulders. You are a goddess and you look amazing in whatever you choose to wear, so don’t listen to people who are intimidated by your strength.
‘Last piece,’ the coaches say. They have said this before every piece. You do not know how many pieces you have done, only that they have all been the last piece. You don’t know if they will ever end.
A rigger screams with every stroke. No one knows whose rigger it is. It could be yours. It could be three-seat’s. The coxswain doesn’t seem to notice. No one seems to notice. Except you: you notice, and you wonder if the rigger is screaming at you.
A wake comes from your side of the boat. Nothing made it. It just appeared off the flat surface of the water. It catches your oarlocks and washes onto the deck. ‘There’s a wake,’ the coxswain says. You knew there was a wake. There is always a wake.
You are in bow seat. You do not know if you are supposed to be rowing. You ask two-seat, and two-seat doesn’t know either. Neither of you row. The coxswain’s voice is crackly and indistinct, and you don’t know what it is saying. It is possible that you should be rowing. It is possible that you should never have stopped.
‘Ten more strokes,’ the coxswain says, and begins to count. Ten strokes go by. Then twenty. Then thirty-four. You have not yet crossed the finish line. You are no longer sure there is a finish line to cross. The coxswain keeps counting.
‘Is that like canoeing?’ someone asks. You cannot tell them apart from the others who have asked you. You think this face is different, but perhaps it is the same face again, and only the passage of time makes you believe it is different. ‘No,’ you tell the face. ‘It’s not like canoeing at all.’
There are not enough wrenches. There are never enough wrenches. Some days it seems as if there might be enough wrenches, but they disappear when you open the toolbox. Someone asks you for one. You have nothing to offer but a shrug and a handful of washers.
The shoes in the women’s boats are too big. The shoes in every other boat are even bigger. The men say they are too small, but you do not see how that could be the case. None of them fit you. Some of them are adjustable. They cannot be adjusted to fit. Some of them rub blisters into your heels. You pretend not to notice.
Rockin that student athlete aesthetic in class. Neon spandex, messy hair, coffee in one hand, and blender bottle full of protein powder in the other. It’s 8AM. I’ve been up for three and a half hours. I got out of practice 30 minutes ago. I’m running on two granola bars and willpower. If I fall asleep, please wake me up. I need this class for my major.