Did you know that Olympic gold medalist coxswain of the US Rowing Team Mary Whipple is an instructor at Flywheel Seattle? After winning her third Olympic medal back in 2012, Whipple traded the boat for the bike and has been kicking us into shape over on the West coast ever since. In the spirit of the Winter Olympics, Whipple shared her experience as an Olympic Athlete, and why joining the Flywheel team made perfect sense:
“My first experience with Flywheel was when my 2004 Athens Olympic teammate, Ali Cox, took me to the Upper East Side studio in New York City before the 2012 London Games. The US Rowing Women’s team trains in Princeton, NJ and I often would visit Ali in the city on off weekends. I immediately loved Flywheel because of the technology. Instead of going off of perceived resistance, I had numbers to help guide me into getting more fit. As a coxswain for the Olympic team, it was my job to assess the speed of our boat and offer ways to increase our speed through technical calls or motivational calls. So I loved the flow of class, the competition, the motivation and the social aspect of a team ride.
When I got a message from the Chairman of Flywheel during the Olympics, it piqued my interest. It turned out that both he and co-founder Ruth Zukerman read a New York Times article about my role as a coxswain and they felt it was similar to the role of a Flywheel instructor. I thought about it for a bit and to me, it felt like a natural transition after my retirement from competitive rowing. I went from being a leader in the boat to being a leader in the stadium. I started training with amazing John Wellman and have been teaching for a over a year now.
I think being an instructor is better than coxing because I actually get to work out while offering “suggestions” to my riders! When I decided to retire from rowing, I didn’t think that I would have the experience of working with a team again to push physical and mental limits. Being a part of a team and working for a common goal is the best feeling. The Flywheel community is doing just that, coming together to push themselves to become better than what they can do alone.
Some riders may feel intimidated by the TorqBoard or seeing their total power number in class. For me, I use those numbers to shape my mental toughness. Just showing up for class means that you made a decision and committed to it. As a coxswain, I would ask myself, could we win on our worst day? Even if we were having a tough week, we all knew that if we handled it better than any other country we would come out stronger on race day. If you can control your mental toughness, for me, that is the definition of winning.
With any sport or fitness goal, it has to be about the journey and not the destination. That is why I like competition, it makes you push yourself beyond what you think is possible. When you do, there is nothing better—except when you get to share it with your teammates. That is why the Flywheel community is special. We get to have shared experiences of helping each other push beyond what we think is possible and we have the numbers to prove it when we want them.
When I’m not in the stadium helping my riders achieve their goals, I am giving back to the rowing community by training the next generation of coxswains and rowers. I’m currently giving coxswain clinics around the country to help teach coxswains to become stronger leaders, motivators, teammates, and better decision makers. In the summers, I run a camp out of the University of Washington’s boathouse through my company, The 9th Seat, LLC. I also give keynote speeches to businesses on leadership, taking risks, and leaving your legacy. With all the craziness of my life, my Flywheel classes are my “me-time.” When the class gets loaded and the stadium door closes it’s time for my riders and me to shut out the outside world and help each other go somewhere new.”
Listen to Mary’s Gold Medal Playlist now on Spotify.
Image courtesy of Mary Whipple.