I don’t think I’ve ever done a Burpee in my entire life. I know, I know – they’re supposed to be a great form of cardio and they work your whole body, etc., etc. But that’s just too much movement for me and it looks tiring. And when I get tired, I just want to sit down. There has to be a machine that will give a full-body workout that lets me sit too, right?*
Enter: the Rowing Machine.
Ah, the lowly rowing machine. Perhaps you’ve seen a couple at your gym. They can be elusive, so you might have to look hard. There they are, over there in the corner, collecting dust. Such a shame. This piece of equipment, (known lovingly by rowers the world over as the “erg” which is short for ergometer) is probably the best piece of gym equipment that you’re not using.
I discovered the erg back in the late 90s when I took a Learn to Row class at a local boat club where I lived in Chicago. I signed up for the class mainly because it sounded fun and I needed something to do for the summer, but also because my upper arms needed a bit of attention and I thought rowing might help me out a bit. Well, ignoring the fact that the power in rowing comes mainly from the LEGS, I quickly fell in love with being out on the water and the peace and tranquility that comes from the rhythm and monotony of each stroke.
When the weather wasn’t cooperating, we’d be on the erg. And I came to love that too. Sure, it’s nowhere near as cool as being in an actual shell, on the water, enjoying the great outdoors, but it’s the next best thing. And it’s a damn near perfect workout. Erging works most every major muscle group and just 5 minutes on the thing gets your heart rate up. It’s a machine that gives you just what you put into it. Pull gently for a mild workout, or as hard as you can for a sweat-soaked session. Either way, you reap the benefits.
On my gym days, you’ll likely find me on one of these. After some serious stretching, I’ll jump on an erg and go for 30 minutes (around 5500 meters) and that’s usually about all I have time for. But like I said, after about 5 minutes of hard pulls, I’m huffing and puffing. I’m working my way up to 10,000 meters, but these days, I just don’t have time for a 60 minute gym visit. Thirty minutes of cardio torture is plenty for me right now though.
Some people complain that rowing is too boring, pulling the handle back and forth, which is maybe why ergs go unused at the gym. But there are a lot of ways to keep the monotony at bay on an erg: listening to music (just invest in some Bluetooth headphones), perfecting your form (good form is essential – check out the videos on the Concept 2 website), challenging yourself to row a certain number of meters in a certain amount of time, “racing” with a friend on an erg right next to you, or watching your favorite episode of Law & Order (which is always on at my gym).
So, the next time you’re looking for an alternative to the spin class you’re taking or you’re just plain tired of the wait to get on an elliptical, check out the lonely ergs just waiting for you at the back of the room. You won’t be sorry. You will be tired though.
But at least you get to work out sitting down.
*Okay, I just have to point out that yes, according to things you may have read on the blog so far, I am not as in shape as I would like to be right now. And despite what I wrote in the first paragraph, I really am not that lazy. Just to give you a little background, I used to hate working out. I’d subconsciously use every excuse in the book to try and talk myself out of going to the gym. But thanks to a new outlook (turning 42 will do that to you) not to mention a little peer pressure by family and friends (read: my husband and my Polar Costal better half, Danielle) getting into the best shape of their lives, I actually enjoy moving again. And even in the midst of a mile-long To Do list, I find myself trying to cram a few more workouts into my week. I’m a work in progress, but I’m well on my way. Yay me.