I've never been into sport. I don't have the ball skills, am not a team player, don't like the competitive physical agression. You know me: my name is geek. When I reached about 25
or so I started working out. I'm only competing against myself, I try to better myself. A healthy mind needs a healthy body. Use it or loose it. I began to enjoy gym, and it has become one of my favourite obsessions.
starting to do a lot of gym, and had read that the rowing machine, ergo, or
ergometer was excellent all-round training. I soon found it to be very hard. It
starts off easy, but within 10 minutes I was red-faced, sweating, winded. Some
of my friends have had similar experiences.
But the ergo machine has become of my favorite ways to work out.
The ergo is great cardio training: Any red faced, gasping novice will attest that it gives your heart and lungs a good workout. It has very low impact on the knees and distributes the work across your legs, stomach, upper torso and arms. That's the whole body, basically.
It does work out your legs more than other muscles but most cardio exercises (e.g. step machines) are all legs.
I could row for 10 minutes, but could I extend that limit? Yes. Could I go beyond
15 minutes, beyond 20 minutes? All yes. About this time I started spinning classes,
which run for 45 minutes, and I realised that this could go a lot further.
Beyond 20 minutes, the barriers are more psychological than physical. Once
the rowing session is longer than the spinning class, the spinning class becomes
So why isn't the ergo used more? The ergo machines in my gym aren't unused,
but they don't have the queues that the step machines do. Maybe it's because you need to learn a technique. It's boring if you are not
focused. Maybe it's just too intense for most. Maybe it just hasn't been
marketed enough to be chic.
Row on a
river!? Do I look stupid? People get injured, even drowed out there. I?ll
stick with ergo machine, and spinning class instead of riding one of
those dangerous bicycle things unprotected in the trafic, rain and polution.
But I have stuck with
it, and worked up until I can, on a good day, row for an hour. Beyond that is
probably pointless to my aims of keeping fit and looking good. It's an intense
experience, a bit like holding your breath for as long as possible.
I strap in, put on the gloves, adjust the machine, and
stretch out my back. It's a little ritual, before I dive into this long
My technique is not
perfect, and probably not good enough for sustained use in a real boat, but it
is better than many. You can cheat,
but you are only cheating yourself. I see so many people wiggling back and
forth, doing little actual work. Their arms go back as their legs go forward and
the bar stays still. Remember to finish the stroke (legs nearly straight, arms
to your chest (or upper stomach), back straight or leaning slightly back) before
you think about bending your legs to start the recovery.
Ten minutes. I am just getting going. This is one sixth of the way. Do it again, five times.Each stroke takes about two seconds. Thirty a minute. Eighteen thousand in an hour. Each stroke is much the same as the last. But it builds. Slowly, the sweat and the strain seeps in. It's like repetitive music rising slowly to a cresendo.
Twenty Minutes. I can make the half hour point.
I got a pair of gloves to cope with the blisters that occured on my hands where the fingers meet the palms. weight-lifting gloves were the closest that I could find. They are not ideal, but they prevent the skin from coming off.
Thirty minutes. Half way. Can I do all that again? I don't know, so just push on, make the 40 minute
mark. My shirt has wet marks.
The aches (i.e. that parts of my body taking strain) varied over time: Lower back was unused to the flexing. When my wrists are suffering from too much typing at work, they tend to be sore from ergo rowing too. My upper back and upper arms have taken some strain. But now, what takes the most strain is the muscles at the back of my thighs.
Fourty minutes. Push. Push. Not long now. Make the 45 minute mark, three
quarters done. The guitar solo from "whole lotta love" is in my head, a wailing that demands a completion
suspended. A state of strain, striving.
Forty five minutes - don't slow down, come on, come on.one minute at a time, one stroke at a time. Make the 50 minute mark, only five minutes to go.
Firty minutes. Now I allow myself to count out loud. "ten" I say to myself. See, aleady a few seconds have passed, and soon it will be nine minutes to go. Short ones. I can make it.
59:30. Pull, pull. go to the end.
60 Minutes. I stop, sweat lined in each pore. I have covered
11 stationary Kilometers. A few seconds later I undo the straps and walk
carefully away. I feel wonderfull. Endorphins are a great thing.
Be very carefull doing serious benchpresses or other arm weights the day before or after a long ergo session. I caused myself serious pain in the right shoulder
and interupted my training for over a month doing that.
The distance travelled is no doubt calculated by a resistance times strokes formula,
i.e. many light strokes covers the same distance as fewer stronger ones. AwkwardSaw notes that the world's top rowers don't go for the highest possible resistance, but set it near the middle when doing their best times.