Not long after Helen Baines gave birth to her first child, she and a pal from a baby care class took up rowing to "get their figures back," recounts her husband, Gary. Their teacher was Helen's friend's husband, Ted Nash — who had won an Olympic gold medal in rowing two years earlier.
The women began to compete in the sport, with Nash as their coach.
"The next thing I knew, I was talked into rowing by Ted," says Gary Baines. He, too, became devoted to it.
Even with a growing family, dental school at the University of Kentucky, a residency in pediatric dentistry at Harvard and establishing a new practice in Tampa, Baines made time to row competitively beginning in the 1960s.
He says he won many races on the standard course of 1,000 meters, or about 1,093 yards. Times for those races are around four minutes. Standard collegiate and Olympic courses are around 2,000 meters, or about 1 1/4 miles.
Baines quit competing in the early 1990s. By then, his good friend and racing partner, Milo Vega, a founder of the Tampa Rowing Club, had died of a heart attack while rowing on the Hillsborough River.
Baines has never giving up rowing, which he says is great exercise for people of any age: It is a low-impact activity that works legs, back, arms and stomach muscles.
"Rowing is a sport that a beginner can do without hurting himself or herself. It takes time, however, to learn the strokes, (the) balance . . . "
People with back, leg and joint problems also are able to row, he continued. Another benefit:
"In combination with a good diet, rowing can help with weight loss. An elite male rower can eat 6,000 to 8,000 calories daily just to maintain weight. Women like the weight loss in their bottoms."
In addition to all these physical benefits, Baines added, "It also works the mind. Rowing requires some pretty intense concentration: As a Zen-like activity, it is very easy to forget everything else and just concentrate on the form, the power and the feel of the shell gliding along the water."
Masters level competitors are divided into age groups. Older rowers are given a handicap that evens the rowing course. Regattas often have races that include all age divisions. The Tampa Rowing Club has a number of senior rowers, including one who began rowing at 78.