How a Marathon Runner Gets a Low Impact Fitness Solution With Rowing

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When Juan Carlos Zarate reached his fifties, his knees started screaming: Stop running. The longtime marathoner and cardiologist finished his last 26.2 mile run four years ago, at the age of 55. Like many former riders, he turned to road cycling as a low-impact alternative, but worried about the growing number of cyclist deaths caused by vehicles.

Dr Zarate, 59, lives in a protected bay in the city of Niceville, in the Panhandle of Florida. Rather than going to the gym, he looked to the waterways around his house for a safe place to get his dose of nature and exercise. The younger of his two sons, Lucas Zarate, rowed in high school, which inspired him to try sculling.

Sculling is a rowing discipline requiring two oars. Narrow boats, also known as seashells, range from a 27-foot-long solo boat to a 58-foot-long boat that can accommodate eight people. The hulls are fitted with sliding seats, with the oars attached to the boat.

Dr Zarate signed up for a lesson and was surprised to find that the sport worked both his legs and his upper body. “You drive through the legs to initiate the power of the race,” he says. “People think rowing is about brute strength, but it’s really about technique. It is a very technical sport. You are always learning and improving.

He bought a seashell for his wife, Robin Zarate, and now they’re both addicted. The couple have joined the Pensacola Rowing Club, just over an hour away, and are considering starting a local club.


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