#TECH: Rowing with tech

SHE speaks in full enthusiasm when it comes to rowing as if she was born to take up this water sport. That's Lesley Lim, the current captain of the KL Barbarians Dragon Boat Team as well as the Malaysia Women Dragon Boat Team.

Lim (35) a lawyer by profession, has been in the Dragon Boat arena for 11 years now, and has been participating in Dragon Boat race competitions locally, as well as internationally, such as the Asian Games.

She became captain of the KL Barbarians Dragon Boat Team, and then was selected to be the national captain in 2018 to lead the team in the game.

How it started

Although Lim has been active in sports since her primary school days, her interest in Dragon started when she began practising as a lawyer.

"It started with a partner from one of the largest law firms in Malaysia who is very into this sport. So he gathered mostly lawyers at the beginning and formed the KL Barbarians Dragon Boat Team, which also means 'KL Bar Barians' where the word bar refers to the lawyers profession," said Lim.

However, today, the KL Barbarians Dragon Boat Team is made of people fro all sorts of professional backgrounds.

"We are the first open dragon boat team in the Klang Valley, which means anyone from any background can come and join us," she said.

Although Lim has been in the competitive sports since she was eight, she has never been in the water sports until she joined KL Barbarians.

Memorable race

"Although there are many other sports that require teamwork, like passing the ball, etc, I can say that there is no other sports that require teamwork like the dragon boating - where 20 people need to be in absolute synchronisation across the race distance and try to get the boat as quickly as you can to the finish line," she described in full of passion.

One of the most memorable ones is the ice dragon boat, where we went to inner Mongolia. It was when we paddled in minus 26 degree Celsius on a frozen lake.

"We had to use a special jersey to fit over our five layers of clothings," she said.

"Since we paddled on hard ice, they put sleds at the bottom of the boat and we used special paddles where it will catch the ice every time you press down, and we need to push forward and glide on the ice," she added.

"And the worst part was that we couldn't practise before we went ," she said.

What Lim loves most about the Dragon Boat sport is the team work that is required.

Training routines

Since most of us are working, we can only go to the water on weekends, as it is in Putrajaya Lake.

"So we spend Saturday and Sunday on the water, while the weekdays are spent at gyms. I personally do crossfit, while others may prefer the gym," said Lim, who will be at her favourite crossfit gym CrossFit Pahlawan in Ara Damansara, as early as 6am before heading to work later in the morning.

"Dragon boat athletes build their strength and fitness outside of the boat at gyms, and on weekends we do our training like the paddling techniques and aspects, and work together as a team on the water," she said.

"For the national team, what we are doing now is that we have pockets of training camps as the paddlers come from all over Malaysia, so we need to get together at one time and spend three to 10 days together, and train three times a day during these periods," explained Lim.

Now Lim and her team are preparing for the SEA Games, which will be held in May next year in Cambodia, and the bigger Asian Games in September next year in China.

Tech factor

According to Lim, when they started dragon boating in 2011, wearable GPS watches were just coming out and they were not friendly to the pocket at that time.

"And as technology matures and gadgets become more affordable, these devices are important to us because they allow us to check things like time, speed and distance.

And with the technology and sporting apps becoming more advanced, we can now track things like heart rate. This gives the coach a lot of insight into how the athletes are doing. For example, during an intensive training, the coach can check what's your maximum heart rate and from there he can see whether or not you are giving your full effort.

Besides that, the coach can also check your sleeping heart rate to see if you are resting and recovering well. The fitter you are, the lower your resting heart rate is, where 50 is the average.

Fitness+ and Rowing Collection

Currently, Lim is using Apple Watch to track and record her daily exercise routine.

"Technology has played a big part in helping us in finding tune a lot of things in our training. It gives a lot of insight to coaches because I coach as well. So use tech a lot," she said, adding that it helps athletes make more informed decisions," she said.

"Besides that, the Apple Watch app also reminds me to take a rest, do mindfulness," she added.

Apple recently, through the Fitness+ has introduced a new Rowing Collection called Train to Row a Fast 2000 Meters. This allows users to challenge themselves to improve speed and power as they race to that 2000 meter finish line (the distance of a standard rowing race). The Collection features a mix of shorter and longer intervals, so you can get the most out of every stroke across a variety of 10- to 20-minute workouts. The Rowing workouts in Fitness+ are led by trainers Bakari Williams, Anja Garcia and rowing world champion and Fitness+ trainer, Josh Crosby.

"For both beginners and elite athletes, our goal with the Fitness+ Rowing workouts and this Collection, is to engage and inspire people to meet their fitness goals. As a professional athlete and a third generation rower, I have seen how powerful the right mindset and coaching can be," said Crosby.

"I watched my father row as well as my grandfather, who rowed until he was 93, and both lived long and healthy lives. Rowing has been a part of Fitness+ since the beginning, because it is the ultimate cross trainer working over 80 per cent of your muscle mass and delivers a high caloric burn, improves flexibility and is low-impact. Rowing also requires mental focus and grit to get through the higher intensities or the challenge of a 2000m race," he said.

"These are among the tools that can be used to help us improve. Because we are not professionals, using all these will help us get those marginal gains," said Lim.

"The Fitness+ app and the Rowing Collection help us track certain biometrics, and with that we can make better decisions and get curated rowing exercises," she said.

"The rowing one attracted me because since we can't go into the water all the time, off the water we use rowing as part of our conditioning. Normally, people use running as part of the conditioning, but we use rowing because the same muscle groups are being used and we get almost the same movement, with the same objectives," she explained.

"I've trained with all the trainers but Josh is my favourite," she said.

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