Senior rows his way to health at record pace

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Edwin Berry works out on his Concept 2 rowing machine Monday morning at his home in the Lower Valley. (Brenda Ahearn photos/Daily Inter Lake)

On Monday morning, Edwin Berry, 81, put on his running shoes and headed to his living room to train to beat another indoor rowing record.

Berry, who lives near Bigfork, has always been racing in some direction. In high school, it was to home plate in baseball. As a college freshman, it was toward a soccer goal. And as a Flathead Valley resident for decades, it was down Montana slopes on a pair of skis.

“But a body changes,” Berry said. “Let’s say it this way, you don’t see too many 80-year-olds in the Olympics. There’s a point where you have to not be the crazy skier, you have to think about what your body needs to be in good shape.”

BERRY FIRST used a rowing machine in 1990. He used it as a brief warm-up because it worked nearly every muscle in his body before heading toward a mountain, racetrack or pool.

At 80 years old, Berry rediscovered the machine through Concept2, a manufacturer of rowing equipment.

A year later, he holds first place in his age category — 80 to 89 — for the fastest 100-meter and 500-meter rows on the machine.

As of last week, he gained the top spot for 1,000 meters, which he finished in 4:01.8.

The indoor rower rankings are compiled by the company that makes the equipment

“This workout makes sense to me, for my body, and it’s the most efficient way for me to maintain a good body as I age,” Berry said. “It supports building muscle, flexibility and endurance. The only thing it doesn’t help maintain as you age is balance.”

But he tilted his head toward his back yard where he had mowed down part of a field for a 400-meter track: “I got that covered with running, though,” he said.

Working out has always been an equation to Berry. His background in engineering and physics has caused him to see lines in technique when running, lifting or rowing. He schedules time to train not just because he likes it, he also because he wants a productive body.

“I’M NOT swimming, running and jumping as soon as I wake up and every hour of the day,” he said. “I do what I need for my body to be good.”

Monday morning he strapped his feet into the rowing pedals, set his workout for 100 meters and set the resistance to 8.5, a level he calls “record setting. That’s the perfect gear for my body to hit the right pace.”

He straightened his back and began to pull on the cord in front of him as if he were lifting an object off the ground.

WHEN BERRY talks about his workout, his voice takes the tone of a coach — touching on each detail including where the weight should fall on a rower’s feet, where the rower’s arms should land and how each pull should be smooth and steady.

He said he hopes in the next few months to transform his hobby into a club for people around the valley to train together to stay in shape. He said it would be a few months before the club is active and advertised.

“It can be for people who have reached the age to think about the condition of their body, so maybe 50 plus? Whatever age that happens,” he said. “If we don’t use our bodies, they’ll deteriorate. And I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far. Let’s see if I can break some more records.”

Reporter Katheryn Houghton may be reached at 758-4436 or by email at

Edwin Berry

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