Why I love rowing

Jennifer Moffat, PhD (front), with rowing partner, Mindy Holgate. Moffat is an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Upstate.

Jennifer Moffat, PhD (front), with rowing partner, Mindy Holgate. Moffat is an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Upstate.

BY JENNIFER MOFFAT

  1. It gives me something for myself. Soon after I moved here from California in 1999, when my girls were just 2 and 4, I went to a wellness program at the high school, and a woman there spotted me and said, “Hey, you’re strong. Why don’t you join me?
  2. On national “Learn to Row Day” — which takes place June 6 this year — I just thought pulling on that oar was the best thing I’d ever done. I was with a great group of women, some a little older, some a little younger, but all of us grown-ups and ready to get out there and try something challenging.
  3. I like being outdoors, and I love Cazenovia Lake.
  4. Rowing is highly aerobic. You can push yourself to a point where it’s very intense. You get out of it what you put into it. You can challenge yourself, or you can take it easy.
  5. It’s a really good full-body workout. All the power of your legs gets transferred to your core. It is really tough on your hands, and we don’t wear gloves. So you have to deal with blisters on your hands.
  6. Rowing is the kind of thing where you can become proficient very quickly, but it takes years to master.
  7. You learn a universal language. The crazy vocabulary of rowing is a real tradition.
  8. You can jump in a boat and row with anyone. I travel for my job as a scientist. I contact rowing clubs when I travel and join them. I’ve gone rowing in Madison, Wis., San Diego and Finland.
  9. You really don’t have to invest in a lot of clothing. We wear tight spandex shorts or tights in order not to get caught in the rowing seat. And we don’t even wear shoes over our socks. The shoes are built into the boat. Rowers wear some kind of shirt that’s not too long in back. And hats and sunglasses.
  10. What’s really appealing to me is how you get a really sort of calming, focusing experience. It’s very present tense. It’s highly meditative. You do the stroke over and over again, and every time you try to make it the best stroke. You end up feeling very refreshed, mentally. Your body is exhausted, but your mind is refreshed. You feel like you’ve had a break from all the other thoughts in your head.
  11. Most of our races are on Onondaga Lake, or in Rochester or Albany. Now and then we row in Boston. As a novice my first year I won a gold medal. Hundreds of people of all ages show up for the regattas. It’s usually a day trip when you get up really early. It’s a big picnic. You watch other people race, you cheer your team, you set up a food tent.
  12. Both daughters became rowers around eighth grade. Laurel is the older one. She participated in the rowing program at Fayetteville-Manlius High School and attends Cornell University now. Last summer she was an assistant coach for the Cazenovia Rowing Club. Dana is the younger one. She is an FM High School senior who won a silver medal in the World Rowing Junior Racing Championships in Hamburg, Germany, last summer. Later, she competed in the Youth Olympics in China. I derive a lot of joy watching their efforts.

This article appears in the spring 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

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