What do you think of when someone mentions rowing?
Most men probably think of rowing in a sculling boat on a river or lake, shrouded by the early morning fog as you glide atop the water towards a goal line and against a stopwatch. Or, like some of us, you might think of being on a Viking longboat, rhythmically rowing toward the shore and the riches ready to be plundered while the warriors ready their axes and smear their faces in frightening war paint.
But what do you think of when someone mentions rowing for exercise?
The image that comes to mind is probably not as enthralling as a Viking raid or an early morning race. You probably think of a boring erg in a commercial gym that you shun with every fiber of your being.
An ergometer (or erg, for short) is a machine that rowers use to simulate rowing without actually being in a boat. They were first designed to help perfect rowing techniques without having to put a boat in the water while also measuring the amount of work output by the rower. Several types of rowing machines can help simulate the resistance that one might experience when cutting through the water, but the erg adds the benefit of electronic metering devices that can help track distance, time, and force expended, amongst other datum.
While the first couple of impressions of rowing mentioned above may be more exciting activities, they’re not very realistic experiences for most of us. That leaves the convenience of stationary rowing as our primary experience, even though repetitively rowing on an erg while going nowhere is far from inspiring.
Does stationary rowing need to be boring, though? Not if you get a little creative and challenge yourself and others.
Solo-Rowing As A Group
While rowing on an erg is still technically a solitary experience, the rowing machines at most gyms have electronic monitors that can allow for online connectivity and community. There’s only one seat and no one wants to stand there and watch you row in a gym, but the makers of ergs have thought of ways to bring rowing into a group experience through an online community. Adding connectivity to the monitors of ergometers has allowed for group challenges and leaderboards to be developed, providing the ability for like-minded rowers to digitally congregate and feel like they are rowing against others. These online challenges provide additional motivation for strapping into an erg against someone else wanting to know how they stack up in the rowing community.
There are also instructor-led classes now that can provide a sense of group connectivity. Having a shared instructor as a group helps to provide a shared goal. That goal being the shared hatred of the instructor who is urging you to push harder and faster while you struggle to breathe.
These instructors and groups help make digital competition feel tangible and real, even though the competitors may be separated by thousands of miles.
Solo-Rowing As A Challenge
If group camaraderie isn’t your thing, there are still challenges that can provide you with something to focus your rowing angst upon while repetitively pulling against the resistance of the fan or water of a rowing machine. Some monitors have games built into them where you can attempt to catch digital fish via modulation of your rowing intensity. This game is displayed visibly through 8-bit graphics on the monitors that ordinarily are used for tracking your strokes per minute and the total distance rowed.
Most solo rowers focus on the continuity of their rowing program, however, and aim to hit target heart rates, speeds, and distances covered over set intervals. They can be games in themselves as you try to repeat your desired routine as your energy and stamina begin to flag.
Newer rowing ergs have started including a video screen that provides a first-person view of a body of water, moving you along at an equal distance as that shown on your erg monitor.
Whether you choose to race against a digital game or hit a personal target, challenges make rowing more fun and less monotonous.
Be Creative While Rowing
Another opportunity to make rowing fun is by getting creative with it. Perhaps you aren’t rowing on a placid river, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t pretend to be. Role-playing is one example of using the creative mind to keep the act of exercise from being dull, and therefore disencouraging. What if your rowing speed meant the difference between outpacing a marauding band of pirates or being captured and forced to walk the plank into the briny deep? Set your challenge and use your creativity to drive you to complete your mission. The main reason most people use a rowing machine is for exercise, particularly for cardiac improvement. If you love doing cardio without any incentive, you are decidedly in the minority, so give yourself a reason to exercise and have some fun with it.
Rowing is not the most convenient form of exercise when compared to things like running, but it is quite possibly the most complete form of exercise that gives your heart and lungs a good workout while also helping to strengthen your muscles and improve your flexibility. If boredom is the only reason you avoid giving rowing a try, then we hope this read will help provide you with a reason to give it a shot and chase your proverbial boats and challengers.