Indoor Rowing Enthusiast Kristen Jeffery Excited to Celebrate Growth of Sport at 2023 WRICH

By Alan Oldham

From CrossFit and erg spinning to basement gyms and online communities, indoor rowing is becoming a popular way to stay active around the world. That’s a good thing, not just for Canadian’s physical health and mental wellbeing, but for national pride as well.

With the world coming to Canada in person or virtually for the Mississauga/Toronto 2023 World Rowing Indoor Championships this coming February, athletes from 36 different nations have already signed up to compete at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre. That includes many from Canada, looking to put this country on the map of great indoor rowing nations.

Whether you are aiming for a world record or a personal best result, this is an incredible chance to compete in a World Championship in a sport like none other.

“It’s different from going to the gym,” says Kristen Jeffery, a former Canadian national team rower and founder of Scullhouse, an online community for indoor rowing training. “It’s different from spinning. The total body nature of indoor rowing makes it a complete workout. It’s not only is it engaging your entire body, but also cardio training at the same time as strength training as well as low impact. You are always going to gain fitness.”

While the pandemic has changed the landscape of traditional sport, indoor rowing, Jeffery says is growing exponentially. “As we see more and more people pick it up. It snowballs, especially with athletes with larger profiles, more and more people get involved.” Like many of the athletes we’ve profiled from, Jason Marshal to Kirsten Kline, it’s a pattern that Jeffery has seen time and again: Someone stumbles into the sport unintentionally and falls in love with the challenge and rowing’s ability to reward hard work with improvement.

The best part is that you don’t even have to think of yourself as an athlete to have fun, learn life changing skills or even compete against yourself, the clock or even others.

“Indoor rowing can be different things for different people,” Jeffery says. “A lot of the athletes I have coached are busy professionals, they have jobs that take up time, they have kids, they want a workout that is going to be efficient,”. Jeffery can relate to those busy professionals. She left her job as a lawyer on Bay Street in Toronto and founded Scullhouse in 2016, the same year celebrity personality Oprah Winfrey dubbed it the biggest fitness trend going.

As the calendar turns to the new year and folks resolve to be more active, indoor rowing is a great choice to help people reach some of their fitness goals but as experts told the CBC it’s important to be realistic.

Jeffery says, “Rowing does so many things all in one exercise. You don’t need to be doing Pilates for your core strength, because you get that in your rowing. You don’t need strength training; you get that too. There are people who come to rowing after injuries. They can replace some of their workouts with an indoor row and still be improving their performance in other sports, while actually dialling back the number of sport specific workouts they are doing in their sport.”

“I truly think it is one of the best indoor exercises you can do,” she adds. “You have cross country skiing for a total body workout and then there is the erg. It has so much to offer people. It is different from going to the gym, it is different from bike spinning.”

Although the pandemic forced Jeffery to shutter the brick and mortar Scullhouse location in Toronto, the online community and eagerness to engage in indoor rowing virtually has continued to grow in recent years. “I’m excited to see what happens next,” Jeffery says of what lies ahead especially with all of the excitement surrounding the upcoming World Rowing Indoor Championships in Mississauga/Toronto next month. While Canada has a 40-year history of hosting the Canadian Indoor Rowing Championships (CIRC), this is the first time the World Championships have ever taken place in Canada. There are events from 500 metre sprints to 2000 metres, to relays, for different age categories from under 17 to 70 plus.

Jeffery says there are events for everybody, and people shouldn’t feel intimidated. Taking part in a race is something she thinks anyone can and should do to fully experience the best of what rowing has to offer.

“Especially coming out of a pandemic and years of shutdown, we have all experienced a bit of hardship,” she reflects. “Learning to push yourself in a sport and taking on the challenge of a race in any form is really helpful. No matter how confident we are, how fast, we are always going to have a little bit of adrenalin, a little bit of anxiety. Getting to the start line helps to build confidence that you can take on any challenge.”

Most of all, though, she says of taking on the challenge of a race, “it is fun. You get to see other people who are interested in the same thing as you are. We are all a little crazy in a way and it helps you feel a little more recharged about it.”

Jeffery plans to be there watching some of her pupils compete and being part of a community of indoor rowers she believes will make WRICH2023 an event you won’t want to miss. Click here to register before February 8.