4 Essentials For Rowers
Written by Philip Doyle
I started rowing in 2014. I spent the first four years as a university athlete with an average of eight rowing sessions a week and then joined the national team in 2019, rowing full-time for four years with 12 rowing sessions a week, minimum. I have amassed enough rowing sessions to understand what my body likes, what my body needs, and what makes and breaks good rowing gear. You have to find a balance in the quality of the gear. Is it thick enough? Is it warm enough? Does it wash well? Does it look good? Does it fit my body and provide protection from the wind and rain? These all factor into which gear I wear and why!
JL Racing sent me over a nice box of gear this year to try and give honest feedback on. I had previously had JL gear through their provision of the national team gear in Ireland in 2018 and also when I joined Team JL 2018 in my last year of university rowing. I was excited as I was still to this day wearing their JL Racing t-shirts day to day as I loved the quality and how well they washed and could be used over and over. They also sat on my shoulders and arms really nicely, which was a bonus for the ego. Looking good in clothes can never be a bad thing.
I have compiled my must-haves for a rowing session and why:
The humble one piece or all in one or unisuit - known by many names it’s by far the most used piece of rowing gear I have. It can be completely solo, on an erg session with nothing more than socks and a good pair of erg shoes. Or, it can set the foundations for a multi-layer ensemble that will take you through rain, wind or snow. The key features are the thickness of the lycra - not too thin, not too thick. The quality of the stitching and the proportions of the legs and torso so that it fits the body well. The last thing you want is it pulling down from your shoulders or too tight on your legs. Swapping one-pieces with other nations has made me really value the quality of the one piece.
2. Gilet / Turtleshell
The Gilet or turtleshell - for some reason myself and many other rowers seem to love to have short or even no sleeves when rowing. The gilet fits perfectly into the bracket of bringing warmth centrally to the core and also allows the arms to move freely and work during the training session. The JL gilet I have been trying out fits well to the torso. It isn’t too tight on the arms cutting circulation to the armpits and it has a great quality zippered pocket on the back for energy gels or whatever you please. The dual colour front and back with high vis yellow is also perfect for an inner-city dusk or dawn session, with the need for a higher visibility.
Socks - the simple sock! This unassuming garment will sometimes make or break your session. Rowing shoes can be too big or small. Even if you have your own personal skull, repeated heel rubbing can strain even the thickest skin. Having comfortable and high-quality socks is key for a pain free training session.
The baselayer - having a breathable and well fitted baselayer, sitting nicely on your upper body, allowing breathability and free movement without restricting your neck. Neck restriction is sometimes the biggest issue I find. If you feel like if you can’t breathe well during a session then you are never going to be able to perform to your best. You can't have restrictions in your arms or feel like you can’t twist your torso. JL sent me a Zip Tech baselayer that is all black and thick and flexible. It fits well and has no restrictions. The ¼ zip allows me to alter how breathable it is on my chest and keeps any restriction to my neck down.
Performance gear is supposed to allow us to do exactly that, Perform! Finding good-quality, well-priced, well-designed rowing gear is key for allowing your body to perform at its best on the day you need it too. These 4 rowing essentials will get you through most rowing sessions. A focus on quality and affordability with the ability to repeat sessions over and over again - improving each time is what I want as an elite rower.