When Aimee joined SRA she was part way through her weight loss journey. Prior to joining she estimates she lost about 60 pounds, but knew she had a long way to go. She hasn’t reached her goal weight yet, but mentioned that her peak weight loss was 120 pounds. Woolwine has been close to her goal, but a rough year has slightly set her back. She lost her mother a year ago, and also went through her surgery this year to repair severe cartilage damage. “One of the things that rowing has taught me is that I can do hard things. I was never a person who did difficult things if they were difficult for me,” Woolwine said when reflecting on her weight loss. “I can do hard things, and it’s worth doing hard things. I know I will get to my goal weight some day.”
Woolwine, now a Wellness Coach for Weight Watchers (WW), had so much insight on health and wellness to share. She attributes most of her weight loss to a healthier diet, but acknowledged the role that physical activity and rowing played in her weight loss journey. “The benefits to being fit, never having been fit in my life before, I can tell you that having my knee surgery when I was 22 and my surgery now- being fit and strong and flexible makes recovery so much easier.”
“The absolute greatest gift that rowing has given me is a new vision for aging.” Woolwine began to focus on her mid-morning crewmates more. “Until this last year I’ve been the youngest mid-morning rower. I’m rowing with women who are 20-30 years older than I am. I lost all of my grandparents very young. They had been ill for a long time, so before rowing, that was my primary example of aging - ill, limited mobility. Now I have a different idea of what being older can look like.”SRA has a wide range of ages of rowers ranging from middle school children to adults in their 70s. It was inspirational for Woolwine to see the rowers from the mid-morning team living and leading healthy, strong, and competitive lifestyles.
“It makes aging exciting rather than scary,” Woolwine said about continuing rowing. She noted that if she can get in a boat and hold an oar at the age of 70 she would count that as a victory! Woolwine just wants to continue moving. She made it clear that she wants to live a life of meaning and purpose. “I want to be mobile, but not just be mobile, I want to enjoy moving.” She has seen the difficulties that can come with aging contrasted against active older lifestyles that are full of fun, vibrancy, and energy. Seeing those two sides - mobile and immobile, healthy and unhealthy, active and inactive - has motivated Woolwine to pursue a life in motion.
Support also comes from her mid-morning teammates. “They are amazing. When my husband had to go out of town on my fortieth birthday for work- I celebrated with the team. We all went out to lunch.” Woolwine didn’t expect anything, but she was showered with gifts. When her mother died, her team was there for her. After her surgery her teammates visited and offered meals. She refers to her mid-morning team as her family.
Woolwine has learned a lot of lessons from rowing and weight loss. “It took external validation. The first coach who actually said to me that I could make the Charles boat one of these days if I worked hard enough was Kara.” Kara planted the seeds of motivation in the back of Woolwine’s mind. That belief in her ability made Woolwine realize that she could achieve any goal she set her mind to. She said her goal used to be going to the Charles to cheer on teammates. Instead she went to the Charles in 2016 and 2017 as a competitor and placed top ten both times.
Being a teammate has given Woolwine a sense of responsibility. She finds it easier to stick to her goals with a team motivating her and also counting on her at practices. She said her favorite memory was her entire 2016 season. That year her boat won Tail of the Lake, placed top ten at the Head of the Charles, and they won Head of the Lake. The camaraderie and success of that team during that head-racing season was an incredible experience for Woolwine, and the first time that she accepted the label of “athlete” in reference to herself.
As a Wellness Coach, and someone who has gone through an incredible health and wellness journey, Woolwine had some advice for others. “When you are trying to improve your health and wellness, you can’t change everything at once. It comes down to two things. It comes down to changing a lot of little habits and letting that build up over time. The other thing is that it is all about what is going on above the neck.” For Woolwine, physical and mental health are equally important. She preaches the importance of mental fortitude and belief in oneself. “You will fail over and over and over and over. The only true path to success is failure. If you expect yourself to be perfect you will be disappointed on a regular basis. True success is humbling”.
“Head of the Charles 2019- I want it,” Woolwine said with that competitive tone in her voice. Aimee has gone through an incredible journey. One that has made her a different person than the one she was 10 years ago. She went from being overweight with limited athletics in her life to being a strong, healthy, decorated athlete at SRA. Her journey has given her an incredible group of friends in the rowing community, a new understanding of health, and an ability to chase down her goals. She, like many of our rowers, is truly discovering her unbounded potential.