Sophie Tallon not pictured as she couldn't persuade anyone to let her in a real boatTimur Rakhimov for Varsity

Before I begin recounting my day following the schedule of a world record rower, context is needed. I reached out to Chinazo, a fourth-year medic and rower, and stupidly scheduled my day to follow hers in the same week that I attempted to become a gym rat. This meant that when my alarm started blaring at 7am, I rolled out of bed, with my arms still aching from their first-ever workout just a few days before. I grudgingly accepted that this torture was of my design and that a positive mindset would probably have to be adopted if I were to make it through this day.

I have never once been tempted to attend a Homerton rowing session, and so I approached this day believing it could serve as a chance to face my fears; a day of erg exposure therapy. My commitment to overcoming obstacles in the name of journalism definitely deserves a plaque in the Varsity office, possibly a statue, and at the very least this deserves a Blue Peter badge.

My day began at 7am, thanks to two alarms and a morning chorus courtesy of Homerton’s infamous pigeons. I started revising at 8am, feeling exceptionally smug. Maybe I am a morning person after all?

“I wasn’t sure if this was a comforting reminder it’s never too late to start something new, or a horrifying testament to the insanity that is earning a world record in a year”

At 11, I met Chinazo outside Emma Boathouse for a weights session. Chinazo currently holds the world records in the overall women’s category on the RP3 (a type of rowing machine used by CUBC and many elite rowers) for the 1K, 500m, and one minute, and she holds the U23 world record on the RP3 in the 100m. This impressive list of accolades was definitely intimidating. In her attempt to reassure me, Chinazo let me know she only started rowing in her third year. I wasn’t sure if this was a comforting reminder it’s never too late to start something new, or a horrifying testament to the insanity that is earning a world record in a year. I questioned what pushed Chinazo to begin rowing, and I was completely unsurprised to discover that Chinazo has an athletic history. After an injury in cross-country, Chinazo used the erg to maintain fitness and recover and in doing so, discovered a love for rowing. This appeared to me to be a natural changeover; anyone who voluntarily runs through mud seems like a perfect fit for a sport that involves a sewage-infested river.

In our weights session, she helped me bench press (just the bar, but I feel like weights could be added in a few more sessions), squat, deadlift, and kettlebell swing. I also asked hard-hitting questions, such as where she gets her eyebrows done. It’s at the Benefit counter in Boots in case you were wondering. Chinazo told me that the weights sessions are her favourite part of rowing and that she loves the gym.

After our weights session, which was surprisingly fun, we parted ways. Chinazo had a water session in the evening, so I decided I would complete a rowing workout in order to match her schedule. After politely asking the Homerton chat whether someone could coach me through a rowing workout – a request that received one too many laughing reactions (is it that crazy I might want to work out?) – two Homerton rowers agreed to help me out. Their coaching style was a mixture of constructive feedback, laughing at me, and aggressive cheerleading (“DON’T STOP!” “KEEP THE TIME DOWN”). I completed a 500m time trial, and I figured I could use Chinazo’s record in this distance as a benchmark. Needless to say, had we been racing on a looped river, I would have been lapped. Twice. However, all greats start from somewhere, and I finished the workout feeling pretty proud of my new (and only) PB of 2 minutes and 10 seconds.


Mountain View

A day in the life of a Cambridge gym rat

Yet again, I ended the day realising that there are more hours in the day if you wake up earlier and that a schedule is actually quite helpful. I don’t think this day inspired me to join the Homerton rowing team, who I’m sure will be devastated by this epiphany, but it has tempted me to maybe go on an erg every now and again. Chinazo’s switch from cross-country to rowing has also inspired me; being a third year won’t stop me from feigning interest in every random sport stall at the fresher’s fair. After all, I too could be a future record-holder.