How I find balance – August 2015

How competitive rowing helps Eric Johnstone keep his balance.

Eric Johnstone, 38, director of financial reporting and analysis, People Corp., and competitive rower, Winnipeg

Rowing has been really good or my mental health — it gets me away from always being focused on work. When you’re frustrated and feeling the pressure of work life, for example, you can physically express some energy and put things into context. People think about rowing in an elite context, because it’s Canada’s most decorated summer Olympic sport, but it’s actually pretty accessible. [In the past] I wasn’t athletic, and I have mobility issues with my ankle, so to finally find a physical outlet that spoke to me was really important.

I’m part of an organized program, with a coach who’s guiding us, and I do a lot of single work as well as work in crew boats. I like the mix. Rowing does a lot to encourage teamwork and being part of a community, but there are definitely times when it’s great to be on your own, to just put your head down and do your own thing. On a nice, calm day, when you’re not pushing too hard, it’s very peaceful. On those days when you are pushing hard because you’re doing race pieces [a type of practice] it’s intense but you’re with your crewmates, so there’s a team thing going on that draws you in.

There’s a bit of irony in the title "How I Find Balance." Racing shells, or boats, are long and light — my single is about 28 feet long and weighs about 14 kilograms. When rowing these narrow, lightweight boats on the water, balance is a huge issue. I’m a reasonably big guy (six feet one inch tall), so I have power; the trick is trying to find balance.

As told to Wendy Haaf