Indoor Rowing Hits Miami

Rowing machines and rowing shells at Miami Beach Rowing ClubRowing machines and rowing shells converged this past weekend when UCanRow2 led the first indoor rowing instructor certification at Miami Beach Rowing Club.

Participants representing crews from the University of Miami and Barry University, joined with home users and an aspiring elite competitive rower for a day with UCanRow2’s Terry Smythe learning the ins and outs of indoor rowing.

The session included individualized critiques of rowing technique, discussion of the best ways to teach on the Concept 2 rowing machine, critical tips for erg maintenance and pointers for teaching to special populations.  The participants also got to try several rowing workouts first hand, including interval, steady state and pyramid formats.

As indoor rowing grows in popularity and people look in increasing numbers for fitness facilities offering the sport, certifications such as the one in Miami will become an important distinguishing factor.  Those locations whose instructors are certified will stand out as offering classes and personal training sessions that are safe, fun and effective.

More trainings are planned around Florida and elsewhere in 2011, for more information on those or other locations visit the UCanRow2 instructors page.

Wondering about certification?  Leave a comment and we’ll answer your questions here.  Are you a certified Concept2 rowing instructor?  Did you find it valuable?  Let us know!

When the Weather Fails You: Using the Rowing Machine to Train for On-Water Racing

Using the Concept 2 rowing machine helped Terry Smythe (right) win medals at the 2010 FISA World Masters rowing competition

Gail Helfer and Terry Smythe row their double at the FISA World Masters 2010 rowing competition.  (Photo credit: Chuck Helfer)

Updated June 12, 2018


Summers in Michigan’s scenic Upper Peninsula are nothing if not variable.  So when UCanRow2’s Terry Smythe was training to race at the 2010 FISA World Masters Rowing competition she knew she’d need a backup training plan for inclement days.


As it turned out there were many days that forced her to go to Plan B, the Concept2 rowing machine that she has in her basement.


“Rowing on a Concept2 machine is a critical tool for on-water rowers at every skill level,” Smythe says.   “What I can do on the rowing machine is also what I can put on the oar in the water.”  Indeed, the training worked.  Smythe won three gold medals and finished second in two races at the masters event.


When bad weather hits, you should transfer your on-water workout for the day to the rowing machine, Smythe says.  Just be sure to warm up well before beginning any hard work.


Elite and experienced rowers can duplicate the effort of their on-water workouts, she says, which can make the difference between a good on-water race and a great one.  She is particularly excited about Concept 2’s Dynamic Erg, which she expects will be a huge hit with competitive rowers because it’s more like rowing on the water.


For less experienced rowers the rowing machine is instrumental for building confidence in their ability to perform in race conditions on the water.  “On the erg you get the sensation of what it feels like in a race,” Terry says.  “You can practice your starts and get the sensation of what it feels like when your muscles are screaming and your lungs are burning.”


So don’t let the weather get you down, just turn to the erg!

A Weekend to Remember

(A reflection by Terry Smythe on her weekend participating in the Louisville Rowing Club’s adaptive rowing program for disabled athletes)

“To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?”
— Katherine Graham

I can’t sum up my weekend rowing on water with adaptive athletes at the Louisville Rowing Club any better than this quote.  I went to Kentucky in great anticipation of an incredible learning experience.  What I got was that and so much more.  This is a phenomenal program of caring coaches and volunteers supporting adaptive athletes to become whole through the experience of on- and off-water rowing.

Twice a week, some 30 athletes with a wide range of cognitive and physical disabilities  meet a small team of volunteers gathered along the Ohio River.  The volunteers carefully help the athletes into rowing shells adapted to each of their specific needs, and in some cases climb in themselves as able-bodied assistants.

As the boats pull away the dock fades in the distance, and with it the wheelchairs, artificial limbs, walking canes for the blind and more that are the athletes’ daily on-land companions.  These people’s stories are heartbreaking and unfortunate but no one in the Louisville program focuses on the past.  It’s all about where you’re headed and how far you want to go, with no limits beyond those you place on yourself.  No excuses!

Louisville Rowing Club adaptive rowing coach Bob Hurley

Louisville Rowing Club adaptive rowing coach Bobby Hurley

The inspiration starts at the top.  Coach Bobby Hurley is an amazing man of dedication, patience and commitment, and a tireless jack-of-all-trades.  He makes most of the adaptive equipment used in the program from scratch, or retrofits market equipment to better fit each athlete.  That’s in the “spare time” he has when he’s not coaching athletes or running his painting business.  All of this is delivered with a quiet, “no big deal” attitude.  I think he and Program Director Randy Mills are Batman and Robin, super heroes!

While a good deal of the program is obviously focused on on-water rowing, indoor rowing is a critical piece of the program.  It’s a popular piece of equipment because it is more accessible to the athletes than the water and as such gives them a degree of independence they don’t have there.  And, as with traditional rowers, the rowing machine is always a great vehicle for identifying successful on-water rowers.

Terry Smythe and Oksana Masters row a double

Terry Smythe and Oksana Masters row a double

While this was a weekend full of emotion, that wasn’t all it was: This master trainer got an education!  Not only did I watch adaptive rowing but I BECAME an adaptive rower when I was strapped into a double with Oksana Masters, a 21-year-old Paralympic Games hopeful who lost both her legs above the knee.  Rowing trunk and arms is no swing pick drill, as we able-bodied rowers know it, and I learned that in spades when I experienced it first-hand.  Every coach should have that opportunity.

What did I learn?  There are many things to consider when coaching adaptive rowers but none of it is impossible!

  • Time: It does take time to set up the equipment and transfer the athletes into their various rigs.  In fact, this often takes more time than the athlete rows, but it is worth the effort.  Each athlete has different, specific needs and it is important to ensure that those are met so as to do no harm. Blisters can be a major issue so strapping and positioning in the rowing shells is critical.
  • Equipment: Modalities such as hand grips, special seats, straps, oarlocks, riggers and oars are required.  Do they have to look nice?  No, but they should, though making equipment affordable for adaptive rowers is always an issue.
  • Coaches training: Rowing coaches need training to be able to work with the adaptive. The years that Bobby and Randy have spent working at this are a clear selling point for going to Louisville for training.  There isn’t much they haven’t thought about, built, rigged, seen or done.  Coaches could learn an incredible amount from participating in one of Louisville’s hands-on introduction to adaptive rowing weekends.

Note: Special thanks to Robert Black for his spectacular photography and film work during the weekend, including the photos shown here.

FISA Retraction on Adaptive Rowing a Call to Action

The decision by the international rowing federation FISA to keep on-water rowing for cognitively impaired athletes out of the 2012 Paralympic Games should spur supporters of adaptive rowing to work even harder to promote that area of the sport, says UCanRow2‘s Terry Smythe.

FISA announced in a news release that it was retracting an earlier decision to include cognitively impaired rowers in the 2012 Paralympics, saying that after surveying member national federations “there was not yet an adequate number of federations ready or able to prepare crews in time for 2012.”

“Clearly this is a disappointing ruling,”  Smythe said, “but what all of us who support adaptive rowing need to do now is come together and rally behind the many people and organizations working with cognitively impaired athletes.”

Competitive events that support adaptive indoor rowers, including the cognitively impaired, should be supported now more than ever, she added, as they help identify athletes with potential to be competitive on the water.

Smythe applauded FISA’s statement that it continues to have a “very strong commitment to make its sport available for individuals with physical or intellectual disabilities.”

“Particularly for adaptive athletes, rowing can be life altering because it is a sport they can participate in almost like anyone else,” said Smythe, who has worked with adaptive populations of all kinds for more than a decade.   “We need to do everything we can to assure the sport’s continued growth so that as many people as possible can benefit from the joys of rowing in general, and competing specifically.”

The adaptive category is the fastest-growing area within the sport of rowing.  In the past three years activity at clubs that offer on-water and indoor adaptive rowing has grown steadily and on-water regattas have quadrupled.

Indoor rowing machine events, meanwhile, are growing their adaptive numbers in some cases and adding adaptive categories in others: The annual C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints, the marquis world indoor rowing championship, welcomed adaptive athletes for the first time in February 2010 and drew 38 participants from three countries.

“At UCanRow2 we say that ‘Rowing is for Every Body,’” Smythe said.  “If we all keep that mantra in mind as we continue to work hard adaptive rowing will prevail, and thrive.”

Keweenaw Rowing Video Now Available on

Pulling Together: The Little Community that Could, the documentary that highlights the Keweenaw Memorial Rehabilitation and Fitness Center and its participation in the Concept2 North American Rowing Challenge (now the World Rowing Challenge) is now available on the website.

The documentary chronicles how a diverse group of residents (including adaptive rowers) of the small town of Houghton, Michigan, came together in 2007 to beat out competitors from around the country and take top honors in the rowing challenge sponsored by Concept 2, maker of the world’s leading rowing machine.

Special Olympics Michigan Officials Eye Indoor Rowing

The efforts of UCanRow2’s Terry Smythe to make rowing on an indoor rowing machine an official Special Olympics sport has drawn the attention of Special Olympics Michigan officials.  In a story summarizing indoor rowing at this year’s Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games the Daily Mining Gazette featured the progress that has been made in the three years since Terry began working towards that goal as part of her role as fitness director for Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital.Terry Smythe helps a Special Olympian with indoor rowing at the Michigan Summer Games

While it is a lengthy process, Terry is confident the goal is attainable.  The first step is for rowing to become an official sport of Special Olympics Michigan, where indoor rowing as been a demonstration event since 2007.  The next step is to present a report to Special Olympics officials summarizing the results of the last three years, with the goal of making indoor rowing an official sport in the Michigan Special Olympics.  After that Terry hopes to use that as a precedent to expand the sport to the national Special Olympics level.

“The country really looks to Michigan for their Special Olympics program,” she said in the Mining Gazette story.

At the Michigan summer games at Central Michigan University hundreds of children of all ages filed through a room equipped with Concept 2 rowing machines to try their hand at rowing 500-meter races against their fellow competitors.  The competitors The indoor rowing machine is easily adapted for all kinds of  users.  Here a Special Olympian in a wheelchair tries it out. were able to race in virtual rowing shells projected on a huge screen set up in the race venue.

Making rowing on a rowing machine an official sport of the Special Olympics would help bring the activity to a broader group of people, Terry said, in addition to raising the standard of excellence for training and performance, which would help advance the sport generally.

The rowing machine is particularly well-suited to Special Olympics athletes because it is fully accommodates each athlete’s level of fitness and ability, while providing a fun and challenging workout.  Athletes return to the rowing venue year after year because they enjoy the special combination of rhythmic synchronicity and physical challenge that the sport of indoor rowing offers.

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UCanRow2 Brings Indoor Rowing to Michigan Special Olympics

For the 3rd straight year, indoor rowing will be front and center at the Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games, being held June 3-5th on the campus of Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, MI.

Aspirus Keweenaw Fitness Center and UCanRow2 offer indoor rowing as an open, demonstration sport at the Games, which attract more than 5,000 athletes, coaches, chaperones and volunteers from nearly every county in MicUCanRow2 is bringing indoor rowing to hundreds of athletes at the Michigan Special Olympics Summer Games 2010higan.  Athletes from children to adults participate in 11 types of competition at the annual event, including swimming, bowling, weightlifting and volleyball.

Over two full days of competition at the rowing venue hundreds of athletes, novices and seasoned veterans alike, will row 500-meter pieces on a Concept2 rowing machine. The top three adult and youth men and women will be recognized with award certificates and prizes.  Participation in rowing has grown every year, and is expected to be higher this year as well.  The inclusion of indoor rowing in the event is supported this year, as in the past, by Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital.

The rowing machine is particularly well-suited to Special Olympics athletes because it is fully accommodates each athlete’s level of fitness and ability, while providing a fun and challenging workout.  Athletes return to the rowing venue year after year because they enjoy the special combination of rhythmic synchronicity and physical challenge that the sport offers.

The State Summer Games is one of seven annual statewide competitions for the athletes of Special Olympics Michigan. The Special Olympics Michigan programs are offered at no cost to the athletes or their families.

Concept2 Trainer Certification Classes Now Available Through UCanRow2

If you’re serious about using Concept2 indoor rowing equipment in your facility it’s important that you know how to teach your students to properly use the rower, identify and correct errors in technique, and maintain the equipment.  Concept2’s one-day Indoor Rowing Foundations basic instructor certification gives you the information you need to build workouts that are technically sound, fun and provide great results for every population with which you work.  The trainings are offered at locations across the country; visit the Instructor Certification page to learn about upcoming sessions and how to register.