Two weekends ago, my fiancée and I attended National Learn to Row day where rowing clubs all over the country hosted free rowing seminars to teach lay people proper rowing form, boating terminology, and the spirit of rowing. We attended an incredibly fun 3 hour session at East Bay Rowing Club. The workout was split into five 35 minute seminars with small breaks in between each session.

The first seminar was a history of the boat boating club itself. When the city initially gave up the boat house, a lot of private organizations stepped up and formed private boat houses. In order to give both working adults and Oakland children an opportunity to do team building activities and actively take them away from a gang lifestyle, most of these boat houses allow any school-aged children to row for free, and they sponsol Oakland Technical high school’s competitive rowing team.

The second seminar was learning about the varios parts of the boat, how heavy it was (we actually got to lift it), the price (a new boat costs about $40,000!), and the various mechanics of how they’re assembled.

We then had a phenomenal set of three workout seminars on a a beautiful Oakland day. We started with the erg machine and learned proper form. They really broke down the rowing form into its discrete parts in order to to drill in proper form:

  • extend with knees
  • pull back back
  • pull arms towards body

And then repeat in the exact opposite order (let go of arms, move in with body, compress knees, and go even further forward).

After the erg session, we had a great core workout. Real crew rowing, unlike most of the gym rowing, relies mostly on core and leg power to drive as much power as possible. Pushing off from the latch position as hard as possible to force the oars through the water with as much speed as possbile while returning to the latch position extremely gently with a relaxed grip the entire time is a careful, deliberate balance. After an intense set of pushups, burpees, and other classic HIIT exercises, we then moved over to a final seminar - the actual reason we came there: rowing on the water.

Rowing was amazingly fun. The biggest challenge is staying in sync with the person directly in front of you. There was something incredibly serene about the pure focus it requires - especially when you’re first starting out and you have incredibly bad form. It takes basically all your concentration to try and have any semblance of a good, let alone perfect, stroke. That combined with keeping formation and order with the person in front of and behind you requires basically all of your focus. Something as trivial as keeping pace can be quite difficult when you have choppy, uneven waters.

All in all, rowing was incredibly fun, even if it’s not my cup of tea. Keeping in line with my philosophy of try anything at least once, I’m definitely glad I did it. And it was one heck of a workout.