Saturday, January 8, 2011

The lonely rowing machine

As usual, the onset of a new year has the YMCA crowded with newly-minted gym junkies looking to make good on their health-conscious resolutions.

It's been difficult at times to find an open machine. I usually try to get my workouts done during the late morning/early afternoon lull. But even then, I'll occasionally find the treadmills, ellipticals and exercise bikes to be busy. Weightlifting stations can also get a little crowded, as curious first-timers try to feel the burn with unfamiliar machines and equipment.

However, one gym item that often seems to get overlooked is the Concept2 indoor rowing machine (also known as an 'erg' in rowing circles) nestled quietly in the corner of Y's Life Center. A curious hand or two will try the indoor rower out from time to time, but for the most part, it is readily available. For me, the 'erg' is not only a piece of exercise equipment, but a nod to the nostalgia of college.

I was on the club rowing team while I attended St. Cloud State, and in all honestly, I used to HATE using 'the machine' during winter training. It had all the aches and pains of actual rowing, but none of the perks like being out on the water and not having to stare at a wall the whole time. Indoor workouts usually consisted of blaring loud music, monotonous time pieces and the overwhelming stench of the dilapidated, b.0.-infested handball court where the rowing machines resided (it's unclear whether or not that workout area was sanitary). No wonder practice attendance dipped so much during winter months.

However, due to my addiction to cardio and the aforementioned crowded machines at the Y, I have recently found myself getting reacquainted with the old 'erg.' I also got inspired after reading about a current rower at St. Cloud State who is 'erging' 2 million meters in five months -- an almost-incomprehensible distance in that amount of time -- to raise money for the team and a cancer foundation (full story here). I figure if he's going to suffer through that much time on a rowing machine, the least I can do is endure it on occasion.

My rowing workouts have been pretty modest compared to 'good ol' days;' usually 10-15 minutes at low intensity about 3-4 times a week, with the occasional 20-30-minute piece tossed in. It took awhile to get used to it again (I've been using the rowing machine at the Y for about 2-3 weeks now), but now that I'm comfortable with it, it's become a regular -- and beneficial -- part of my workout routine.

In a lot of ways, rowing is the perfect cardio exercise. It works out your entire body, burns more calories than biking and it's easier on your joints than running. Plus it's a great way to work on rhythm, coordination and posture.

Bringing personal experience into the testimonial, rowing also happens to be the sport that started me on the path to being the workout fanatic that I currently am. I was in sports in high school, but it wasn't until rowing that exercise ceased to feel like work and instead became fun.

Here's a video on rowing technique from Cambridge Rowing Club.

1 comment:

  1. I Googled "lonely rowing machine" and found your post. Part of the reason why I love working out at the Y: the rowing machines and the squat rack are *never* taken