Michelle Thorkelson is on a mission to achieve her dream of being involved in the National Rowing Program. She is a very dedicated athlete who has called Talisman Centre home this winter.

Where are you from?
I was born in Vancouver and raised in beautiful Barrie, Ontario.

Why did you move to Calgary?
I moved here to attend U of C after completing three years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario.

What did you take in school?
Back in Ontario I was a biology major. When I came to Calgary I focused on geology, more specifically hydrogeology. Now I work in the oil & gas industry. Go figure.

How did you get involved in the sport of rowing?
I was first exposed to rowing at Laurentian by their rowing club. I took a learn to row course and sort of left it at that for a while. When I moved to Calgary, I dabbled in the U of C Rowing Club before I started competitive rowing in 1999. My first full competitive season was the summer of 2000 here in Calgary.

What success stories do you have to share?
I have been fortunate enough to have trained with some very good teammates. Sometimes memorable successes happen when everything comes together during a really tough training session on the water.

Podium success stories?
I competed for the Alberta rowing team for three consecutive seasons. I won a silver medal in the pairs event, and a few bronze medals in other events at the Canada Cup of Rowing in Montreal. I've made it to the finals a handful of times in crew boats at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in St. Catherines, Ontario, perhaps Canada's top rowing regatta. That was fun.

What are your goals?
My number one goal is to be involved in the National Rowing Team program. This is what I am training for. In the meantime, I would like to achieve my personal best 2000m time this summer.

Have you had any injuries during your career?
In 2002 I suffered a serious back injury. I continued to push through it until the end of the 2003 season, where I was diagnosed with 2 herniated disks in my lower back. I spent two and a half years in and out of physiotherapy, and didn't get on the water at all during that time. I thought that my career may have been over. Last summer, I felt good enough to return to active competition. I was very pleased with my season after the long layoff.

When not training, what do you do?
Not training? (Laughs). In the winter, during the offseason, I try to spend as much time with my friends as possible, to let them know that I am still alive, and to find balance. In the summer, I am usually up at 4:30 am to get onto the water for practice. That isn't very conducive to an active social life. If I have days off, I get out of the city for some mountain biking or camping with friends. My career as a geologist is important to me, so I am trying to foster that as well.

What is your training schedule like?
In the off-season, during the winter months, I workout between 6-9 times a week. These include erg (rowing machine) workouts and weight lifting to maximizing strength and core stability. In the summer our practice schedule ramps up to 8-11 workouts per week. When we get on the water in May, the focus shifts a bit to technique, endurance, and race strategy.

How does the coaching you've received from the Athletic Performance Enhancement Program compare to other coaching that you have received?
I have had great team coaches at rowing clubs although it's inherently different than a personal coach. The difference has been the attention to detail. My coach is making sure that I'm training for improvement, and at the same time, for specific injury prevention. We have open dialog about what's going on physically and that gives me confidence that my workouts are appropriate. My coach's dedication and time spent on programming really stands out.

What do you do to stay focused and not just give in?
Challenge, that's what I use. The drive to constantly improve is what keeps me focused. The sport itself is incredible. The sensation you get when you're gliding across the water as the sun rises and the fog lifts, with nothing but the sound of your oars slicing the water is what gets me out of bed at 4:30 am.

When is your next competition?
My most recent competition was the Alberta Indoor Rowing Championships March 24th in Red Deer. My first on-water regatta this year was in May (Michelle won this event!).

What do you like about the training at Talisman Centre?
I love the competitive atmosphere of the Athletic Training Zone. There is a common thread among the athletes and we push each other to work hard. The coaching staff is top quality and I appreciate the different performance enhancement options under one roof. When time is an issue, it is incredibly helpful to be able to talk with my coach, do a workout, consult a nutritionist, and when needed, a physiotherapist, all without having to leave the facility!

What is your best memory of the sport?
I have so many fantastic memories from over the years, I don't know where to start. Actually, I'd say the best hasn't happened yet. I'll tell you at the end of my career, when I look back on everything. My best memory is yet to come. Any advice you can give to those interested in rowing? Try rowing if you want a fun, full-body, athletic experience. And if you compete in rowing or any sport, give it all you've got because the possibilities may surprise you.


Mon - Fri 5am - 11pm
Saturday 6am - 10pm
Sunday 7am - 10pm
No registered classes on statutory holidays

2225 Macleod Trail S.
Calgary AB T2G 5B6
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