Akila R. Simon
Occupation: Child Health & Emergencies, UNICEF, UN
Hometown: Originally from Trinidad & Tobago, now Elmont, New York

For the past 6 years, Akila has served as Head Coach of Empire Dragons, New York City’s first and only breast cancer survivor Dragon Boat team focused on building the most successful survivorship paddling program in the tri-state area.

The club promotes the sport of dragon boating as part of a healthy lifestyle and provide a unique support for those fighting cancer. This July, Empire will head to Florence, Italy for the International Breast Cancer Paddler's Commission Dragon Boat Festival. The festival will have 129 teams from 17 countries with all continents represented. 


How/when did you get involved in Row House?
I was introduced by a friend about 3 years ago. Last year our paddling team wanted to do some cross training in the off season and Row House came to mind again. A few of us came back took some classes, fell in love with it and signed up immediately.

Tell us more about the team's training.
The festival in Italy will mark the first international race for the club, and we are psyched. We came to Row House because there are many similarities between both sports, and we wanted to provide the team with cross training that was varied yet still held similar fundamentals. The team embraced the Row House experience as many of the coaches they worked with were former rowers and had a good understanding of what the women were attempting to achieve. The workouts were challenging, informative, fun and most importantly the whole boat was able to come in and work together toward a common goal.  

Do you remember your first workout? How was it?
It was not my first class, but it was my first Full Row with Tom. For the duration of the class, all I could think was "I want to achieve splits like his. How can I do that?" This class tapped into my athletic/competitive spirit and was the impetus for me to view my classes in a different way. I began setting goals for each class and strategizing on how to get them accomplished. I’m quite happy to say that I am making progress with each passing day.


How have you grown in that time — health, body, mind, etc.?
Over the past year and a half, I have become more disciplined in devoting the time needed to focus on my health and wellness and prioritizing myself. 

What's your workout history like? How is Row House different than what you've done before?
I grew up playing sports (lacrosse, tennis, badminton), working out and have paddled for over 11 years (outrigger and dragon boat canoes). After having sustained multiple injuries, I had to scale back on much physical activity. During my rehab period, I found that I was unable to find an aerobic movement at the gym to give me the intensity I was accustomed to. Discovering rowing has brought back the high energy, powerful and fun workouts that I love. Joining Row House has been one of the most beneficial things I have done for myself. 

What do you enjoy most about Row House?
The challenge to become a better athlete/person never ends. Every class brings an opportunity to set a new and or different goal. You can compete against yourself or you can compete against others (if you sneak a peek at the monitor next to you). ☺

What keeps you coming back?
The coaches and staff are all very friendly, supportive and continue to push me to do my best. Being in a space with like-minded individuals is quite refreshing and motivating. 

What's your favorite class type and movement?
I love Full Row classes. These make me feel as if I am back on the water with my paddling team and in full training mode. A runner up for me is the Restore classes. With them I can focus on stretching and lengthening muscles, which I don’t do enough of on my own.  


Do you have any advice for new members?  
Never shy away from a challenge. They are there to push us beyond our self-imposed limits. Take a class and keep going. It only gets better with time. 
What do you hope to achieve in the coming year?
To become stronger, faster and leaner. Rowing wise I hope to find my lowest split yet, taking my workouts into another realm of possibilities. I would also like to work on improving my 2k time. 

How would you describe yourself?
I am strong willed and determined. I do live for a good challenge and while it is fun to compete with others, I love competing with myself. There is something that I find exhilarating about setting high goals and surpassing them. Once they are achieved I really feel that I can do anything.