While it’s been said by me often, it’s because it’s true — the best part of my job as a sportswriter is that I get to meet so many interesting people.
Yesterday was one of those days where not only were the people interesting but completely inspiring.
I went to a workout for the WeCanRow program at the University at Buffalo. The program, modeled after successful programs in cities like Boston and Philadelphia, takes women at different stages of their breast cancer recovery and teaches them how to row. The Buffalo version began just a few weeks ago and opened up to female cancer survivors. The women’s rowing team at UB became involved with the program with assistant coaches and student-athletes serving as the instructors and motivators for the newbies, who range in age from 35 to 65.
What was most interesting was the way in which the two groups interacted. It was a mutual admiration society. The freshman rowers loved teaching the older women, cheering them on through the hour-long workout. The women were impressed with the college kids, who showed up to the twice-weekly practices with enthusiasm and encouragement.
None of the women had known how to row before entering the program. Some had never really participated in athletic competition before.
All of them were outside their comfort zones, learning something new, and loving every minute of it.
By the time practice was over, I wanted to learn how to row. Or at least, try a workout on the erg machine.
It was a lesson that I can never be reminded of too often — that stepping outside your comfort zone yields amazing results. The program serves as a reminder that nothing is completely out of your reach because of your age or current state of health or fitness. It’s a reminder of the power of women, and the power of women in a group, especially groups which cross generations but share a common bond, in this case rowing.
It reminds me of a story I heard on NPR’s show Only A Game about Rock the Ages — a 3-on-3 basketball tournament where women of all generations play on the same court. The women in the 60s are amazed at what the younger girls can do while the younger girls find themselves learning about the game from watching their foremothers hoop it up.
It’s part of the heart of what endurance athletics has come to mean for me — a place to meet new friends, those I never would run across otherwise in my daily life, a chance to develop a community of support, a chance to learn from those older and younger than myself, and most importantly, a chance to be part of the game.
My workout today is an hour of easy riding on my bike trainer. Tomorrow video snippets return after my hour and 40 minute long run with tempo intervals.