Rowing through the sea and beyond

It took a broken heart and a little bit of fate to land in the sea. Well, technically a dragonboat in the sea.

It was the summer of 2016 when life hit me real hard that I was emotionally unstable and was constantly looking for things to distract myself with. By chance, I came across an ad for a summer training program with the DLSU Dragon Boat Team. I had been wanting to join, because people weren’t intimidating, and it didn’t seem like I needed to be muscular and fit to be able to join. For someone who’s not really the athletic type, team sports was not a thing. I was the kind of girl that people tried to avoid choosing during team games because I just wasn’t fast enough. My reflexes aren’t great either, but strength and endurance was something I can work towards -- slowly, but surely. And the team helps me grow faster and stronger.

Dragon Boat is all about speed as much as it is about strength. If you think that a water sport wouldn’t need a lot of land training, think again. Trainings are held four times a week at 4:30 in the morning. You have to get up hours before the sun comes up, travel to Manila Bay, stretch for a bit, and then, surprise -- you run, lift weights, and do a lot of calisthenics. Even though strength training is primarily for back and arm muscles, overall endurance still matters because, as they always say, you never know if the race would require ten, twenty, or a hundred more strokes and you just have to keep going. Dragon Boat is a test of mindset more than anything.

Mindset is what keeps you going when you’ve only had an hour of sleep and you try to decide whether or not you should still go to training. It’s the same thing that keeps you going when you’ve been rowing nonstop for 30 long minutes. You try to convince yourself that you’re not tired yet, and when that doesn’t work, you just hold it out one stroke at a time because there’s no such thing as stopping when you haven’t heard the captain say, “Easy”. You partner the “never-give-up” with the “finish-strong” mindset, distribute power in the right ways, and you end up with a determined team that trains for months to win a single race.

Ultimately, my love for the sport is fueled by the team (because definitely not the dirty waters of Manila Bay, haha). Aside from being fun and fulfilling, the DLSU Dragon Boat Team would probably not be able to stick it out for more than 10 years if they didn’t have the right culture. They make sure you learn how to encourage each other, compliment someone when they’re doing great, and correct them if they’re not. Being surrounded by people who are passionate about becoming stronger and faster pushed me to pursue health and strength in my own personal life. I started eating right, lifting weights at the gym to gain strength, running to improve my speed and endurance, and adapting the right mindset in everything I do.

Team building at Tali Beach, Batangas.

In the end, it didn’t even take a month before I started moving on from my own heart break, and I know that no matter what life throws at me, I’ll shout back at it with, “Kaya pa!”*

A rare sight at Manila Bay. :)

* - I can take it!

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