Our Blog

Loving the change - back from retirement

Posted by Micheen Thornycroft | 29 May 2017

I am an Zimbabwean rower and I retired from full time training after racing in Rio in 2016. Having lived for as long as I can remember with a training program being the framework of my day, to suddenly have the freedom of waking up with absolutely no plans for the was quite a strange experience. Initially I enjoyed the freedom, but soon found myself searching for some kind of structure. I often felt anxious, like there was something I should be doing, or somewhere I should be, but yet there wasn’t.

I don’t think I dealt with it very well at first as I almost forced myself to take a break, stop training and try be ‘normal’ (I don’t know what I was thinking, what is the definition of being normal anyway? – stupid me). Anyways, it didn’t take long for me to feel unfit, uncomfortable and not very enthusiastic about life. After many hours of soul searching I realised that I started to row and loved rowing because I love to train, in fact I often used to say I love the training more than the racing, (that was until I joined the SA program where Roger Barrow said that the training program is so tough that what you go through in training should be harder than racing…..haha…..and he did his best to make the program live up to this!)

Realising that I love to exercise was a turning point for me, I started running again, joined the local CrossFit here in Grahamstown (yes it is like a cult – but it’s a healthy cult haha) and just started training for fun. If I did an ergo, I would put the screen setting on ‘calories’ so I would not try and sit at the splits that I used to train at (and feel bad for not being able to), when I ran, I wouldn’t take my tracking watch so that I didn’t try and beat my time, or run at a faster pace, I was learning to exercise just for fun again!

When I read about the Kafue trip, it appealed to me in every way, developing rowing in Southern Africa, bringing nations together, learning about and raising awareness for conservation, and doing all of this while taking part in an epic row! #winninginlife! So I have now started training harder, I let myself look at the spits on the ergo, I run with my tracking watch and am feeding the competitive side of myself again, and I’m loving it. I think I needed the break and to go through all the ‘phases of processing’ my elite career retirement, but I am now happy with the place I have reached and allowing myself to explore new goals and other dreams that I never used to have the time or energy to do so.

Maike is following a full rowing training program with the aim of racing at World Championships, and so I tag along to some of her sessions, otherwise I’m in the CrossFit cult gym every day, and some days running or cycling and exploring the hills of Grahamstown. For me the physical side of the Kafue expediting is where I am confident, but I am rather terrified of being in a small boat with the hippos and crocodiles so close to me. From spending lots of time on fishing trips along the Zambezi river I learnt early on they can be so unpredictable, and I am not exactly sure how to prepare myself for them…maybe I should be working on my sprint swimming techniques to get to the bank?! There are only 9 seats on the boats, and we have 16 rowers…….hmmmmmm…. replacements? Haha jokes, I know the expedition organisers are more experienced than I am with these kinds of things, and so I look forward to meeting them all and sharing this amazing experience with them and hopefully making an impact with raising awareness for coaching and conservation in Southern Africa.

Please help support this amazing cause and expedition by sponsoring one of the 900km that we will row.


Back to Blogs

Sign up for news and updates

And follow us on social media #rowzambezi

Please enter your name.

Please enter your email address.


Rupert & Buckley shield Logo
Mary Begg Clinic
Perivoli Schools Logo


Humble Co.
Green People
Isobaa logo
Fjern logo
Eton Excelsior RC
Lifestraw Logo
Oakley Logo
Melissa Supermarket

Research Partners