Last Updated: Tue Jul 12, 2011 02:08 am (KSA) 23:08 pm (GMT)

Mimi Raad: The rowing experience

Muscles burning, body slicked with sweat, hands sticky with popped blisters -- that was part of a routine that lasted for almost two years. Few years back I had the opportunity of becoming a part of this crazy, masochistic world, the rowing one. Even when I thought I would pass out from exhaustion, I loved every bit of effort, discipline and self- satisfaction.

I still remember this afternoon, when with my cousin, Myrna, heading to our kick boxing class we passed by the area where the Lebanese Army train for rowing and we thought why don’t we try rowing? We approached the person in charge and asked what it takes to join, it was easier than we thought: Discipline he said.

So there we were every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday learning to row on machines in a monastic gym room, with Mohammed punching buttons to harden our exercises, shouting if we showed fatigue and encouraging us to hit more energetically more strides. A session of martial abdominals and we were sent home totally beaten. I learned how to sweep, how best to treat blisters, clean the boat, pull it from the shelves in the hangar and slide it into water…There was a lot to do before, during and after rowing.

Rowing requires a combination of concentration, endurance, strength, and technique. Novices focus on learning technique; once you have the gist of how to row properly, then you can worry about timing and how much power you use and you start enjoying the scenery and the feeling of floating.

I still remember all those afternoons at sunset, Myrna and I as a tandem, rowing rhythmically and so synchronized, the boat sliding in the still water of the Beirut bay, reflecting the orangey sun shades. To be in the center of a vast expanse of swirling, rushing, sparkling water is exhilarating!

Mohammed was never too far, in his small motor boat following us he used to shout instructions and he would break my reverie; yes reverie, our rhythm was so rhythmic, the muscles so well trained that exercising was a pleasure, and the mind used to go far, very far in a serene place...and a feeling of connection with nature and grace.

As we carried the boat back to the trailer after rowing for an hour and half, we were exhausted and our muscles screamed in pain, but we walked happy knowing that we pushed our limits and the satisfaction is unspeakable.

(Mimi Raad of Al Arabiya is an image consultant who also blogs at She welcomes hearing from readers at: She is actively looking for a rowing companion)

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