- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 29, 2005

ALBANY, N.Y. - For years, Deb Streeter watched her daughter, then her son, enjoy the sport of rowing.

“I repeatedly said that looked like fun,” she recalls. So for Mother’s Day, about five years ago, her husband got tired of hearing it, and he bought her learn-to-row lessons.

Now at 54, she’s hooked.

USRowing loosely estimates 175,000 rowers in the United States, almost half of those “master” — age 27 or older. The sport’s growth in the past 10 to 15 years has come especially among women, with more college and high school programs. The first women’s NCAA championship was in 1997.

And like other “lifelong sports,” more adults are competing, some into their 90s, said USRowing spokesman Brett Johnson.

Mrs. Streeter is on a team of eight that rows the Hudson River regularly. She and others tout the benefits of this strength-and-endurance sport that has no age limit. Sometimes described in graceful metaphors, rowing is also defined by precise measurements and movements.

Older rowers say you start getting in shape simply learning technique a few days a week, then step up to competitive boats, where some people are more serious than others.

Jonathan Masters, 42, who joined the Albany Rowing Center almost eight years ago, said rowers are expected to keep the pace. “Once you’re in the boat, you’re in the boat.”

According to USRowing, physiologists say a 2,000-meter race, about 1.25 miles rowed in less than 10 minutes, is the equivalent of playing back-to-back basketball games. Ohio University physiology professor Fritz Hagerman, an adviser to USRowing, wrote that he has measured increases up to 30 percent aerobic capacity in elite rowers from the off-season to the start of competition.

At 54, after one year of learning and four competing, Mrs. Streeter rows six mornings a week. The season starts on dark mornings in mid-March with bow lights, once the ice melts on the Hudson. A few weeks of practice follow the last autumn race in late October. Winter can mean rowing machines, or ergometers, indoors.

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