Why rowing floats my boat

Patricia Carswell, 49, took up rowing after suffering ill health in her thirties. She explains the appeal of time on the water.

How long have you rowed, and when and why did you start?

I did a few weeks’ rowing at university but only started properly about five or six years ago. I’d begun exercising again after a long period of ill health but hadn’t found a sport that really appealed. When I discovered that my local rowing club had members my age I went along to find out more. I loved it from the very first outing and got completely hooked.

How often do you train?

Three or four times a week at my local club with a group of women mostly in their forties, fifties and sixties. We compete at local and national events, including on the Boat Race course in a veterans’ event each March.

Why do you think rowing is good for you, personally?

In many ways I’m unsuited to it as I’m really too small and light, but I just love it. I adore being out on the river (even in winter) and I love participating in a team sport as the camaraderie is fantastic.

What is the appeal of rowing?

It’s partly being outside on the river, which is always beautiful, plus the endless technical challenge of getting the boat to move faster and balance better. It also attracts lovely, down-to-earth people so it’s always a lot of fun.

Why is it important to you to stay fit?

I suffered from ME/chronic fatigue syndrome in my thirties, so I know how bad ill health feels. I love the feeling of being strong and fit; it gives me energy and helps keep me calm. I row three or four times a week (in the winter this is often on the rowing machine instead of the water). I try to do a circuit training session once a week and love to squeeze in a bit of yoga, which really helps with my flexibility. Keeping fit has made a huge difference to my health.

Is there any advice you’d give someone who would like to take it up?

The great thing about rowing is that it is low impact so is suitable for people of all ages*. We have club members who still row well into their eighties. If you want to take up rowing make enquiries at your local rowing club. A lot of them run taster sessions and learn-to-row courses, and many of them actively welcome older members. It’s never too late to start.

See Patricia’s blog about rowing at

Do you have a fitness story to share? We’re looking for stories to inspire others to take up or return to sport, whatever their age. Email if you would like to feature.

*Although moderate physical activity is safe for most people, health experts suggest that you consult your doctor before starting an exercise programme, especially if you have a history of heart disease, asthma, lung disease or diabetes.