NYACK, N.Y. -- All winter long, Cassidy McGovern, a 17-year-old Tappan Zee High School student, works out every day except Sunday to strengthen her body and prepare for the rowing season on Rockland Lake. On a recent Saturday morning before 8 a.m., an hour when most teens wouldn't dream of getting out of bed, McGovern was already beaded with sweat after training on a rowing machine at 256 Main Street in Nyack. The village-based River Rowing Association uses the former warehouse building, a 3,500-square-foot shell that is essentially unheated, winter-long to train youth and adult athletes.
The River Rowing Association offers competitive and recreational programs to youths and adults. The indoor programs from November through March, are designed to train athletes to row and to get them into top shape. In the spring, the program moves to the water.
The fit McGovern, with a long blonde ponytail, says she discovered rowing as a lark. Told about it by a friend last year, she started working out to prove to her friend she could master rowing. "I'd said 'how hard can that be'. Well it is hard but it's motivated me to prove that I could do it."
When she graduates next year, McGovern will attend Cornell University on a rowing scholarship.
"It's not necessarily going to be my career," said McGovern, who plans to study computer science. "But participating in the sport has taught me to be disciplined and motivated. My grades have gotten so much better because I don't procrastinate."
Elite rowers are the most conditioned athletes in the world but Peter Klose, director of River Rowing, says almost anyone can row. (The non-profit plans to change its name to Rockland Rowing Association). The training space has 25 rowing machines, free weights, and other "torture equipment," Klose says, to condition athletes.
Adults can take one-hour classes during the week for $20, and train with coaches. Rowing builds strength, endurance and balance. Rowers develop strong cardiovascular and aerobic systems. Adults can row well into old age.
Female teens taking up rowing early set themselves up for a life of fitness, but also for the advantages of being recruited by colleges under Title 9. The River Rowing association accepts teens who are 13 though 18. The young rowers work out daily from 3:30 to 5 Monday through Friday. Tuition for the winter season is $600. They compete once it's time to take to the water in sleek shells.
Klose says there are all kinds of practical reasons to take up rowing. It keeps you fit and lean (which means you can live by the popular axiom "I row to eat.") Rowing provides an excellent forum for team building skills, for discipline, and commitment. But perhaps the best reason of all is the joy of sliding across the water.
"Sometimes we go out in the dark," he says wistfully. "As we're rowing we watch the sun come up over the Hudson. There are few experiences that top that."
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