Karen Calara has been a crucial supporter in my development as a high performance rower.  I first met her when I was suffering a low back injury and she designed my rehabilitation and prevention programs.  Over time, our relationship has evolved from patient-therapist to athlete-adviser and she has used her immense knowledge of biomechanics to help improve my training regimen and stroke style.  Her programs and advice had significantly reduced my frequency of injuries and I would not be where I am today without her.

Alex Twist, Seattle Rowing Center and US National Rowing Team – Bronze Medal, 2015 Lightweight 8+

I’m a novice master’s rower (started summer 2014), age 57, and came to Karen looking for help improving flexibility and preventing injury. She did a full workup, reviewing my prior sports history (swimming, cycling, soccer) and all injuries (mostly ankle and knee, also recurring back pain).  She is the first healthcare provider I’ve ever worked with who took a holistic look at me.  She’s the only one who ever noticed one leg is a bit shorter than the other and fitted me with a simple 1/16″ cork shoe shim.  She zeroed in on three key things for me to work on: hip capsule flexibility, hamstring flexibility, and core stability.  After four months, my flexibility is vastly improved.  I’m pain free.  My stroke is about two feet longer thanks to better compression and better core strength.  I’m rowing a single with vastly improved stability (and speed), and my coach is having me stroke a quad.  Thank you, Karen!

Mark N., Master’s Rower, Vashon Island Rowing Club, Vashon, WA

Karen is amazing! I am so grateful for her work at VBC. She has an incredible understanding of the rowing stroke and knows exactly what exercises to prescribe to fix movement inefficiencies. I feel better prepared for practice after incorporating her techniques into my warm-up, and more confident about my ability to handle a high workload and stay injury-free. She has also been helping me rehab an ankle and treat an old hamstring injury. Her manual skills are the best – I feel positive changes after every time she works on me. 

Cara S., Elite Team, Vesper Boat Club, Philadelphia, PA

I have worked with Karen extensively since 2006, when I first joined the Pocock Elite Sculling Team, and consider her a true miracle worker when it comes to helping athletes overcome injuries, prevent their recurrence, and optimize performance in and out of the boat. From creating preventative core workouts and alignment exercises for our entire team, to developing an individualized plan to address mobility issues in my ankles and lower back, to helping me overcome a variety of injuries, Karen was a vital member of my training team during the years I spent training and competing nationally and internationally. She brings a deep understanding of rowing mechanics and of common issues that result from years of practicing 2-3x/day, and takes an integrative approach to addressing the root cause of a problem, not just the symptoms. Through a combination of stroke analysis on the erg, manual therapy, exercises, and proprioception training, Karen helped me reduce chronic lower back and SI joint pain, increase flexibility in my ankles and hips to sit more comfortably at the catch, “even out” a body that was off-balance from years of sweep rowing, and ultimately to develop a stronger, more efficient stroke. On two separate occasions, I experienced injuries (a torn tendon in my wrist, and two dislocated ribs), that doctors told me could sideline me for months. In both cases, Karen had me back in the boat within two weeks. She worked with my coaches to develop modified training plans and incorporate recovery exercises into my workouts so that I was able to not only recover and compete as planned, but prevent recurrence of those injuries in the future. Although I retired from elite several years ago and have moved on to other athletic pursuits, I still rely on Karen’s expertise and her holistic therapeutic approach to keep me fit, flexible, and injury-free. She is deeply invested in the wellness and success of every athlete she works with, and I would highly recommend her services to anyone looking to take their performance to the next level.

Nicole B., Former US National team rower, Pocock Rowing Center, Seattle, WA

After hearing from several rowing friends of different ages about the wonderful work Karen had done for/with them, I decided to seek her out. My only PT experiences had been the sort where I was handed a sheet of exercises to do and told to return in 6 weeks if there was no improvement. 

Karen looks at the body as a whole, not just the area that you think is causing you trouble. That old song “The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone” comes to mind. I had several “aha!” moments as she explained the source of my pain/discomfort, whether feet, knees or back. The manual work was critical to my ability to return quickly to the sport I love, as was my diligence in following the customized exercise plan she gave me.

Karen’s insightful, knowledgable hands-on approach to total body function will help keep this 69 year old rower on the water for another decade.

Jean S., Senior Master’s Rower, Lake Union Crew, Seattle, WA

My name is Eric Schwirtz, and I currently train under the Vesper Boat Club elite program. After training with a severe back injury, which required surgery, I began training again with the program, but needed to address the issues that caused my back injury.

Karen not only helped me to understand where the short comings were with flexibility, strength, and technique issues, she provided drills and warm-up procedures to address them. I now feel more mobile than I have in years, and I plan to continue with my rehabilitation until I have gained full mobility, and I have Karen to thank for a huge portion of that.

Eric S., Elite Team, Vesper Boat Club, Philadelphia, PA

I am an Elite rower at Vesper and I worked with Karen Calara to have a stroke assessment and body evaluation as well as for treatment during competition. I have been lucky to be pretty healthy but still felt changes in my stroke as Karen helped improve my shoulder and ankle position and recovery during competition. Karen is unique in that she is very thorough in linking body position to the stroke, and is able to see physical reasons for challenges athletes may have in taking their best strokes. I felt more connected to a straighter leg drive with her suggestions in ankle flexibility and shoe insoles, and more connected to my lats when Karen improved my shoulder position thru massage. I know I can thank her for keeping me injury free this year. I also look forward to seeing Karen as she is compassionate and supportive and excited in our pursuits and absolutely has the whole person in mind.

Nicole R., Elite Team, Vesper Boat Club, Philadelphia, PA

Karen and I worked together for a variety of reasons. She helped me recover from serious abdominal surgery as well as helped develop a training program to prepare for Junior Team selection. She helped me accomplish my goals through both manual therapy and exercises. Through working with Karen I had decreased back and abdominal pain. 

Marlee B., 2014&2015 JNT member + medalist, UW Women’s Rowing, Seattle, WA

I believe once your child is at a competitive level in rowing, it’s almost inevitable that aches and pains begin to crop up – some more serious than others. When Katy began having issues with her back muscles in particular, we scheduled visits with her physician, a chiropractor and a kinesiology specialist. While well-intentioned, they were unable to provide real relief from existing issues or preventative measures to avoid future issues. At the suggestion of her coach, we reached out to Karen Calara for help.  It wasn’t until Katy began working with Karen that issues with her back (and later with her knees) improved significantly. Karen worked with her one-on-one, and provided helpful physical therapy exercises and equipment (insoles, a rollout bar and kinesiology tape among other things) as well as important lessons in nutrition and biomechanics specific to rowing. She’s been a great ally and partner in Katy’s successful rise into elite high school rowing ranks and are grateful to have her as a resource as Katy enters the world of Division 1 collegiate rowing. As a parent interested in keeping my child healthy and competitive for the long run, I’d highly recommend Karen to other parents and their athletic children.

Anne G., parent of Junior rower (2014&2015 JNT member + medalist, UW Women’s Rowing), Seattle, WA

I worked with Karen when an injury caused me to have to stop working out.  In just one session Karen helped me understand my injury and how I could help it improve with exercises I could do on my own.  Within two weeks of seeing Karen I was able to start returning to my normal training schedule and went on to have an amazing year! 

Shannon K.  Masters Rower, Vesper Boat Club, Philadelphia, PA

I am writing with reference to the physiotherapist, Karen Calara. I have had the pleasure of working with Karen for the past three years in my capacity as the head coach of the Vashon Island Rowing Club.  If I had to describe Karen in one word it would be “committed”.  Over the past two and a half decades, I have been involved in elite rowing (Canadian, New Zealand and Irish National and Olympic teams), and I would rate Karen’s commitment to the athletes, and improving her knowledge as the best I have seen in 25 years in the sport.

Karen is extraordinarily dedicated to the athletes with whom she works. On many occasions, she has taken the initiative to come out in the coaching launch with me to see how athletes with whom she works are actually rowing. I have never had a physiotherapist ask to do this. And Karen not only does this for free, but she has to drive a long distance and take a ferry to come to our rowing club.

She has always been available, even at short notice, to deal with any problems that we have had, and her replies to emails and questions are always prompt.

As important as the above is, the main result of her commitment to our athletes is that they return to high level training carefully and in a managed manner as a result of her suggestions.. This results in both a feeling of inclusion for the athlete, and the fact that our athletes return to full health and regular training in a timely manner. Our junior athletes train hard, and Karen has been instrumental in both injury recovery and avoidance.

I have had the responsibility of picking medical and sports science teams for national rowing associations, and I would make Karen my first selection if I were to be in that situation again.

Richard Parr, Head Coach, Vashon Island Rowing Club, Vashon Island, WA


Karen has worked with me for a couple of years now as a junior rower for my injuries, and we focused on the ribs in my back and shin splints through manual therapy, KT tape, and some stretches and foam roller stretches. This has helped significantly lower my upper back pain and the pain in my shins while or after I run. 

Katy G., 2014 & 2015 Junior National Team member and medalist, UW Husky Crew, Seattle, WA 

Look no further: Karen is The One. After being advised by several health professionals – including a rehabilitation physician and a physical therapist – that I should quit rowing altogether, I was extremely fortunate to find Karen. She helped me recover from chronic low back pain and sciatica, get stronger where I needed, and modify my stroke to enable years of future rowing.

Many things distinguish Karen from a typical physical therapist or fitness coach:

  • Karen has an advanced understanding of both rowing and biomechanics, which she combines to the benefit of many rowers. She knows the muscles that are involved in all the different phases of the rowing stroke. After watching someone row, she can recommend a targeted program that is tailored to the rower’s individual needs;
  • Karen can advise rowers and coaches how to modify the stroke or the rigging to help deal with an injury;
  • Karen does NOT use a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Instead, she draws upon a range of modalities depending on the rower’s unique situation and goals. She helps rowers ranging from recent learn-to-row graduates, to recreational masters, to elite athletes competing at the international level.
  • She is super-dedicated to all her rowers. This has included, for example, getting on a launch at the crack of dawn to observe a practice, lending fitness equipment, seeing people on short notice, and offering encouragement and support during the dark days after an injury;
  • She is smart, friendly, and funny – or in other words, a joy to be around.

JoAnne E., Masters Rower, College Club Seattle, Seattle, WA

I began working with Karen about a year ago as an athlete at Vesper Boat club. She is an exceptional physical therapist.  After developing overtraining problems, mainly in my quads, Karen was able to keep me at a sustainable level where I was still able to train and race.  The knowledge and passion she has for her profession is unmatchable.  In 2014, I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science. After working with Karen, observing her professionalism and abilities in sports-directed therapy, I have decided to pursue a doctorate in Physical Therapy.  Not only has Karen been an exceptional therapist, but a huge role model, allowing me to see options available for career specialization.

Lauren, Elite Rower, Vesper Boat Club


Karen is amazing.  She and I worked together after a shoulder injury.  Karen not only fixed my shoulder, she fixed my stroke.  Karen is the best physical therapist I’ve been to and one of the best stroke coaches I’ve worked with.  She fixed my shoulder with a combination of manual therapy, massage, and some really unique and useful exercises.  More importantly, she fixed my stroke.  By observing me on the erg, watching video, and even attending one of my races, Karen was able to pinpoint small but critical mistakes that I was making and work with me to correct them.  I wholeheartedly endorse Karen and look forward to working with her to continue improving my stroke.

Keith B., Master’s Rower, Lake Union Crew, Seattle, WA

Karen’s rowing assessment and plan to combat deficiencies were instrumental in the success for my season. She was able to quickly identify problem areas and get me back to rowing pain-free with greater range of motion that led to speed in my single.

Nick G.,  Elite Team, Vesper Boat Club, Philadelphia, PA

I have been fortunate enough to be able to work with Karen over the past year through Vesper Boat Club.  She has been a tremendous help in all aspects of my rowing and training, from helping to control nagging injuries to stroke analysis and strength programs. Karen has truly been a fundamental part in keeping me on the water and in full training mode throughout the last year.  She is extremely knowledgeable, passionate, and enthusiastic in everything she does!  Since my first evaluation with Karen I have seen notable improvements in injury management, strength, and in being able to apply what we do on land to my stroke both in the boat and on the erg.  I look forward to the opportunity to continue to work with Karen as pursue my rowing career!

Liz Euiler, Athlete, Vesper Boat Club

Through a multifaceted and individualized approach, Karen uses her extensive knowledge of our bodies and our sport to help her athlete unlock keys to hidden speed.  Sometimes I think she’s magic: she’ll watch me row for five strokes and accurately pinpoint my weak points and painful areas, then give me the tools to fix it.  Since working with Karen, I’ve been able to find elusive degrees of hip mobility and improved strength of muscles I didn’t even know existed.  For rowers, she is inarguably among the best in the country.

Jamie C.,  Elite Team, Vesper Boat Club, Philadelphia, PA

Karen knows the anatomy of rowing, the anatomy of the body and how they work together. As a Senior Masters Rower, I appreciate her PT skills while she guides me through the rigors and challenges that rowing presents. Karen makes it possible to keep the passion of rowing going strong!

Claudia D., Senior Master’s Rower

Lake Union Crew, Seattle, WA

I’m a rower with the Elite team at Vesper Boat Club. An old knee injury began to flare up this past spring. I have had multiple surgeries in the past and was hoping to avoid surgery and months of recovery right before the racing season began. 

I had been unable to row for a month when I had my first consultation with Karen. She went through a complete analysis of my body and movements. Immediately she was able to explain what 3 different doctors, and many physical therapists had neglected to diagnose. She went through every part of my body, explained how if affected the next, and why the doctors may have misdiagnosed me in the past. 

As she explained all of my issues, she did manual therapy, walked me through manual exercises, and also custom fit orthotics.  I was back to a full training schedule in 3 weeks. I have seen her a few times since my initial exam and every time she has another exercise to add as she continues to rebuild me. 

Thanks to Karen I was able to avoid another surgery, get back to rowing quickly, and ensure that my post rowing life is also pain free.

Casi B., Elite Team, Vesper Boat Club, Philadelphia, PA

Dear Karen,

I wanted to write you a note and let you know how much we appreciate all that you have done for [my daughter]. 

As a young Varsity rower for Vashon Island Junior rowing club she was growing more and more frustrated with injuries. We appreciate the time and dedication you provide to the rowing community. We were amazed that you took the time to travel to Vashon and observe her during practice which helped formulate a plan for her to heal, gain strength and enhance her performance. What a great season. This last summer she wanted to focus on preventing injuries. You evaluated her weaknesses and set up a program. She entered her 4th year of rowing, stronger and more knowledgable on what she could do to maximize her workouts and minimize injuries. She appreciates the manual work that you provide and your expertise in knowing the mechanics of a rower. Not everyone understands the movement of a rower and the intensity of training. She looks forward to her sessions with you and appreciates that each session ends with suggestions on how to tailor her training to address issues identified during the session. You have an eye for the rower’s needs.

Again, thank you so much for your time, consideration and expertise.

Greg and Kelly T, parents of Junior Rower, Vashon Island, WA

Karen Calara has not only cared for many of our junior rowers, but she has also provided her expertise to our coaching staff through workshops about common physical dysfunctions in young rowers.  Both her one-on-one and group services have strengthened our team by helping us better identify and manage imbalances/weaknesses before they become activity-limiting injuries. Karen has an incredible ability to communicate clearly and effectively with diverse groups of people, including coaches with whom she collaborates with to ensure that athletes are able to appropriately participate in their sports.  This is perhaps what  I appreciate most about Karen’s work; her passion for getting the athlete performing at his or her best within a realistic context.

Caitlin M., Junior Crew Coach, Seattle, WA

I am the mother of a collegiate rower and Karen worked with my daughter when she was a junior rower.  Karen was very knowledgeable and thoughtful in her approach to my daughter’s injury.  She definitely knows how the body works and how the body heals.  She spent time on the water as well as off the water watching my daughter’s stroke and analyzing what was causing the pain and how to change her stroke to alleviate the problem.  She spent a lot of time administering treatment but also helping my daughter relearn her stroke in a healthful way.  She used many tools, ie; video, erg, rp, on the water and off the water. Healing and strengthening takes time, and Karen spent the time that was needed to see results.  I have also seen Karen for my own aches and pains and she has been a tremendous help to me as well!  Her caring bedside manner, combined with strong healing hands and knowledge of how rower’s bodies are used is a winning combination!  I would recommend Karen to rowers and non-rowers alike!

Porti G. parent to Junior (National Team Member 2014) and Collegiate rower, Seattle, WA