Trying out team sports when out of shape
September 14, 2013 11:51 PM   Subscribe

I want to try a new sport this Fall and was thinking of taking up rowing. I am a bit out of shape, however, and this makes me nervous. Tell me about a time when you started a team sport even though you were kind of out of shape, and what advice you have for someone in my position. And any advice for a novice rower would be appreciated.

Since I came to grad school, I have stopped exercising regularly and have gained some weight. Since it is the beginning of the semester and I have all the optimism in the world about what I will have time to do, I have decided that it would be fun to take up a new sport - hoping to get in better shape and to meet some people at the same time. After looking through the available sports, I settled on rowing as something I would like to try out. However, feeling a bit nervous about it as I really am not in great shape. I have sort of sporadically been exercising the past year (jogging now and again, hiking, some yoga and biking occasionally) but not regularly enough to be in super aerobic shape. Have you ever been in this position? If you tried out a team sport were people supportive?

Also, any tips for someone starting rowing are appreciated. I have never tried it before but it appeals to me since I tend to go for sports that are more about endurance and less about coordination. I tend to veer away from things like soccer, dance, basketball, volleyball (broke my finger one of the last times I played) and so on in favor of jogging, biking, etc. I am not generally fast, but I can keep going for a long time. Also, I know you can do rowing individually as well, but I would like to try it as a team sport and see how it goes. Thanks!
posted by thesnowyslaps to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I joined an adult kickball league some time ago (part of, and I was significantly overweight and out of shape. I knew the team captain, and we were playing at the lowest competitive level, where most participants were out to have a good time (not really aggressive about competition). Everyone was supportive as I lumbered around the bases, and it was a lot of fun.

The team didn't get back together the next year, and my interests veered in other directions (non-team sports), so I haven't gone back. But it was a lot of fun, and the league has a bunch of other games. Maybe there's something similar near you?. I think finding the appropriate level of competition is key.
posted by Gorgik at 5:32 AM on September 15, 2013

You'd think that rowing, where you get to sit down and just use your arms would be much safer than volleyball where you have to move around amongst others and use your whole body, but that's not really the way it is. Rowing uses your whole body and requires coordination. The first time I tried it, not only did I have difficulty staying in sync with my teammates, but I pulled my back out. And I was in pretty good shape--just hadn't been rowing. And, my fingers were totally blistered in the first 10 minutes.

So, first of all, try rowing on your own before you do it with a team, and by "try" I mean regularly to build up strength. And wear gloves to protect your fingers. You might also want to do weight exercises to strengthen various muscles. In other words, it's not something to wander into casually.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:35 AM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I rowed in college. I love boats.

Rowing reminds me a lot of biking, in terms of "once you get the initial coordination down, it's ok". I would highly, highly recommend having someone show you how to use an erg (rowing machine in the gym) instead of doing it on your own. There's a rhythm that, if you learn wrong, is going to make it harder than necessary. (Legs back arms, arms back legs)

Rowing is highly endurance-focused, especially in the fall - the longer races - 20 or 25 minutes. The spring is more like 8 minutes of hell.

Is this a club sport or a competitive one? If you can, try and get in a recreational boat for novices.

Also, you can NOT skip practice - if you're not there, your boat can't row.

I did not lose weight while rowing. I did get awesome muscles.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:45 AM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

A lot will depend on the people on your team and how seriously they take it. I joined a team sport that I was a complete beginner at, am still not very good at, and I'm not in the best shape. The people on my team are really supportive and encouraging! As in, they congratulate me when I do something right, and don't dwell on my many mistakes. This is a mixed gender social sport, we're in the lowest division, and it's a fairly friendly competition all round. And obviously I have great team mates :) It might be different if you're in a more competitive team or serious competition.

Once you're on a team, give yourself the best shot at finding support from team mates by being a team player yourself. Eg turn up on time, help with the equipment, encourage the others, take advice from the coach/more experienced people, be friendly and try your best.
posted by pianissimo at 5:48 AM on September 15, 2013

Here is a pretty good thread on how to use an erg. I list in it some workouts and some form considerations. You'll cover all of it in a rowing club, but if you want a cliff's notes version, it might be handy.

Rowers are wicked supportive. I've been associated with a few different rowing clubs, and college was by far the best experience from a support / form / education perspective. It is no joke that you can't miss practice. Rowing is a commitment unlike any other sport from that perspective. It takes nine people to move an eight. If you are missing a teammate, everybody is probably going to be enjoying a nice set of hills, weights and ergs since the boat can't move (your team might be lucky and have a few extras in the chase boat, but the goal should always be to be one of the ones that stays on the water the entire practice)... and you will enjoy land workouts as a result of missing / being late to practice too, plus generally some additional torture.

Learn what crabbing is and how to avoid it. If you aren't in shape, you may be more prone to doing so, and it will hurt more if you do. Don't focus on dropping weight to get on a lightweight boat - focus on being the best piston in an engine possible.

After your first 4 minutes on an erg and your first 10 minutes rowing in a boat, let me know how your aerobic shape is. Then, do the same 10 minute test after your last practice of the season... you'll notice the difference.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:02 AM on September 15, 2013

I am not quite sure about crew as an endurance sport. A lot of people tend to think of it as a sprint sport in terms of the mental and physical dynamics.

That said, if this is a casual grad student club team, I'll bet you'll find plenty of teammates who aren't in the best of shape, at least superficially, and especially coming off a summer break. Prep and college crew training is incredibly intense, and a lot of people in their mid 20s won't have shed the eating habits that accompany that kind of calorie burn or put in place an equivalently intense cardio routine (10 mile runs and that sort of thing).
posted by MattD at 10:05 AM on September 15, 2013

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