Nick Karwoski- From the Open Waters to Open-Heart Surgery

Nick Karwoski is a man of many talents. A former USA National Triathlete, the CEO of TAGALONG- a fitness app that connects athletes to improve together and an Athlete and Operations Lead for the Live Outdoor Rowing Company Hydrow, Karwoski has achieved many athletic and entrepreneurial successes. However, a car accident in October 2016 temporarily changed the ‘pace’ of Karwoski’s life. He discovered a dangerous heart condition that could be fatal if untreated. February marks Heart Health Awareness Month and today Karwoski shares his story to highlight the importance of active living for cardiovascular health.

Nick Karwoski rehydrating between Hydrow episodes

Where it all began

Growing up in Hollis, NH with two older sisters and a younger brother, family played a pivotal role in Karwoski’s personal development. While he participated in several sports as a child, his true passion was endurance events such as track, rowing and cycling.

Nick’s younger brother and US Olympic Rower Alex Karwoski was a natural athlete and this led to a sibling rivalry between the brothers. His father instilled the value of hard work in his kids, repeating the motto- “Good, better, best. Never let it rest, until your good is better and your better is best.” Nick knew he must be academically and athletically driven if he wanted to pursue running at the collegiate level.

Nick and his USA Triathlon training group in AZ

Pursuing peak performance

Karwoski went on to run Track and Field at Dickinson College where he was a 3 x NCAA All-American in the 5000m and Steeplechase. Post-graduation he moved to Los Angeles and entered the NBC Page Program where he worked as a Production Assistant on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He joined Surfset and earned a $300,000 investment from Mark Cuban on ABC’s SharkTank. While these experiences advanced Karwoski’s career, his desire for competition persisted.

In 2014, he moved to Phoenix to train with the USA National Triathlon Team. Karwoski competed in 18 races in 11 different countries and at his peak was ranked ninth in the nation.

The car crash that saved his life

Entering a new chapter of life, a car accident in October 2016 seemingly made matters worse for Karwoski. Although in the end, it provided crucial information that ultimately changed the course of his life.

Riding in a taxi, the car carrying Karwoski was hit. When he got out of the car, he fainted. Numerous assessment tests were conducted and one revealed a severe heart condition. Karwoski discovered he had a dilated aortic root. The diameter of his aortic root (located at the base of the aortic valve) was 5.9 centimeters. In comparison, an average diameter ranges from 4.0 to 4.5 centimeters.

Although the physician was unsure if this irregularity was caused by a genetic deficiency or from a lifetime of extreme physical exertion, he advised surgery was the best option for Karwoski. Failure to address the condition could lead to an aneurysm which would be fatal. This was a challenging and sobering conversation for Karwoski who was in his peak physical condition.

Road to recovery

Karwoski went under the knife in December 2018 where the surgeons reduced the diameter of his aortic root to 3 centimeters. While he was relieved to have this condition fixed, the recovery process posed both mental and physical challenges. He credits his family for their tremendous support throughout the process which helped uplift his spirits and keep him focused on his goal of full recovery. He spent one week in the Intensive Care Unit and gradually improved over the next few weeks.

A collection of Nick’s post-surgery pictures

“It might suck right now having to go through physical therapy or take medication or wake up in the middle of the night soaking wet due to night sweats but just keep thinking about your future self ” said Karwoski. “If you can do the hard things now then it will make for a much easier future because it will change who you are as a person. It will change your work ethic. It will provide you with a really solid foundation of what struggle actually means.”

Karwoski confronted these obstacles head-on and remained extremely motivated to return to living the active lifestyle he so genuinely loved.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have parents that always had my back. So to be thrown physical limitations, challenges and hardship when the one thing I truly love to do is training, working out and being active, that becomes incredibly challenging at the core.”

Six weeks post-surgery he was back on the water rowing and two weeks after this rowing excursion he was back on his bike for a 100-mile century ride. Karwoski has emerged from this experience stronger than ever. He has since returned to work and has made quite the ‘splash’ in the fitness industry.

Making his mark

“The one thing I noticed from my particular surgery is that I’m able to connect with a lot more people who have similar issues. I think that was an experience that I didn’t even realize. Everyone is going through something!”

Overall, the recovery process helped shape Karwoski into the determined and persistent individual he is today. And now, Karwoski is using his heart complications as a connection point to help make a difference in the lives of others. Through this experience, he has expanded his outreach in the fitness community. He is now using his platform to highlight the importance of active living for cardiovascular health.

Nick Karowski walking a rowing shell down to the dock

Karwoski has combined his love for athletics, production and business into a career as an Athlete and Experience Operations Lead for Hydrow. Rivaling the likes of Peloton, Norditrack and VersaClimber, Hydrow’s reach has grown tremendously. Karwoski leads virtual workouts for clientele and has made a positive impact in homes across the nation.

Karwoski is also the CEO and founder of Tagalong- a fitness app dedicated to connecting amateur and professional athletes to help them improve together. TAGALONG features over 100 pros from endurance sports such as cycling, rowing, swimming and running. The app serves as a platform for users to schedule one-on-one in-person or virtual training sessions with professional athletes and Olympians.

Nick Karwoski preparing for a ride-along

“Creating relationships between two strangers because of a passion for sport is so exciting” said Karwoski. “It’s about the human connection and the improvement we were able to make in these people’s lives. When our athletes compete and achieve better results it is really heartwarming, it felt like I was a part of something, it felt like I had a team again.”

This is an incredibly rewarding career for Karwoski whose true passion is to help others realize their athletic potential. Karwoski invites you to TAGALONG with him and over 100 other professional athletes all across North America.

“For us, it’s not solely about the end results. We want our athletes to enjoy the journey in getting there.”

Download the TAGALONG App from the App Store today to improve your athletic experience.

Where Athletes Connect to Improve Together

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store