“You can go at your own pace but never get left behind”
Susan Hodgson and charity Silverfit’s inclusive indoor rowing classes create a welcoming environment at Kingston RC
At 11:00 every Thursday morning in Kingston RC, Susan Hodgson, a personal trainer and rowing coach, with the support of Silverfit (a charity dedicated to promoting healthy ageing) offers low-cost indoor rowing classes for people over 45. With a focus on inclusivity, skill development and well-being, the classes aim to provide older adults with a communal space to start rowing and get fit.
Silverfit combats social isolation with physical activity, using a ‘sandwich’ formula in their classes: socialising, exercising and socialising. “Silverfit has some really great ambassadors, they’re really encouraging,” Susan says.
“Nine times out of ten the workouts are done to time rather than distance so everyone starts and finishes together – immediately we’re a crew.”
She makes it known at the start of every session that people can stay afterwards and chat over some refreshments. “I always announce it, and say ‘we’ve got tea and cake if you’d like’.” After 35 minutes perfecting their rowing technique, participants can reward themselves by connecting with a supportive community.
Susan’s rowing journey began during her university years in Liverpool, where she sought to try something new and decided to just ‘give it a go’. Despite no coaching and basic equipment, Susan’s university bo
at club took two eights to the Women’s Head of the River Race, placing halfway in the field. “I thought that it was a really good reflection of what willpower and teamwork can achieve.” Susan’s experience was strengthened during her time studying in the US, working on projects like the Junior Olympics in Seattle and coaching across Canada. She thinks back fondly on to her time in America, reflecting that, “it made me realise I’m interested in community, sport and health”.
Outside the weekly Silverfit indoor rowing classes, her clientele ranges from 10-year-olds with learning disabilities to 84-year-olds who are just starting their fitness journeys, and everyone in between. “It’s not always easy to be active, but as long as you do something and be kind to yourself, you can see what works for you,” she says, adding that “that’s where a lot of my motivation comes from, equality of opportunity where possible.”
When asked what people can expect from coming to one of her classes, Susan perfectly sums up the connection between community and fitness: “You can go at your own pace but never get left behind. Nine times out of ten the workouts are done to time rather than distance so everyone starts and finishes together – immediately we’re a crew.”
“It’s not always easy to be active, but as long as you do something and be kind to yourself, you can see what works for you.”
With options for intensity and frequent breaks, Susan encourages everyone to go at their own pace. “We never row for more than 10 minutes at a time, it’s not usually more than rate 22 and I give options the whole time… If you’re in your zone and your rhythm and you just want to stay where you are, that’s fine!,” she says smiling. “But if you need to pause, pause, and join back in when you’re ready.” Low splits don’t matter on these rowing machines. Instead, the goal is to boost your confidence whilst developing your skills and technique.
Although the class focuses on indoor rowing, participants can also expect mobility exercises, bodyweight workouts and balance work to promote overall fitness. “We do a combination and then have a stretc
h. If the weather is nice, we all go outside and do it.”
Susan instructs Silverfit’s indoor rowing classes at Kingston RC on Thursday mornings between 11:00-11:35. Find out more on their website.
Check out Susan’s Fluid Fitness indoor rowing classes at Twickenham RC here.