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The ripple effect.

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BRENDA SANTANA. The last thing that Brenda Santana, 22, was looking for was an exercise program. “Honestly, it was too much to even think about running or going to the gym,” she admitted.

Hear what Brenda has to say:

But when she was introduced to the idea of rowing at the Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club, something clicked.

“I didn’t even know that rowing was a sport,” Brenda said. But she liked how unique rowing was as an activity, and that it was a new concept to all of her friends and family. “When I tried explaining to them what it was, they started singing, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” I was like, “Yeah, I am row, row, rowing my boat,” she laughed. “And I want it to go faster.”

Though rowing proved to be a full-body workout, that’s not what got her hooked. “Once I tried it, I didn’t want to stop,” she explained. “It felt so peaceful on the water, like it was keeping me away from my problems. In that moment, it was just about the rowing.”

Brenda began to make changes in her life to make progress as a rower. She noticed that her smoking habit was holding her back, so she quit. She also began a regular training program that included a morning run and cardio workouts, all with a view to honing her craft on the water. “I noticed that after I started working out, it took me three strokes to really get the boat moving, where it used to take five.”

Along the way, Brenda lost 80 pounds, an accomplishment that she sees as a byproduct of pursuing her passion, rather than the goal itself.

In addition to bringing focus to her life, Brenda discovered an unexpected community of support. “The boathouse is like my second home. Everyone there knows me, or is someone that I just haven’t met yet,” she said. “If I’m not at home, I’m probably at the boathouse.”

Brenda has also seen benefits in her role as a mother. “My daughter Siena already asks me all about it. She’s amped and wants to try it too. She’s too little right now, but I’ll get her in a boat with me when she’s a little older,” said Brenda. “As the years go by, I think it’s going to bring a bond between me and my child. And I see myself differently too. Everything I do just feels more positive.”

Learn more about rowing and other activities offered at the Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club (PVRC) or by calling 413.736.1322. PVRC offers opportunities for rowers at every level.