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physical requirements for learn to row

In order to get the most out of your class and for your own safety, general fitness is required. You need to be able to:

  • lift 20-25 pounds overhead
  • touch your toes (more or less)
  • crouch down to get from the dock into the boat
  • have a good sense of balance
  • pass a swim test (see below)
  • size: we only have one LTR boat that can handle people over 215 lbs. If you weigh 215 lbs. or more, please contact us to make sure we can reserve that boat for you.

If you're not sure you can handle this physically, please contact learntorow@mendotarowingclub.com with any questions. We can also arrange for you to come watch a practice and see what it's like.

Swim test

Swimming ability is required for class participation. Rowing is a water sport and it's important that you feel confident in the water in case of an emergency. The Swim Test is: swim 50 yards, tread water for 10 minutes, and then put on a life jacket.

Please bring your completed Swim Test Form, SCUBA certification or Life Guard certification to your first class.

What if I am not a strong swimmer?

  • You may take the swim test wearing a life jacket if necessary. However, if you take the swim test while wearing a life jacket, you must then wear your own life jacket at all times while in a boat. We recommend an automatic inflatable life jacket (available online or at shops such as Rutabaga and West Marine).
  • If you are unable to pass the swim test, you can drop the class and will be able to get a refund up to one week before class starts. If you think you might not be able to pass the swim test requirement, we suggest that you attempt to take the test before registering for a class.

How do I complete the swim test? 

  • You may complete the swim test at any pool that is convenient for you. Bring rowing clothes that you can swim in and our Swim Test Form for the pool lifeguard to sign when you complete the test. 
  • You may also take the swim test in the lake by the boathouse. Please contact our LTR coordinator to make arrangements.


Q: What should I wear for the swim test?

A: It's best to wear what you'll be rowing in. You want snug shorts or pants and a t-shirt. You don't need to wear shoes. (while we're rowing, we have our feet in special shoes that are attached to the boat. If you fall out of the boat, the shoes stay in it.)

Q: What if I'm already certified as a SCUBA diver or life guard?

A: Have you earned your certification within the last five years? If so, please send a picture or scan of your certification to our LTR coordinator. If your certification is more than five years old, please complete a swim test (or get re-certified).

Q: What pools can I use?

A: You're welcome to use any pool you have access to, as long as it has a lifeguard. A lot of pools are closed due to the pandemic. We will try to provide pool updates here as we learn more about which pools are open.

Q: What if the pool doesn't have life jackets?

We can lend you one for the swim test. Please contact our LTR coordinator to arrange this.

Q: What if I can't find an open pool?

If you're a confident swimmer and feel comfortable swimming in the lake, you can test with one of our instructors or coaches. Please contact our LTR coordinator if you are interested in doing this.

detailed swim test instructions

One of our members went to the Verona pool for a swim test and wrote up these instructions for us. Thank you, Nancy!

1.  The Verona Area Aquatic Center can administer the swim test.  
2.  You must sign up in advance and pay for an open swim session on line.  There are limited spots, so plan in advance since spots fill up.  
4.  Create an account/login. 
5.  Click "programs", "open swim".   Choose your time for open swim and click register now.  Unless you are a Verona resident, you may not choose times that say"VASD res.only". 
6.  Pay for your program.  My session was $4.00 plus service charge. 
7.  Take to your session:
  •  PFD - they do not have loaners.  You can borrow an orange one from the Boathouse if you do not have one. (please contact learntorow@mendotarowingclub.com for help with this)
  •  Swim test form
  •  rowing shorts and t-shirt
  •  towel
  • dry clothes, flip flops
8.  Go to Verona Aquatic Center at the Verona HS, 234 Wildcat way.  Do NOT go to the Verona Natatorium, even if your registration says Verona Natatorium.
9.  Let the person at the desk know you are there for the swim test.   I had Lifeguard Lindsay who knew about MRC and was great.  Shower before entering pool.  Hand the test sheet to the lifeguard so they know what you need to do.

Mailing Address:
PO Box 646
Madison, WI 53701

Boathouse Address:
622 E Gorham St
Madison, WI

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