A Primer for U of T Dragon Boat

Edited by Sophia Savva

New sports can be daunting, I know! New team dynamics, new muscles, new skills sets, new jargon, new approaches to competition and success… It can be a lot.

I am now entering my fifth week of training with University College’s Dragon Boat team.

I didn’t expect to join a Dragon Boat team when I returned for my second year at UTSG, but when my friend Noah approached me while I was doing closed-grip cable rows and asked to work in—to take turns with me on the cables—I had a strong gut feeling that Dragon Boat would be what I needed. I missed being on a team and I was already doing cardio and weights on my own. I realize now that I also missed being on the water and I am excited for the season.

Maybe Dragon Boat is right for you, maybe it isn’t. It was not right for me last year and now I am thrilled to be a part of it. 

The team is a competitive one, but we do not have regatta, or boat races, until the summer. Until then, we train with weights, bodyweights, and short-distance cardio, especially HIIT or high-intensity interval training, in the Athletic Center.

On weekends, we work out at Hart House or, weather permitting, at a park. Of course, my definition of short-distance is generally anything under five kilometers of running, but there is more focus on explosiveness and brief intensity relative to me running long-distance.

A lot of my strength-training has been with slower tempo so that I can pay special attention to my form, because injury subverts my goal of health and wellbeing. Going faster just means training differently and using my body in a different way that is both unfamiliar, with prioritization of different muscle sets, tempos, and reps, and familiar, because skills and mentalities I have practiced before are transferring over.

Don’t worry if you’re not there yet! The team welcomes novices of all skill levels and the veteran members are kind and supportive. There is no need to be intimidated by them casually doing one-armed pull-ups. I’m impressed, but not intimidated.

There are going to fitness tests soon to measure our progress and so the veterans can better assess who will be on the racing team in the summer. Things tested include bench pressing, pull-ups, and erg, or rowing machine--ergometer, times for 500-meter and 1000-meter distances. 

Dragon Boat training means an emphasis on lateral, or back, muscles, and overall upper body, and high-intensity brief cardio, but it is a whole-body sport. You can expect a range of cardio exercises and intensities and you will use lower body and abs.  

As I said, the experienced members are kind and supportive, and their role is to help correct your form, so you stay safe, engage the appropriate muscles, and complete the motion with the greatest efficiency. 

Here's UC's Water Dragon's FAQ page for more information. Here you can find profiles for all of U of T's undergraduate teams and links to their websites, by searching "dragon boat."