Kicking up a row

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01 Jul 2019 | PEOPLE

Kicking up a row

// Story Teo Jing Ting 

// Photos Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of CPT (NS) Han

English 华文
CPT (NS) Han hopes to spread the love of rowing as an exercise by introducing rowing workshops to help people understand the benefits and techniques.

He used to sail the high seas. Now, he rows on dry land. Meet former naval officer CPT (NS) David Han, who opened Singapore's first dedicated indoor rowing studio.

After spending six years in the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and another five as a harbour pilot in the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), Captain (CPT) (NS) Han decided to give it all up to chase his dream of promoting indoor rowing in Singapore.

He opened Row Revolution, Singapore's first dedicated indoor rowing studio, in the heart of Chinatown on 2 Apr after more than two years of planning.

"I wanted to explore something different and bring something new and of value to the community," explained CPT (NS) Han, who chanced upon the idea three years ago at the PSA gym.

After falling for the sport while working out on the rowing machine, the 36-year-old started actively researching rowing and instructional techniques through online videos. He also took videos of himself teaching and uploaded them onto forums for comments.

"I attended fitness classes, learnt the rhythm and observed how the classes were conducted," he added.

Rowing with the times

A concept similar to spinning, rowing is a full-body exercise that engages major muscle groups with zero impact on joints. It is a sport that balances strength and endurance training, and is said to be beneficial for improving cardiovascular health and posture.

During a 50-minute class, rowers row as a team to the latest tunes. The more competitive ones will be pleased to see information on their individual distances covered, calories burnt and speed displayed alongside their teammates' on a huge screen.

These numbers are emailed individually to rowers after each class, so that they can track their results over time.

"When rowing, you never disengage your mind; you're always paying attention and time passes faster," said CPT (NS) Han, whose studio houses 13 rowing machines, including one for teaching.

Going with the flow

Enthusiastic as he is, CPT (NS) Han admitted that the past few months have not been easy. There were times when he questioned his move, to the point of breaking down in front of his wife.

He credits his time in the RSN with honing his planning skills and is grateful to have the support of his family.

"In the navy, we go through very rigorous planning processes. Through contingency planning and thinking of backup plans to simulation and table-top exercises, I learnt invaluable skills that helped me when I wanted to set up my own business," said the Executive Officer of a tugboat in the RSN's civil resource units, 192 and 193 Squadrons.

He also learnt to take mistakes in his stride. Without standard operating procedures or manuals to follow, it was mostly trial-and-error when it came to starting a business.

"I had to accept that there was no right answer. Just explore and make mistakes, 'cos if you don't make them, you'll never learn."

CPT (NS) Han (seated, far right) with his batch mates during his Naval Warfare Officer Course graduation ceremony in 2011.

"In the navy, we go through very rigorous planning processes. Through contingency planning and thinking of backup plans to simulation and table-top exercises, I learnt invaluable skills that helped me when I wanted to set up my own business."

CPT (NS) Han

Spreading the passion

It took a lot of courage for a reserved person like CPT (NS) Han to step up and teach. In fact, when he first had the idea, he thought that he could concentrate on the backend of the business while his instructors conducted the classes.

He ended up conducting the classes personally and grew to enjoy engaging with his rowers.

"We trade stories about our backgrounds and they share their fitness goals. I also take the opportunity to tell them about the benefits of rowing."

These new relationships have also become a way to increase his customer base, as word of mouth spreads. Currently, about six to seven customers attend each of his classes.

Ask about his future plans and CPT (NS) Han says that he hopes to introduce rowing workshops to spread the love of the exercise. And if there’s enough interest, he dreams of organising events such as indoor rowing marathons.

"Right now, people may not feel comfortable getting on the machine or are afraid of injuring themselves ’cos they don’t know how to row properly."

"I hope that learning the right techniques will allow them to enjoy it as much as I do."

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