Last week I went on my first crew lesson with Shen Crew. A few weeks ago I spotted rowers in a crew boat rowing down the Mohawk River, on my way to the grocery store. I decided I was going to try that and blog about it. Then the next day, as I scrolled through my Instagram feed, I came across a blogger (@IloveNYYall), an avid rower and crew class member. She led me to Shen Crew in Alplaus near Clifton Park. That is how I ended up trying my first rowing class on a brisk sunny fall Friday.
There were 8 of us. After a group huddle, our instructor Rob and his assistant coach Eric decided to divide us into two groups of four, the “newbie” group and the “seasoned” group. We started out by showing the beginners proper rowing form on the Erg in the practice room. I quickly learned that my normal rowing technique was faulty. Rob taught me how to focus on proper alignment so that my rowing arms don’t get tied up with my knees when I row in the water. The three other relative newcomers practiced along side me. After 20 minutes or so he instructed us to carry the oars to the dock. One of the women told me that the worst part of this whole morning for me would be carrying the boat to the dock, and she was right! Our coxswain of the day, shouted out quick orders, and before I knew it I was helping my fellow crew members carry the boat down to the dock. It was very heavy, but manageable. (Rowing does require a certain level of fitness, besides being able to swim and tread water for ten minutes). I’m relatively fit, but the task of lifting the boat reminded me that I should include strength training in my work outs. A nice woman named Candace was in the first seat in front of me. She had rowed before, but she was new.
Before sitting in the boat, everyone secured their oars in oarlocks with the screws. That was a bit tricky because I had to balance myself over the boat to lock the oar in. This is a tiny easy task for a regular rower though. I removed my sneakers so that I could fit my feet into the canvas-type tie up slippers in the crew vessel. After a few more adjustments to our seats, we were all ready to go. Rob led us through a few exercises and pointers, and the back two rowers (bow pair) did the rowing at first, while Candace and I “rested” the boat keeping it balance. Basically we just put our ours even on the water.
I felt invigorated and a bit scared out on the water my first time. As Rob tagged behind us in a motorized boat, I tried to focus on his instructions and quiet my mind from thinking “You’re in the middle of the river, and you don’t know what you’re doing! You’re going to sink!” Soon I realized that the great thing about rowing, besides feeling at one with nature, is that you have to be in the moment to get through it and enjoy it.
I relaxed. I felt like I was getting the hang of it. Rob asked Candace and I if we were ready to row. I said, “Sure. I guess so!”
Rowing in the water is a lot different than practicing on the Erg. My mind remembered what to do, but it took a few minutes for my arms, back, and legs to catch up. There were a few strokes when I thought, I was in the zone with the team, but it is a sport that takes time to learn. Rob mentioned that the beginning is intense as there are so many terms to learn at once, but every time I return I will be better. At one point, a man sailing a small motor boat, waved and said “Good morning!” to us, and I thought, “How cool to be on this gorgeous Mohawk River passing by other river enthusiasts.” I haven’t returned yet due to scheduling conflicts, but rowing is something I’d definitely love to continue one day. For more info on joining these classes, please contact Shencrew.com. The fall season ends at the end of October. The class I went to met at 9:15 and ended around 11: 15 am. It’s a great work out! Rates vary depending what point you start at during the season. Shen Crew, 801 Maritime Drive, Alplaus, NY.