International Women's Day is Friday, March 8. It is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. We have spoken with several women we'd like to celebrate for their fitness achievements and in honor of International Women's Day.
Sarah Fuhrmann: Sarah Fuhrmann leads UCanRow2, which provides instructor certification on the Concept2 rowing machine, digital training programs for indoor rowing athletes and fitness professionals and a vibrant online community for erg athletes of all ages, sizes, stages and abilities. She is driven by her belief that rowing (and the SkiErg and the BikeErg) is for EVERY body. A former reputation management professional and newswoman with The Associated Press, she lives in Michigan’s scenic and snowy Upper Peninsula, 15 minutes from Lake Superior and two hours from the nearest Target.
Have you always been an athlete? What was your first sport, and how did you get started? I am the antithesis of the classic hardcore athlete. Like I grew up HATING the mile run and the President’s Physical Fitness tests in grade school. I played random sports in high school and loved field hockey and volleyball, but never did anything well enough to make the varsity. Everything changed, though, when I discovered aerobics class at a gym close to my college dorm.
Who has been an influential coach in your career? Hands down my most influential coach was Terry Smythe, who also became my business partner in our company, UCanRow2. By her words, but even more by her example she taught me—and so many others—to be the best, strongest, but also most compassionate version of myself on the erg, on the water, and every other moment throughout the day. Terry passed away in November, but her coaching legacy lives on every day through UCanRow2, our Meters for Melanoma fundraiser and the Michigan Tech crew.
Which athletes inspire you and why? I am endlessly inspired by athletes who face adversity and achieve anyway. Serena Williams, Billie Jean King and Arthur Ashe in tennis, Olympians Simone Biles and Ibtihaj Muhammad. In rowing, besides Terry I so admired Joan Van Blom, both for what she did competitively and for introducing so many children to erging. I’ll never forget watching Joan row her last race at the Head Of The Charles Regatta. You could see how much of an effort it was for her but she did it anyway, and with such joy.
What/who got you into using Concept2 equipment. How has Concept2 helped you reach your goals? I joined Terry’s gym in 2009, right before the start of the World Rowing Challenge (as it was called then). A line of yellow tape led me from the entry up the stairs to the rowing room. The rest is history. It’s no exaggeration to say that Concept2 completely changed my life. In indoor rowing on the Concept2 I found an athletic pursuit I could do well and consistently; a way to lose weight and have fun at it; and a supportive, vibrant community like I had never had before. I even found a new career—certifying indoor rowing instructors and bringing indoor rowing to people of all ages, stages, shapes and abilities.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your sport/training? Too often the rowing machine is portrayed as a torture device, something that can and should only be used for killer efforts that leave you totally gassed. I love a good sprint, but I am passionate about introducing the world to the version of the machine that changed my life—one that meets you where you are and takes you as far as you want to go.
What is your proudest moment in sport? There have been so many! Personally, when Terry and I finished our first 24-hour row. It was a mental and physical accomplishment that made me believe I could do anything. But I can’t think of this question without also seeing the faces of the hundreds of Special Olympics athletes we have gotten on the rowing machine in the last 10 years. That moment when their eyes light up, where they’re having fun and seeing what they’re capable of is MAGIC.
What advice would you give other women and girls for pursuing sports? It’s NEVER too late to start! People row competitively into their 80s and beyond. Masters athletics in general is booming, with an incredibly supportive, welcoming community. You can be super competitive if you want to be, or not at all. Either way you will be amazed at how a regular practice of sport improves every aspect of your life, especially as we age.
What is your favorite workout on a Concept2 product (and why)? As I get older I’m doing less of the long endurance workouts I did in the past and prioritizing muscle confusion and strength building. The Concept2 products are perfect for this, I use them every workout. I love rotating through all three ergs in a circuit of a minute of erging followed by a series of strength exercises off the machine.
What’s your favorite/go-to workout? Favorite workout music? My go-to workout is 5 rounds of 500 meters of rowing or skiing alternated with 5 bar cleans, squats and presses, followed by 15 sit ups. That rapid back and forth with no break is killer great! You’ll never find me working out without music, but it won’t ever be metal! My favorite song for a 2k or any hard effort is Brainbug’s Rain, the Johnny Vicious Mix. Great beat energy but not so overwhelming you can’t follow your race plan.