by Symantha Misale
The U Can Row 2 Clinic at the State Winter Games
In a room full of rowing machines, Special Olympics Michigan athletes and volunteers cheer each other on as they work to complete the 500-meter rowing challenge. In the center of all of the action is Terry Smythe, Co-Owner of 'U Can Row 2' of Houghton, Michigan.
Previously a medical fitness director at Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital, her job included community outreach. With this, she noticed that many of the cognitively impaired students were in need of a fitness outlet to help maintain their health. With some luck, Smythe received a local community grant to start a program for students to come to a fitness center and be physically active. Initially, the program didn't include rowing, however that did not stop the students' determination to learn about the machine.
During the second session, a student noticed the rowing machine in the corner and asked if they could try it. Other students began to gather around, and for the following year it was the only machine that students wanted to use.
Students went on to prove to the community during local competitions that they could race skillfully, and even win in their divisions. As a part of the Governor's Council for Physical Fitness, Smythe asked how to get in contact with Special Olympics.
Soon after, Smythe was bringing rowing machines to the State Summer Games. The machine was very popular and well received and she now travels the United States and Canada with 'U Can Row 2' teaching fitness enthusiasts how to use the rowing machine and certifying individuals to be able to teach and train.
Celebration at the U Can Row 2 Clinic
"I really want this to become a sport," Smythe said, "It provides these athletes with year-round training and cross-training for other sports. It's a piece of equipment that everybody can use."
Special Olympics Michigan currently does fundraising with CrossFit through an event called the Row Raisers, which Smythe finds extremely valuable for athletes. CrossFit training, according to Smythe, can provide athletes with a base to be able to do any other sport and get better.
"It doesn't matter how long it takes them to finish," said Smythe, "They have fun. They feel like they accomplished something and were a part of something."