When Tracey Corbett was diagnosed with arthritis in her knees, it brought an abrupt and unexpected end to her running career.
The news was a crushing blow to the White Rock resident, who had been running competitively for five years and had eight marathons to her credit already – with plans for many more.
“I was totally devastated because I just loved it,” Corbett, 38, told Peace Arch News.
Thankfully, she didn’t have to give up the activity completely – she just had to adjust. Her doctor told her if she wanted to continue lacing up her sneakers, she’d have to run on surfaces softer than the hard pavement she had become accustomed to, and which had damaged her knees.
So marathons were out, but trail running was OK.
That switch was what led her to the trails around South Surrey’s Nicomekl River, and what ultimately led her to discover a completely different sport – rowing.
“I started to run down by the Nicomekl, and I ran into rowers coming off the water,” she explained.
Intrigued, she stopped to chat with the rowers about the sport, and about their group, the Nicomekl Rowing Club. One of the first people she spoke with at the side of the river was the club’s Learn to Row program co-ordinator, Sandy Snow, who encouraged her to sign up and give it a try.
Corbett signed up soon after, and took part in the Learn to Row program last summer. She’s been hooked ever since.
“I literally ran into a new sport, so it was pretty cool that way,” she said. “I’ve been doing it consistently since then. It’s been pretty crazy – I’ve just gone head-first into it.”
Though still a relative novice compared to some longtime club members, Corbett has found success on the water, and various local regattas have given her a new outlet for her competitive spirit now that running has been relegated to a more recreational pursuit.
Corbett isn’t the only Nicomekl Rowing Club member whose first experience with the spot came through a chance encounter with members of the Learn To Row program.
Two summers ago, Claudia Hainc was chatting with a friend who happened to be a Nicomekl rower. That friend mentioned that the program was short one person, and asked if she’d be interested in giving it a try.
“I’d done running and pilates before, and I was kind of looking for something new, but I’d never thought about rowing,” Hainc said.
“But I decided to do it, and it’s been wonderful. It’s definitely a really good workout, and what I love is that you’re outdoors, on the water and it’s just beautiful.
“I never even knew we had this – I mean, I knew there was this river, but I didn’t know people came out and enjoyed it this way.”
Nicomekl’s Learn to Row program hits the water in April, and registration opens this month. The program is run by experienced coaches and is designed for people who either have never rowed before, or have simply been away from the sport a while and want a refresher.
The programs typically run the first week of every month, the club’s website notes. Each learn-to-row group includes a maximum of five new rowers, and each program includes eight sessions. Cost is $300, and if those taking part enjoy it and wish to sign up with the club for the remainder of the season, it’s an additional $275. Participants must know how to swim and be able to lift 35 pounds.
Regular, full-season club membership is $485.
Club member Ray Pici signed up for the course three years ago, and told PAN he regrets not doing it sooner.
“It’s just one of those things that I always wanted to do, but I never made the time to go out and do it,” the Ladner resident explained.
Like Corbett and Hainc, Pici had no rowing background, and though he’d “played a little hockey” and went to the gym regularly, he admits that rowing was a new challenge from a fitness perspective.
When asked what muscle groups get the biggest workout, he’s quick to answer.
“Oh God, it’s everything,” he laughed.
Hainc and Corbett agreed, adding that the sport is a perfect way to stay in shape – especially for people who may not want to add any more wear-and-tear to their bodies.
“It’s low-impact cardio. I’ve been a runner, but as you get older, your joints start to hurt here and there, so this is gentle on your joints,” Hainc said.
All three rowers mentioned how much they also enjoy the challenge of learning – then trying to fine-tune – an entirely new sport, especially one as technical as rowing.
“It’s an ongoing thing. You talk to some of the people who’ve been at it a long time and they’re still working on their technique. I guess it’s kind of like golf – you never quite master it,” Pici said.
On that note, Corbett said while the “perfect stroke feels impossible sometimes,” it’s rewarding when “everything finally clicks.”
The club offers different options for rowers, depending on their goals. For competitive people, there is an entire schedule of regattas and other competitions to take part in. For those who prefer to stay in shape and socialize with fellow members, there are sessions for that, too.
As well, rowers can choose to row as a single rower, or in pairs or quads.
During the spring and summer, Pici said he tries to get out on the water about three times a week, while Corbett adds that the rowing schedule works well for many people, as rowing sessions are primarily evenings and weekends.
Those evening sessions in the summer months also have another benefit, Corbett adds.
“You’re out on the water and you get to see those sunsets, so that’s pretty cool.”
For more on the rowing club’s Learn to Row program, call 604-531-3817 or visit www.nico-row.com
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