Crew Captain finds value in grueling practices

Margot Durfee

It’s a winter morning—cold, silent, peaceful. Stepping into Wilson’s main entrance, however, you are met with an explosion of mechanical whirring, blasting music, and yelling echoing from the atrium. If you’ve come to school before 8 a.m. during the winter, you’ve likely seen the crew team lined up in rows exercising on rowing machines (also known as ergs). From the looks of pure exhaustion and pain on our faces, you’ve probably wondered, “Why would they wake up so early for that?” 

Like any other varsity sport, rowing is intense—but unlike most, we practice throughout the entire school year. While our fall and spring seasons are based around racing, where we row six days a week on the Potomac River, winter season is where we build a large part of our endurance in preparation for spring. 

Every year, indoor training begins in early December. We practice six days a week, with three 6 a.m. practices, two afterschool practices, and a Saturday morning practice. Our main mode of exercise is erging, as it most closely mirrors rowing. We also run, weight lift, and do strengthening circuits at least once per week. 

Over the four years I have been on the team, my view of winter training has completely evolved. Rowing is an extreme cardio-based sport—our races span five to 20 minutes of sprinting. While there are few competitions in the winter (we have an erg tournament in February), we have occasional 2000 and 5000 meter erg tests to monitor our progress and give us motivation throughout the winter. Leaving my warm bed at 5:20 a.m. to have an intense workout for two hours is grueling. In the seconds it takes me to stumble across my room and turn on the light, there are fleeting moments when I wonder why I do this sport. And after every practice, I am reminded of why.

Joining this community of women who empower, support, and push each other is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have learned how to set a goal and have the confidence to work hard everyday to reach it. I’ve realized that in order to be successful, you must first open yourself up to uncertainty and vulnerability—the only way to improve and grow is to take risks and challenge your perceptions of comfort, the degree to which is different for everyone. I’ve grown from an anxious freshman who’s life felt that it revolved around what the next workout would be, to a senior, who although is far from perfect, has learned to embrace challenge. Everytime I go to practice, I am taking another step towards making myself the more confident, motivated, and happy person I aspire to be.