Row hard, row fast

Monthly Archives: September 2012

This blog isn’t just about my progress as a rower, as I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to know. I was asked to write a piece on accessible housing, by the Papworth Trust, and thought i’d share here as it’s relevant to my life.

I moved into my current property several years ago, at a time when I could still mobilise indoors on crutches, and it did it’s job on the whole. Thankfully at the time I had a fantastic OT who had sorted out the basic equipment, and had managed to get a ramp built for me as I was deemed unsafe to get up the doorstep.

So the house was sorted, until my needs changed. Pretty much overnight I became a full time wheelchair user, and this is where the problems arose. The flat is a private rent, as there was nothing suitable in the area through the council. In an ideal world I’d have had the doors widened, shower taken out (I wasn’t giving up my bath for anything!!), kitchen adapted, but that wasn’t going to happen. Consequently every wall, door, table, appliance has been battered by my wheelchair. There are now dents where I can line up and fit through more easily, but it’s not ideal.

I haven’t moved for several reasons, firstly I thought it would just be a temporary short term need, and there are other reasons, but the underlying fact is, that council housing wouldn’t be able to provide me with exactly what I need anyway. Getting something semi suitable is hard enough, so I make do, I’ve learnt how to do things the safest way, usually as a result of a number of failed attempts, but it works.

I would dearly love to be somewhere I felt safe, and didn’t have to rely on others to do things for me, but it’s never going to happen, my requirements don’t fit the norm. I know I’m not alone in this situation, the dangerous transfers others also perform, the falls that could be prevented had there been space for the right equipment, and the malnutrition through lack of suitable kitchens.

Everyone’s accessibility needs are different and homes should be made to fit the persons needs, not the person fit the home.


….was more than I could possibly ever imagine.

After arriving and taking up pretty much every space in my room, (I think I might have won the “most luggage” award!!) I had a quiet evening. Well I was meant to join the rest of the group at the pub, but when I arrived there were no parking spaces, so I hoped for the best and drove back to camp, not entirely sure where I was heading.

It was an early start on Saturday ready for registration, and introductions. Then the stuff we were all there for started. We headed off to the London Regatta Centre where we started re-rigging boats, and introducing new rowers to the most important tool a rower can possess, a rigger jigger.

There were a lot of boats to rig and people to boat. More people turned up than expected,which is fantastic, as the more people reached, the better for the sport, although I think it was a logistical nightmare for those running it.

The hard work then started, we were assigned a coach from a different club, who may or may not have coached the specific category they were assigned. It was great to get a set of new eyes on my technique, and introduced to new drills to help improve my stroke. I think it was also good for the coaches to get exposure to different rowers. I think everyone learnt something.

We were all grateful for the lunch break as it was a scorching day, not ideal temperature for hard work outdoors, but gave good water conditions. During lunch we met with the Paralympic rowers, which was wonderful, and an honour to be in conversation with them.

With the sun still beaming down on us we had to line up and do a 1000 m time trial, which was hard work, but good training, both physically and mentally, making sure you keep going when there’s no opposition behind you.

After exhausting ourselves, we returned back to camp for a couple of seminars, both of which were very valuable and educational.

That evening we had dinner together and Andy Houghton came and talked about what it was like being on the GB team, which was interesting and very encouraging. I had the chance to speak to Andy, who gave me some good advice.

On Sunday morning, we were split into three groups. Thankfully this meant I got a bit of a lie in. First on the schedule was strength and conditioning training. This was interesting, and helpful, and gave me some insight into what weight training etc…I should be doing.

We then headed back out onto the water for some productive coaching, with a different coach again, which was fantastic, as they explained things in different ways, which helped my technique massively. Next up was a 500m side by side sprint, which was good fun, especially when I won, although attempting to decapitate a canoeist wasn’t my finest moment!!

That pretty much was the end of the weekend, which saw people exchanging contact details, discussing Facebook groups to track when and where people would be racing. I thought this was fantastic, and such a large part of the ethos of the camp.

A few of us stayed on till Monday and watched the victory parade, we had front row seats, and it was wonderful to see all of the competitors, and see the reaction they got. Fantastic atmosphere and experience.

I learnt so much at the camp, which has already improved my rowing, thank you to those who organised it, and everyone else who came and made the weekend possible.

Today I’m heading off to London, for a weekend of hard training and seminars, hopefully get some questions answered, and more importantly learn lots.

I seem to have an awful lot for a weekend, it as the weather is so variable it’s hard to know what to pack, plus I need to pack normal clothes as well. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!!

I also have all of my medical equipment with me. Just grateful I don’t have to take my fridge this time….

This should be a fantastic opportunity, some of the most influential and important people in British adaptive rowing will be there, so I need to be on top form, bit nervous really.

I’m also looking forward to catching up with some friends I made in my DofE expedition about two years ago, so that’ll be good fun.

Well I best be off to get packed, although the final bits are waiting to be ironed still, must get them on the top of the ironing pile for the cleaner.

Oh and I must make sure I’ve got my motivational cards with me, I think this weekend I need to remember the message

Relax and believe in yourself.

I was fortunate enough to be given tickets through British Rowing, to see the first morning of the Paralympic rowing.

It was fantastic, seeing people doing what I want to dedicate myself to. I just wished I could have been on the water myself.

There was some impressive racing, watching people give it their all, and pushing so hard to qualify.

The crowd were brilliant, so supportive and encouraging and cheering all of the rowers, not just the GB team. I was sat in the ‘friends and family’ stand, opposite the main grandstands, which was a bit of a shame because I didn’t get to be in with the crowd, but fantastic all the same. I’ve taken photos and videos to dissect for any hints and tips. Yes, I’m that sad!!

On Sunday, I went with a friend to see some athletics. It was brilliant, again seeing people give it their all, some surprising results, leading to the complaints made by Oscar Pistorius. Again the crowd was amazing, a packed stadium and so much noise.Seeing David Weir win, I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a roar; I’ve been to quieter gigs!!

We were much more integrated into the crowd this time, we were on first corner, straight between the Union Flag and Olympic one. Also quite near the cauldron, which is very impressive. I did wonder if we could use it for toasting marshmallows if we had very long sticks. My friend wasn’t convinced!!

I’ve also been trying to watch as much as possible on the TV, but sadly life keeps getting in the way.

Everything I’ve seen experienced has encouraged me to work harder and become more focussed.

This weekend the first adaptive training camp is being held. I’m hoping to learn lots from that, and improve my rowing.

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