I heard about dragon boating when I mentioned to someone that I fancied getting back on the water after many years away. I had kayaked before when I was younger.She suggested dragon boat racing and there was a club around the corner near Trent Bridge, which sounded great, so I looked them up on Facebook and sent a message about coming along.
The minute I sent that I became extremely anxious – what was I thinking? I have an anxiety disorder and I’m short/overweight/not very fit/previous back injury, I mean surely I would hold them back, quite literally? I’d never fit in!
I got a quick reply that there was a race on and to come down to meet people, then I could come along for a Sunday session. Straight away the anxiety told me I wasn’t going to fit in, this wouldn’t work and I’d look daft.
But I pushed past that and went along anyway. Wow, it looked amazing! Everyone was so friendly and I saw all shapes, sizes and levels of ability at that race day. Maybe I could do this?So I went along on the Sunday and once I was shown what to do, got in the boat and, I’ll be honest, I found it a bit hard going. I had to keep stopping because I was tired and my arms ached. I decided I couldn’t possibly do this (I’m an expert at talking myself out of things) and I would politely excuse myself when we got back.
I didn’t expect the words of encouragement from everyone, really wanting me to come back and keep at it, so I came back and tried again and again. I still found it hard with my fitness and on many occasions started talking myself out of it again but the team were all there to provide that support.
So I went to two other race days. I didn’t compete myself; I took some photos and cheered the team on from the side.
But every time there was a team huddle to talk about the before and after, I was invited to take part. They didn’t know how much that meant to me, to be included like that, and being so anxious (I am very talkative and outgoing so people can’t see how much I really mask it). I thought I might sit on the sidelines as I wasn’t racing, but that wasn’t the case at all and I’ve never felt more included anywhere. The socials are great fun too!
This motivated me to get fitter so I could compete. I was now doing things I hadn’t even dared consider before, like the Macmillan swim challenge. I completed 563 lengths of the pool, so I finally got my fire back!
After getting advice on my paddling posture during a session in the club house when the river wasn’t behaving enough to go out in the boat, I managed to later paddle way better with a lot less stopping and it felt amazing to make that much progress; I felt really proud of myself. I even got my own paddle for my birthday. Again, I got plenty of advice on what to get and got in the boat even on a cold day. Suddenly winter training is another great challenge!
My advice for anyone wondering about trying it, is absolutely go for it! I’m really glad I kept at it; it has made such a massive difference to me, physically and mentally.
You feel like part of a family, always included and encouraged. I have seen the most amazing sportsmanship and friendliness at the competitions and at each session of training. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done!