A couple of weeks ago a group of women from two English universities made sporting history. This year's BNY Mellon boat race, for the first time ever, included the women's race on the same day and on the same course as the men's race. It was clear to me, one of the 4.3million viewers who turned on to watch it, that it was a victory for women, not Oxford.
The boat race might not quite be the Olympics, but as the buzz from the race dies down, I'm hoping it leaves a legacy of its own. I hope that it encourages women to look at rowing in a new light, maybe even give it a go! As those women proved, rowing isn't just for men.
You see, I'm a university student and an avid rower, so I found this year's boat race particularly exciting. For all my passion, unlike the girls in the boat race, I'm nowhere near as skilled. But I don't think that matters. Rowing for me isn't just about distance, speed or intensity - it's about getting up and doing something that makes you feel great (especially afterwards, when you're drinking a well-deserved frappuccino!)
I'm one of the women featured in the This Girl Can campaign, which is all about encouraging women to get active. Being part of the campaign has made me aware of how the fear of judgement can hold women (and once myself) back from getting active - whether that's being worried about not being good enough or worrying about how you look when exercising.
I've come a long way. I was the girl who faked sick notes and used every trick in the book to avoid P.E. because I was so embarrassed to be seen sweating and ashamed of my lack of co-ordination. I still prefer to do sports like running, climbing and rowing (in the gym) where often the only person I'm competing against is myself, just to take that pressure off. But when I catch myself in the gym mirror after a rowing session - out of breath, sweaty and with a huge smile on my face - I realise how far I've come.
I'm aware that rowing has a reputation of being unfeminine, even 'butch'. Sure, I get blisters on my hands but that's pretty badass. To me, they're a sign that I've worked hard and my body is reminding me of that.
So, if the boat race didn't do it, here are my top five reasons why you might want to give rowing a go...
1. No one can judge your ability. No one knows what you're working to when you're rowing - they don't know how fast or long you've been rowing for - you can do as little or as much as you want.
2. It's a great escape. I'll put my headphones in and zone out and completely go for it.
3. It's great when you're busy. Rowing is easy to fit into a busy schedule, as its high intensity so you don't have to do it for very long to get a really good workout. It's also something you can do with friends which is a great motivation and a good way to fit in a catch-up.
4. It's an amazing workout. I've learned to embrace and love the fact that it makes me really red faced and sweaty and if I'm not dripping with sweat when I finish, I don't feel like I've worked hard enough! I've realised that no one else cares how you look when you're exercising, it's only you that it bothers. Don't let it, a bit of sweat never hurt anyone!"
5. Rowing in the gym isn't weather dependent - and you don't have to be a pro. It's a great full body workout, which can be quick to fit into most lifestyles and with indoor machines, whatever the weather as well!