The Sarasota rower feels brand new at 77 thanks to her daily trek on the water.
A 4:30 a.m. wake-up call is not usual, nor unwelcome, for Emily Snuttjer.
It simply means it is time to row.
Snuttjer, 77, rows with Sarasota County Rowing Club every day the weather cooperates, including weekends. She will be on the water for about an hour, sometimes more, rowing 4-5 kilometers down and back. Then Snuttjer, who is retired, will head home, where she eats her favorite breakfast: beets, blueberries, bananas and oats, with some ground flax seed mixed in for added health benefits.
It might sound like the routine of a rowing veteran, but in actuality, Snuttjer has only been rowing since 2017. She was born in Mobile, Ala., but she moved to the area from Anniston, Ala. Snuttjer said she grew up around the water, with her family going to Mobile Bay to water ski and fish — all things, she joked, she could do stationary. Snuttjer said when she arrived in Sarasota and saw how close she was to the water, she knew she had to find a way to take advantage. When she heard about SCRC's Learn to Row classes, she decided to try it. She has not looked back since then.
"I am the most sedentary person in the world," Snuttjer said. "If something is not fun for me to do, I am not going to do it. Rowing is fun on so many levels. It's wonderful. It has gotten me on the water again."
Snuttjer said the feeling she gets from rowing is not unlike the feeling provided from tai chi — an "internal massage." Snuttjer said she believes people get scared of trying the sport because they hear how grueling it can be at the upper levels of racing. At the lower levels, Snuttjer said, it is easy, almost relaxing.
Getting on the water has done more for Snuttjer than provide an outlet for fun. It has also helped her become more social. Snuttjer lives in a 55-and-up community, she said, and rowing is full of younger people.
"I don't think many people my age know many younger people," Snuttjer said. "It's exciting. They are high-energy people. Being around that energy, it keeps you going. We have fun. We do some off-water activities as well as the rowing."
Snuttjer said her newfound love of rowing inspired her to remain active. For the past year, she has been working with a personal trainer three times a week. She eats well — exemplified by her breakfast — and tries to ingest as many high-nitrate foods as she can.
"They are performance enhancers, and I need all the performance enhancers I can get," Snuttjer said, laughing.
Rowing helps Snuttjer expand her lung capacity, but she's also been giving her lungs a workout a different way: playing the bagpipes. She met a bagpipes instructor through rowing and has now been taking lessons for about two years. Snuttjer said the lung capacity required for rowing is nothing compared to bagpipes, and as a result she is still in the learning stages — though she is not opposed to playing gigs once she gets good enough.
All of these experiences are what Snuttjer means when she says her enjoyment of rowing has levels. The sport is fun, of course, but everything surrounding it has reinvigorated her as well.
"It's the best-kept secret in the world," Snuttjer said. "I started rowing at 75. If I can learn it, anyone can learn it."
If nothing else convinces people to row, Snuttjer said, maybe this will: It's another activity you can do sitting down.