Learning to Row from Theodore Roosevelt

Rowing was a common means for effective transportation prior to the automobile. Can we learn anything from the Rowing Stroke of the past?

The Egyptians buried models of a rowing vessels in the tombs of Pharaohs


Washington rowed across the Delaware.


Theodore Roosevelt rowed for recreation as well as to catch criminals in the badlands of Dakotas.

Are there lessons to be learned from the rowing stroke of our ancestors? 

RowClub Blog...

The Shower Pill

One of the most common ideas in rowing is that ergs don’t float; one can be strong and fit on the rowing machine, but unable to move a boat smoothly through the water. While there is a very strong correlation between boat speed and erg strength, one cannot expect to win by muscle alone.

In fact, the bow seat of Cal’s NCAA winning Varsity 8 in 2013 had a 2k erg time that was 15 seconds slower than the next slowest person in the boat. Over a 7 minute piece, 15 seconds is a major time differential. Her nickname in the boat was the Ninja; though seemingly innocuous, she crushed in seat races against girls who were 30 seconds faster on the rowing machine.

As a walk-on athlete in college, I knew I lacked the years of skill development of both the rowers on the team and the recruits who were freshman with me. My body was simply just not as comfortable with the length of the stroke, the smooth arc of the shaft over the water, the pressure of the water against the back of the blade at the catch. I could not seem to find the grace in the relaxation of the recovery: mitigating the opposing vector forces by allowing the speed of the boat to bring one’s hands back up to the catch.

One factor of my athletic progression that was directly in my control was my fitness. I knew that even if I wasn’t the most experienced rower, I could be the fittest and strongest on the erg. The rowing machine became my best friend, my home base. Every day, between classes and practice, I would run down to Cal’s erg room, a concrete dungeon under the track, and log more meters in the Concept 2.

I carried around multiple outfits, because while erging, I would sweat through my spandex. I saw the sweat accumulation as the direct manifestation of my work- the product of my hour on labor. In my effort to constantly grow my cardio base, I was forever sweaty. I lived in the sweat of the day- festering in the layers of moisture my body expelled. Often, I didn’t even want to shower midway through the day, knowing of the opportunities for fitness throughout the remainder of the day. Showering signified that my work was done.  

Since graduating college, I’ve kept many of my workout habits, including trying to sweat in various time frames throughout the day. The more hours I spend physically exerting myself, the more I feel like I’m moving forward with my life- that I’m getting closer to my individual goals. I keep deodorant on me at all times; although the smell is dampened, I feel the level of my own uncleanliness.

That is, until two other former Cal athletes- Wendell Hunter and Wale Forrester- invented ‘The Shower Pill,’ a heavy duty post workout body wipe. These athletes had the same need for cleanliness after their workouts, but knew athletes and fitness junkies on the go had little time to shower. The first time I used it, I knew there was no going back to the sticky dry sweat post workout feeling. In about 2 minutes, a quick wipe down had me ready for my work day, and geared up to fuel my fitness filled day!

Maggie Simpson

Get to know RowGa Instructor Natalie!

For me, RowClub is all about community, encouraging each other to become better rowers, reach personal fitness goals, and be a place to gROW new friendships. I also love being able to rock out while rowing - turn the music up and let's put the club in RowClub!

What I like most about erging is that it's a FUN, full-body workout that's low-impact and super effective! I feel like I'm engaging every part of my body with each stroke, having to constantly focus on my core, arms, and legs. The best part is that rowing defines your back muscles unlike any other workout I've done!

When I'm not teaching fitness classes you'll find me in a suit, lawyering it up at the office or in court. My practice of law includes vehicle/bicycle/motorcycle accidents, premises liability, medical malpractice, and elder abuse cases to name just a few. I love being an attorney and helping people who have been injured. It is so rewarding to engage with my clients and counsel them, even when they experience pain and frustrations, and then ultimately see them happy when a settlement is reached!

I am inspired when I witness people doing random acts of kindness! (Yes, please hold the door for the person coming in as you're leaving Starbucks, even if you're running late for work.) I am also inspired when there is determination to rise to a challenge and overcome obstacles; when someone realizes he/she CAN do something and pursues it whole-heartedly.

I grew up in the Bay Area, went to college in Virginia (humidity? no thanks), and ended up in San Francisco for law school. After law school, I was determined to find a job in the city so I could stay here and still be close-ish to my family. I've lived in the same apartment in Nob Hill for over 6 years now and enjoy everything about city life!

I work out to relieve stress and stay somewhat in shape so I can eat donuts :)