Great Things Happen if Your Mind is Right

Believe it or not my rowing career actually started on the erg. Rowing on the Wellington Harbour is about as bad as it gets. Strong southerlies funnelling in through the Cook Strait, getting on the water is a rare treat. For me I spent 95% of the first 5 months of my novice season on the efullsizerenderrg, I was a scrawny 14yr old, 70kg, 6ft 2″ kid but I had a knack for the erg and loved numbers. I was never a fantastic athlete up until that point. I played Rugby, Cricket and Basketball all with great effort an
d mediocre/poor skill. The erg was objective, input = output, this was something I could work with, all of a sudden my greatest strength (ability to work hard) had a direct translation to results.

I spent the winter travelling the country competing in indoor rowing competitions. Run by a vibrant character Bob Bridge a former powerlifter he was in his 60’s and had lived a fascinating life. We got to know him quite well, it was a labour of love for him and was someone who was quite instrumental in giving me belief that I could be good at this sport. While still lightweight I broke numerous NZ records all below 2000m (lacked the endurance to nail 2000m), finally a sport that seemed right for me. Your typical on water rower falls in love with the sport when they get on the water. I was content with sitting on an erg and challenging my resolve on a daily basis.

The erg continued to play a huge role in my training over the years. In Wellington it’s bread and butter. They say if you’re still rowing after 3 years in Wellington you either have no life or really love the sport, I fell into both categories. As my rowing progressed through club grade to regional representation and onto NZ rep the erg was always the objective judge of my fitness. I would compare and set goals as to where I need to be on the erg to be physically capable of rowing at the next level. Erging is far from being the gold standard of rowing ability but it sure is a good indicator of your physical ability. Slower ergs can beat faster ergs on the water. The old adage “ergs don’t float” is true but no one is winning international medals without an at very least decent erg score.¬†fullsizerender-1

Rowing is one of the toughest sports known to man. The erg is bloody torture but it’s not the enemy. If the erg is an enemy then why do we hang out with it everyday? This bizarre willing desire to bury yourselves in an abyss of pain is something that is foreign to the majority of the world. Rowers are slightly nuts and slightly obsessed. I respect the indoor rowing community because it reminds me of when I was a 14yr old kid falling in love with finding my limit, excited by what’s possible if my mind wants to take me there. It’s a love I still have, I still haven’t reached my physical peak, I still have mountains to conquer.

Injustice has smacked me in the face recently and forced me to step away from competing (for now). I still have goals, I’m stepping out of a bubble I’ve lived in for 11 years with wide eyes. Possibility is limitless when responsibilities are limited ūüėā I fell in love with coaching in 2013. A broken wrist during my U23’s campaign required surgery when I got back from Lithuania which pushed me into coaching. What was a small, poor club on the Wellington Harbour made a splash at the Nationals with all 12 rowers in the club winning medals with me as the sole coach. Three years later and the people in my life revolve around what we did that year. 4/12 of that squad now row for New Zealand. To see how a broken wrist ended up influencing so many lives is amazing. That is what I love most about coaching. The ability to affect people’s lives for the better and that’s why I’m so happy to be able to work with Sam Blythe and the whole Fitness Matters team. We see the same thing from different perspectives, with great attitudes, it’s an enjoyable thing to be a part of.

Great things happen out of bad situations if your mind is right.

Axel