I don't think I've handled an oar since I rowed crew at Smith in the late '60's. Nor have I given much thought to boats or boating. So I was surprised when a cardiologist and rowing enthusiast I was interviewing the other day described rowing as a "full-body workout." You row with your arms, yes? But where does the rest of the body come in?
In fact, you don't really row with your arms. "You are really pushing the boat through the water with your leg muscles," explained Dr. Tony Lovell. "You thrust with your legs: you are pushing the seat away. You pull with your arms and your shoulders; you finish with your abdomen by doing a little bit of a sit-up. Then you lean back at the end of your stroke. And because it's repetitive, it’s wonderful cardiovascular stuff."
He went on to say that women develop skill in rowing more easily than men, because they have "more kinastheologic sense" to start with, although men eventually overtake them in competition because of their superior strength.
I also spoke with Jonathan Moss, five-time national rowing champion and Rowing Hall of Famer. He described watching bald eagles overhead as he sculled on the Connecticut and Westfield Rivers. According to JM, 75% of the members in the rowing program he's involved with are women, and one member is 93 years old.
Wow. Anything that involves sitting down, in the sun, watching bald eagles, while getting a full-body workout, that even a 93-year-old can do, sounds like it might be for me. It's all I can do not to rush down to the Pioneer Valley Yacht Club and sign myself up first thing in the morning.
As the Water Rat so aptly put it in that great pastoral novel, The Wind in the Willows (wrongheadedly assumed by many to be simply a book for children), "there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."