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Life as an Australian Rower

Gen Horton, a member of the Australian Rowing team, gives us a glimpse into the life of an Australian Rower when at the AIS European Training Centre. 

AIS Training Centre Europe

Where is the Training Centre?

The AIS European Training Centre - our ‘home away from home’ is located just over an hours’ drive from Milan in Northen Italy, in a humble town called Gavirate. We are fortunate enough to be based close to some of Italy’s famous lakes, such as Como and Maggiore but our home lake which we row in is called Lago di Varese. Being located so close to the Swiss border (around 30 minutes), we’re treated to some breathtaking views of the snowcapped Swiss alps on a clear day, and makes for some picturesque rows!

What is a day in the life of the training centre like? 

Training CentreA day for us will usually start at around 6am, which is considered a sleep in for most rowers! A 10 minute walk and we arrive at Gavirate Rowing Club where we’ll complete our first session for the day, which is our big work load session. Some days we’ll paddle around the lake, and others all the boats in our team will ‘race’ against each other in set pieces.

After our second breakfast and a brief break, we have our indoor session for the day, which involves weights in the gym, doing core circuits or extra cross training. All of the women train as a squad together in the gym at the same time, which can make it quite busy! The mens’ squad have handy advice to make the best use of this situation - being that the louder the yelling and smacking of weight plates in the gym, the larger gains there are to be made. After gym we then have a few hours physical break, where we may take time for physio treatment, use the recovery pools or to have a video/biomechanic feedback session with our coaches. We also find the time to indulge in some rowers most favoured activities, such as additional eating or sleeping!

PizzaIn the afternoon, we’re back down at the sheds for an afternoon row, mainly focusing on technique. It’s common down at Gavirate Rowing Club to find ourselves out on the water amongst a swarm of very young kids all in single sculls, they learn how to row before they start school here!

We have the option to eat dinner provided at the ETC, or we can walk up into town for a pizza, and it’s common practice for locals and athletes alike is to have a whole pizza (or two) to themselves in one sitting! The gelato stores around town stay open till late so the option for dessert is nearly always taken up.

When you are training and competing in Europe, do you ever feel like you are on holiday?

In the thick of a training block, we can accumulate many days at a time where we are only leaving the ETC to train and nothing else! When there is so much more involved in our daily programs than just rowing on the water, there are many days where we only have time to squeeze in a nap during the day. Many of us also continue our studies which requires many hours as well, so for us it is business as usual, just in a different location.

It is the little things which we enjoy that allow us to take in our surroundings and enjoy where we are, like enjoying the towns festivities (such as the asaparagus and strawberry festival - amazing what can be done with 2 foods!), grabbing a café crema from the café on our walk back from the sheds, or just simply taking in the amazing mountain views out on the lake.

When we have the opportunity to be able to commit ourselves to rowing full time, it never really feels like work either as it’s something that I love and enjoy! Rowing has taken me to many cities around Europe that I don’t think I would have visited otherwise, so I feel privileged that I have been able to travel and see so much.

Rowing Australia are close to completing the new boat house in Penrith for the women’s training centre. How have you adapted to life in Penrith since you relocated from Sydney last year? 

The move to Penrith in the beginning of this year felt like a natural progression, as with the water in Sydney getting increasingly busier, many clubs have been spending more and more time training out on the Nepean and at the Regatta Centre. To be able to train on some of Australia’s best pieces of water daily has been a great boost to our training. Cutting out the travel times of 2 hours per day which I experienced training in Sydney has also made a great difference in my training and wellbeing.

Although many were hesitant to the idea moving away to Penrtih at first, we have come to truly embrace it as our home, becoming regular faces at Panthers and many of the new cafes that have been popping up around town. As we are quite busy during the week, Sundays are the only day when we have a full day to ourselves, and we always have somewhere to explore like the rockpools in Mulgoa, the Blue Mountains up the road, or if we really want to go to the beach, it is just over an hours drive away, compared the the 3 hour drive to the coast in Canberra!


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