Hanlan Boat Club’s Surprisingly Motivating and Enjoyable Answer to the Pandemic
News/ Jan 26

Hanlan Boat Club’s Surprisingly Motivating and Enjoyable Answer to the Pandemic


The following is shared on behalf of the Hanlan Boat Club.


Unprecedented. This is the word that best applies to the rowing season we have all just had. The pandemic has forced all of us to adapt programming to singles, implement cleaning, masking & physical distancing protocols, and eliminate social gatherings.

Yet, the pandemic has also created opportunities to re-imagine programming and community engagement. Hanlan Boat Club, under the lengthy Toronto lockdowns, has pivoted from its traditional gym-and-tank-based winter programs, to opening a ‘virtual boathouse’ where we are hosting our first club-wide Winter Training Program. Let’s call it province-wide, as this program is open to all rowers across Ontario.

Our Hanlan Winter program includes coached online ergometer, weights, yoga, and pilates sessions, as well as technical rowing webinars. Sessions are led by Hanlan’s Head Coach Iain Wilson, Junior Coach Julia Toljagic and volunteers, including Elizabeth Watering-Taylor and Eric Szonyi (both Henley Masters winners), and former University of Toronto varsity coach, Scott Taylor. Yoga is offered by local instructor Claire Boxall and Pilates sessions are led by Hanlan’s own, Shelagh Baker, Registered Physiotherapist and Fletcher Pilates Professional Teacher.

All sessions are recorded and available for five days, so participants who cannot attend a session live can work out on their own schedule.

Club President Jean-Christophe Marly, who developed the Hanlan virtual boathouse platform on Jitsimeet, commented, “The biggest challenge of COVID was the loss of community on the water – there were no social events and rowing was all business: launch boat, physically distance on the dock, row, return, clean boat and leave quickly to minimize social contacts. With our Winter Programming, we are taking back control and creating an online community of friendly faces. We’re staying fit together and connected with each other in lockdown.”

Program participants have also given the program rave reviews. One member commented, “ [it is] surprisingly motivating to be erging in a group, even virtually…. rowed twice what I do normally, without the boredom.” Others have said that the program “keeps me accountable… and gets me out of bed”, and that it is “so great to see everyone’s faces”.

Hanlan took steps to make the program inclusive through:

  • Running a free pilot program in December and using feedback from the pilot to finalize the program;
  • Designing erg sessions to be “non-intimidating”: pieces are time-based rather than distance-based, and cameras can be turned off;
  • Renting out its ergs to participants;
  • Recognizing that not everyone wants to erg online, Hanlan created a “winter engagement” option with everything but the erg sessions; and
  • Planning for outdoor, socially distanced winter activities (pending lockdown restrictions).

As mentioned, the program is open to all rowers and Hanlan welcomes participants who row at other clubs.

Full information on the Hanlan winter program is on our web-site at https://www.hanlanboatclub.ca/winter-program.