Rowing Out of Your Comfort Zone
By Emma Dale. Posted in Blog

For the last few months, as part of my Female Confidence Booster workshops, I’ve been coaching women on how to build up their confidence take risks and move out of their comfort zone. As a coach, it’s important to practise what I preach and I have certainly done that recently.

One year ago I moved to Cambridge, England from Hong Kong. Making new friends in a new place is always difficult, but thanks to pandemic-related lockdowns it was nearly impossible. So I decide to take matters into my own hands. I made the decision to start an activity where I could meet new people, keep up my fitness and also try something new. Rowing seemed to tick all the boxes.

Just like dragon boating is a classic Hong Kong sport, rowing is a classic Cambridge sport. I signed up for a beginners course and over a few months gradually learnt new skills both inside and outside the boat. All the terminology was baffling at first but I took it step by step and allocated time to get up to speed.

“I was terrified of letting the other women down”

Once I completed the beginners course I was qualified to row in an 8-seater boat with other female rowers. This was scary as its very different to learning in a tub which is a much sturdier boat. Plus, the other women had been rowing together for a while so there was no chance of me quietly slipping into the group unnoticed. I felt the fear, my heart was racing and I was terrified of letting the other women down if my technique failed me.

After only two sessions in the boat, I was invited to be part of Cambridge Bumps, a race that has been going since the 1820s. The request for me to take part was not because I was a good rower – far from it – it was because they needed a bum on a seat. I was so tempted to say ‘no’, but I didn’t want to disappoint these women. They had been incredibly supportive and encouraging despite my mistakes; misunderstanding instructions from the cox, missing strokes, etc. Nevertheless, I accepted the challenge and signed up to take part in two races.

What made me think that I could row?

As the day of the race approached I felt so anxious. My imposter syndrome raised its head and I felt like a complete fraud. What made me think I could row? My inner critic told me I would fail which left me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. About an hour before the race, the heavens opened with a massive thunderstorm. Was this my way out? Would the race be cancelled? Despite my hopes, the storm was short-lived and blue skies soon reappeared. My husband reassured me by saying it would all be okay and that I might actually enjoy it. He was right! Despite the initial panic, I approached my fear and rowed right through it. After the race – and no, we didn’t win! – I was so proud of myself and actually had a huge buzz.

From this experience I learnt that when you face your fear:

  • It’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be
  • You feel immensely proud of yourself afterwards
  • Perfection is pointless, progression is a much more of a realistic goal
  • It is possible to reframe the racing heart as excitement not fear
  • You’re more likely to take a risk if you’re accountable to others
  • You can reframe the inner critic with positive thoughts and support from those around you

The only questions remaining are: “When is the next race, and how can I sign up?”

From Emma

To learn more about how to manage your inner critic, take risks, move out of your comfort zone and build up your confidence to achieve your goals, sign up to Emma’s Female Confidence Booster workshop on 14th September or 19th October. Spaces are limited, so don’t miss out.