RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Is there a better way to view the oranges and reds associated with the autumn than from a tiny, silent boat gliding, swanlike, across a glassy lake or lazy river? But that's not the only reason to give the sport—in which a single rower uses two oars (or sculls), one in each hand—a try. Check out our guide to sculling for beginners to find out more.
#1: It’s easy. Technically speaking, sculling is an exceedingly simple sport. “What you do when you scull is a very natural motion and really very simple in terms of following the sequence,” says Larry Gluckman, director of competitive rowing at Craftsbury Sculling Center in Craftsbury, Vermont, the first rowing camp in North America. You start with your sliding seat pressed as far forward as it can go, then you press backward with your legs, leaning back and pulling with your arms at the end of the stroke. Then you release the oars from the water and rock forward, moving up to the front of your seat’s track to start all over again. “The motion is repetitive,” Gluckman adds. “It never changes, and therefore, it’s easy to remember. Within an hour at our beginner camps, everyone has gotten it—and our campers usually range in age from 16 to 80! That’s part of where the joy lies in sculling—it’s very easy to pick up.”
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#2: It’s peaceful. Sculling’s rhythmic quality and often serene, natural setting make the sport a meditative experience for many. “Some people see it as yoga on the water,” says Gluckman. “It is a beautiful, singular, quiet sport, and those qualities can make it soul-satisfying and even joyful in and of itself.”
#3: It’s great exercise. Despite its hypnotic, lull-the-mind rhythm, sculling demands a lot from the body, working all the major muscle groups from the legs through the trunk to the arms, including the quadriceps (front of the thighs), hamstrings (back of the thighs), gluteal muscles (butt), lower and upper back muscles, and the muscles in your shoulders and upper and lower arms. “If you imagine squatting down, placing your hands on the floor, then pushing off with your legs and exploding upward, that’s very similar to what you do in the boat,” says Gluckman—“over and over and over again. It burns a lot of calories and requires a lot of cardiovascular endurance.”
What it doesn’t require is pounding, which is good news for your knees. “Sculling is an excellent cross-training activity,” adds Gluckman—“especially for runners and other weight-bearing-sports enthusiasts who want to get a good aerobic workout and give their joints a break.”