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'Fantastic' Polar Pull draws local rowers indoors (VIDEO)

Club hosted first sanctioned indoor event Saturday; 'I'm getting better through this winter training program,' says club member

The Orillia Rowing Club hosted its first sanctioned indoor event Saturday at Rotary Place.

Using rowing ergometers, club members have been training at the Orillia Recreation Centre since November. Every six weeks, participants try to beat their personal best records. On Saturday morning, athletes put their training to the test during the first-ever Polar Pull event.

The ergometers simulate being on the water during the off-season.

"This is a fantastic all-around exercise because it puts very little pressure on the bones," said head coach Anne Hodkin. "It obviously doesn’t teach you balance on the water, but we absolutely use the fitness level and power that we apply on the machine."

She says rowing is a great sport for seniors who have had knee or hip replacements. It mostly requires strong leg power, as well as some arm and core strength.

"It's very gentle on your joints," she said. "It's also a great cross-training sport for swimming, hockey and basketball."

The oldest person who takes part in the club is 80, and the youngest is 11. Hodkin says it's an inclusive sport for everybody.

"You are really challenging yourself," she said. "Each of the athletes has an individual program tailored to where they are. Then, when they get on the water, all of the people get together and they see the accumulation of their training, which makes it so much fun."

In the summer, there are 80 to 100 members of the club who take part in several programs, camps and lessons.

"It was a very popular sport before COVID, and then it closed down totally," Hodkin said. "We are now seeing a new generation of rowers, and last year we had a couple of kids get into university through the rowing team."

Rowing can provide a lot of opportunities for youth looking to earn a scholarship.

"Girls can get scholarships to the United States on free rides because football has so many men in it," Hodkin said. "They have to have an equal number of women in sports, so if you can get some good scores, you can easily get into university."

Fern Splichal, 79, joined the club almost eight years ago.

"I live very close to Tudhope Park and knew they had a boathouse," she said. "I love being on the water and outside, so I thought I'd like to try it."

She enjoys seeing her fitness levels improve through the sport.

"I'm getting better through this winter training program," she said. "It will be interesting to see how that translates on the water."

On Saturday, Splichal beat her own record of 10 minutes, in 43 seconds, in the 2,000-metre race.

"It makes me feel great," she said. "It makes me feel like I've accomplished something."

She credits her success to Hodkin.

"She teaches us a lot about race strategy," she said. "She was standing beside me encouraging me the whole time."

Splichal is thrilled with the new indoor rowing event this year and hopes to see it back next winter.

"I like to exercise all year round," she said. "If you don't use it, you lose it, and you have got to keep using it as you get older."

More information about the club can be found here.


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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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