Women find strength and camaraderie in rowing as they age

Women find strength and camaraderie in rowing as they age


Jayne Lytel, 61, is a member of D.C.’s Potomac Boat Club. She has been rowing since 2012. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

As they launched their rowing shell onto Boston’s Charles River one sunny October morning, four Alexandria women prepared to live a rower’s dream: competing in the three-mile Head of the Charles Regatta that is to rowers what the Boston Marathon is to runners.

They’d trained together for months, even hired a coach to push them harder, and here they were, fit and ready.

Average age in the boat: 63.

That was two years ago. Harriett Pallas, 67, Brenda Waltz, 67, Pamela Zitron, 69, and Eleanor Richards, 61, are still rowing and still competing along with a growing contingent of older women who discover that rowing can be a good way to get and stay fit. Many later find themselves racing on rivers from the Potomac to the Thames and beyond.

The four came to rowing by different paths. Waltz and Zitron found the sport through younger family members who rowed, and Richards claims that learning to row “was my midlife crisis.” Pallas, already a cyclist, skier and tap dancer, tried it and was hooked.

“I don’t know what I’d be without rowing!” she said.

Most aerobic sports bathe the brain with feel-good endorphins after a workout, and rowing is no exception. Studies show that rowing offers cardiovascular and respiratory advantages for those who train even semi-seriously. And sports physiologist Fritz Hagerman, who taught at Ohio University and died in 2013, found that the lungs of rowers who train seriously use oxygen far more efficiently than those of most other athletes. After all, rowing uses all the body’s oxygen-hungry major muscle groups in the legs, torso and arms.


Lytel uses a rowing before getting onto the water on Mar. 26. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Weight control can be an added benefit. In the past year, Waltz has lost 60 pounds. “I realized if I was going to row the way I wanted to, I’d have to lose the weight,” she said.

Some women even swear that it staves off the post-menopausal thinning of bones that can lead to fractures.

Most older women who row admit that after they decided to give the sport a try, they got pulled in by the rhythm, the water and the way it looks easy but can be maddeningly challenging.

Just as important as the health benefits for many are psychic boosts such as companionship. A rowing shell full of friends can offset even an empty nest.

Best of all, for women of a certain age, rowing can deliver a huge sense of accomplishment.

Jayne Lytel, 61, a member of D.C.’s Potomac Boat Club, understands. “I start my day rowing three mornings a week, and I like the way it makes me feel,” she said. “I feel proud that I can do this!”

“It’s such a challenging sport,” said Joanna Rubini, 42, a coach in Alexandria. “It’s very empowering when you can do it.”

In the past five years, rowing has grown in popularity for every age group. USRowing, the sport’s governing body, says that its membership of 23,000 grew by 22 percent between 2015 and 2016. About 14 percent of its members are 50 or older. At the 2016 Head of the Charles Regatta, almost a quarter of the competitors were older than 50. USRowing doesn’t break down those figures by gender.


Lytel and Chuck Selden prepare to row after launching their craft from the Potomac Boat Club. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

“The growth in the number of our older members underlines the fact that you can be 13 or 93; you’re always the right age to row,” said Susan Smith, membership director at USRowing. “Rowing is truly a lifelong sport, no matter if you’re a racer or a recreational rower.”

But first, there’s the learning process. And the fact that the stroke — like a new dance step — must be learned is another of rowing’s advantages.

“Running or walking, people can do that fine,” said Stella Volpe, 53, a sports physiologist and nutritionist who heads Drexel University’s nutrition sciences department. With “something like rowing . . . there’s the mental effort in learning something new. You need to think a lot in the boat.”

There’s also a good reason why rowing maintains bone density, according to Volpe, a rower herself. When the rower pushes against the boat’s footplate as she pulls her oar through the water, she’s “putting a lot of mechanical loading on the bones and the muscles,” she said. “And that’s good for the bone.”

Dana Perrone, 70, a member of the Potomac Boat Club, reports that since she began rowing 16 years ago, scans show she has maintained her bone density without the medication she once took.

“My doctor says, ‘Don’t quit!’ ” she said.

To learn the basics, newbies often try a “learn to row” event. USRowing sponsors a National Learn to Row Day, this year on June 3, when some rowing clubs in the D.C. area open their boat bays to the public for demonstrations of the stroke and even short paddles in one of those sleek narrow boats called shells.


More women are turning to rowing as a form of exercise. It’s good for the bones and the brain. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

But rowing demands more than an hour or two of instruction. And for those who want more, the Washington Rowing School in Bladensburg, several local clubs and Thompson’s Boat Center, near the Kennedy Center, offer learn-to-row courses. RowVigor, a new “rowing gym” in Arlington, provides rowing machine instruction for those who want to learn the basics on dry land.

Writer and photographer Mary Berry, 79, of Alexandria first picked up an oar when she was 52. Today, she drives to Philadelphia almost every weekend to row with a team out of Vesper Boat Club. A look at her family tree with its long-lived females convinced her she needed serious exercise if she was going to face the coming decades with a strong body.

“Getting old is rough,” she said. “And you need to hang on to your mobility. . . . The harder you exercise the more you gain in mobility.” But not if it meant destroying her knees, Berry concluded. Low-impact rowing was the answer.

For many women born before the mid-1950s, rowing may be their first experience of team competition.

“All of us were pre-Title IX,” Richards said, referring to the 1972 federal law demanding equal sports opportunities for men and women on most college campuses. “I never had the chance to be on a team, to compete.”

Berry found that racing satisfied her competitive streak while making her a better rower. As she began to work harder, to actually train with a coach, she began to experience the exhilaration of rowing in total synch with crewmates whose oars hit the water together and finish the stroke at exactly the same moment.

“I didn’t think I was particularly competitive, but racing was a way of getting better at rowing,” Perrone said. “You have to work harder than just paddling.”

Gabriele Cipollone, 60, a former Olympian, coaches Berry along with 11 other women who range in age from 60 to 80. In 2015 and 2016, her boats won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Masters National Regatta sponsored by USRowing. Berry and three other rowers won a gold in Belgium at an international competition.

“You have to have some kind of self-discipline to row,” Cipollone said. “A lot of women never did athletics. They aren’t familiar with the idea of pushing yourself for an hour. Or a half-hour, with a break, and then another half-hour. . . . Not everybody is willing to do this. If they decide, ‘It’s not for me,’ that’s fine.”


Research shows that rowing burns calories at the same or even higher rates than running. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Michael Porterfield, 50, who coaches in Alexandria and at Capital Rowing Club, said coaching older rowers is gratifying but not always simple.

“You have to understand the athletes — their baselines and level of fitness,” said Porterfield, a coach for the women’s Olympic team in 2000. “You have to know how to work around limitations.” And sometimes, he said, it’s knowing when to tell a rower she is pushing too hard and needs a day off.

Older rowers “are all different. Some want to look at the birds. Some are super-competitive and don’t care they’re a shade slower than younger rowers,” Rubini said. “They still have an edge.”

But those who put in the work necessary to row well often gain benefits that go beyond stronger bones and competition medals. Cipollone said one of her older rowers “came to me and thanked me for saving her life”: Rowing had lowered her blood pressure and left her happier as well.

School counselor Dee Marrara, 53, started rowing a year ago in D.C. after she’d finished treatment for breast cancer. She spotted a flyer on a learn-to-row program at her oncologist’s office and decided to try it.

“I’m an athlete again,” said Marrara, a former collegiate basketball and soccer player. “Cancer took this away from me for a while. I can use my body again. I’ve regained my sense of identity.”


You may order your first Bike Rower from Motherhealth, email motherhealth@gmail.com

Happy genes love to eat

 Special people with special genes are always happy and love to eat. We are also influence by our environment but our genes is our master control until we harmed our genes from forces in the environment, prenatal nutrition , stress and other factors.

Connie

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Cancer signs by Dr Mercola

Don’t rely on routine tests alone to protect you from cancer. It’s just as important to listen to your body and notice anything that’s different, odd, or unexplainable. Here are some signs that are commonly overlooked:

1. Wheezing or shortness of breath
One of the first signs many lung cancer patients remember noticing is the inability to catch their breath.

2. Chronic cough or chest pain
Several types of cancer, including leukemia and lung tumors, can cause symptoms that mimic a bad cough or bronchitis. Some lung cancer patients report chest pain that extends up into the shoulder or down the arm.

3. Frequent fevers or infections
These can be signs of leukemia, a cancer of the blood cells that starts in the bone marrow. Leukemia causes the marrow to produce abnormal white blood cells, sapping your body’s infection-fighting capabilities.

4. Difficulty swallowing
Trouble swallowing is most commonly associated with esophageal or throat cancer, and is sometimes one of the first signs of lung cancer, too.

5. Swollen lymph nodes or lumps on the neck, underarm, or groin
Enlarged lymph nodes indicate changes in the lymphatic system, which can be a sign of cancer.

6. Excessive bruising or bleeding that doesn’t stop
This symptom usually suggests something abnormal happening with the platelets and red blood cells, which can be a sign of leukemia. Over time, leukemia cells crowd out red blood cells and platelets, impairing your blood’s ability to carry oxygen and clot.

7
. Weakness and fatigue
Generalized fatigue and weakness is a symptom of so many different kinds of cancer that you’ll need to look at it in combination with other symptoms. But any time you feel exhausted without explanation and it doesn’t respond to getting more sleep, talk to your doctor.

8. Bloating or abdominal weight gain
Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer overwhelmingly report unexplained abdominal bloating that came on fairly suddenly and continued on and off over a long period of time.

9. Feeling full and unable to eat
This is another tip-off to ovarian cancer; women say they have no appetite and can’t eat, even when they haven’t eaten for some time.

10. Pelvic or abdominal pain
Pain and cramping in the pelvis and abdomen can go hand in hand with the bloating that often signals ovarian cancer. Leukemia can also cause abdominal pain resulting from an enlarged spleen.

11. Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
This is a common result of diagnosing colorectal cancer. Blood in the toilet alone is reason to call your doctor and schedule a colonoscopy.

12. Unexplained weight loss
Weight loss is an early sign of colon and other digestive cancers; it’s also a sign of cancer that’s spread to the liver, affecting your appetite and the ability of your body to rid itself of wastes.

13. Upset stomach or stomachache
Stomach cramps or frequent upset stomachs may indicate colorectal cancer.

14. A red, sore, or swollen breast
These symptoms can indicate inflammatory breast cancer. Call your doctor about any unexplained changes to your breasts.

15. Nipple changes
One of the most common changes women remember noticing before being diagnosed with breast cancer is a nipple that began to appear flattened, inverted, or turned sideways.

16. Unusually heavy or painful periods or bleeding between periods
Many women report this as the tip-off to endometrial or uterine cancer. Ask for a transvaginal ultrasound if you suspect something more than routine heavy periods.

17. Swelling of facial features
Some patients with lung cancer report noticing puffiness, swelling, or redness in the face. Small cell lung tumors commonly block blood vessels in the chest, preventing blood from flowing freely from your head and face.

18. A sore or skin lump that doesn’t heal, becomes crusty, or bleeds easily
Familiarize yourself with the different types of skin cancer — melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma — and be vigilant about checking skin all over your body for odd-looking growths or spots.

19. Changes in nails
Unexplained changes to the fingernails can be a sign of several types of cancer. A brown or black streak or dot under the nail can indicate skin cancer, while newly discovered “clubbing”– enlargement of the ends of the fingers with nails that curve down over the tips — can be a sign of lung cancer. Pale or white nails can sometimes be a sign of liver cancer.

20. Pain in the back or lower right side
Many cancer patients say this was the first sign of liver cancer. Breast cancer is also often diagnosed via back pain, which can occur when a breast tumor presses backward into the chest, or when the cancer spreads to the spine or ribs.

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Whether you are a man or a woman, it’s important to watch for any unusual changes in your body and energy levels in order to detect any signs of cancer early on. The sooner you notice there’s a problem, the sooner you can begin to take the steps necessary to promote healing within your body.

Of course, ideally you should follow an anti-cancer lifestyle even before you notice any symptoms, as prevention is the best route when it comes to most chronic diseases. It is not unusual for 10 or more years to pass between exposure to a cancer-causing agent (tobacco, chemicals, radiation, cell phones, poor nutrition, etc.) and detectable cancer.

So during this time you have a chance to alter the progression of the disease.

Cancer is actually a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. The “cure” lies in controlling this abnormal growth and stopping the spread.

Your body has a remarkable capacity to do just that — to heal — and that ability is fueled largely by your lifestyle. If you eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and sun exposure and address your emotional stress, your body should be able to maintain a healthy balance.

The problem with cancer often lies not only with ignoring these health principles but also with the invasive and highly risky treatments that conventional medicine relies on to treat it — surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

This may surprise you to hear, but a recent landmark study found some cancers, even invasive cancers, may go away without treatment, and it may happen more often than anyone thought.

On the contrary, many experts now say cancer patients are more likely to die from cancer treatments like chemotherapythan the cancer itself.

The alarming rates of cancer deaths across the world — cancer has a mortality rate of 90 percent, according to Italian oncologist Dr. Tullio Simoncini — speak volumes about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of these treatments, yet they are still regarded as the gold standard of cancer care.

Overcome Erectile Dysfunction for better health and a better sex life

Whether you currently suffer from ED or are hoping to sidestep this condition, try these tips to overcome ED for better health and a better sex life.

  1. Start walking. According to one Harvard study, just 30 minutes of walking a day was linked with a 41% drop in risk for ED. Other research suggests that moderate exercise can help restore sexual performance in obese middle-aged men with ED.
  2. Eat right. In the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, eating a diet rich in natural foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and fish — with fewer red and processed meat and refined grains — decreased the likelihood of ED.
  3. Pay attention to your vascular health. High blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides can all damage arteries in the heart (causing heart attack), in the brain (causing stroke), and leading to the penis (causing ED). An expanding waistline also contributes. Check with your doctor to find out whether your vascular system — and thus your heart, brain, and penis — is in good shape or needs a tune-up through lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medications.
  4. Size matters, so get slim and stay slim. A trim waistline is one good defense — a man with a 42-inch waist is 50% more likely to have ED than one with a 32-inch waist. Losing weight can help fight erectile dysfunction, so getting to a healthy weight and staying there is another good strategy for avoiding or fixing ED. Obesity raises risks for vascular disease and diabetes, two major causes of ED. And excess fat interferes with several hormones that may be part of the problem as well.
  5. Move a muscle, but we’re not talking about your biceps. A strong pelvic floor enhances rigidity during erections and helps keep blood from leaving the penis by pressing on a key vein. In a British trial, three months of twice-daily sets of Kegel exercises (which strengthen these muscles), combined with biofeedback and advice on lifestyle changes — quitting smoking, losing weight, limiting alcohol — worked far better than just advice on lifestyle changes.

For more on diagnosing, treating, and learning how to overcome ED, buy Erectile Dysfunction, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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