The Benefits of Trying Something New in College

I wake up at 6am nearly every weekday and I think, “Why am I doing this to myself?” It’s been about four months since I joined DePaul’s Rowing team or crew. Every morning is more or less the same. When the weather is bad, we work out indoors. By work out, I don’t mean a light jog and some stretching. I mean pushing myself, “embracing the pain” as my coach would say, and powering through seemingly endless rowing workouts in order to be faster than the figurative boat besides me. On days when weather permits, my team and I carry the boats from the boathouse to the dock. My arms shake when I hold it above my head, and when the boat lowers, the edges dig deep in my shoulder. When practice is finally over, and I’m drenched in sweat or Chicago river water, I feel euphoric.

Despite the physical pain, early mornings, and intense time commitment, joining crew has made my college experience infinitely better. I hadn’t really worked out prior to crew, and I admit the idea of running on the treadmill for 10 minutes initially seemed daunting. Over time, however, I not only gained physical strength but my mental health also benefited. While I typically suffer from seasonal depression in the winter, I found that the quarter went by much easier. I didn’t have to worry about my physical health much because I took solace in the fact that practice would keep me in shape. In turn, my mental health improved because practice gave me a reason to wake up in the morning, as well as the dopamines from exercise, and a consistent sleep schedule.

Before crew at DePaul, I was extremely comfortable avoiding on-campus involvement. But I decided that for my first year in a new city and a new state, I would actively get out of my comfort zone and try something that was completely foreign to me. While I had some experience playing sports, I didn’t know the first thing about rowing. At my very first practice, I remember feeling proud that I knew how to use a rowing machine or erg. However, after a few seconds of watching me, my coach told me I’d have to learn to use it properly. I felt frustrated when things didn’t come naturally to me. During the first few weeks of practice, I struggled to even finish the workouts. I felt embarrassed when comparing myself to my teammates’ performance. “I’m so slow. My body wasn’t made to work out. I’ll never get this down.” Negative thoughts echoed in my head each practice and often throughout the day. I simply didn’t think I was cut out for it.

However, over time, I gained experience. Workouts became less painful, and after each workout, I could feel myself getting stronger. I became familiar with the sport’s terminology and technique. At the beginning of my crew experience, I felt like the worst athlete ever, and that I was weighing down the team. As the season progressed, however, I gained confidence in myself and my abilities to tackle any challenge I set my mind to. For the first time in a while, I decided to branch out and learn something new. Although I struggled at times, I am fortunate to say that something that used to scare me now excites me. I look forward to looking over the water and watching the sunrise in the mornings. I appreciate how sore I feel after each practice, and the runner’s high that accompanies it. I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve formed. Lastly, I am most content that I committed to something I never fathomed I would be able to do, start a new sport in college.