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Why using a rowing machine is a recommended aerobic activity

In college I had the pleasure of being scouted out by the rowing coach at orientation, my head floating a solid 6” to a foot above the rest. A trait I would come to understand helps you immensely in the sport of rowing.  I was initially hesitant at the thought of trying something new, another source of uncertainty as I began a new chapter on my own. My school, some 350 miles away from home, was just about the farthest away I’d ever been. Yet my concerns were quickly diminished as I realized that just about everyone else had no experience either; we would be training as part of a separate novice group, a team of absolute beginners.  Uncertainty quickly translated to excitement, and as my level of fitness and understanding of how to row grew, so did my love of this sport. The next 4 years flew by in a myriad of practices 6 days a week (sometimes even at 4:30am), races every weekend in the fall and spring, and a whole lot of indoor training on the rowing machine in the dead of Ithaca, New York winters. While it was a ton of hard work, my (excessive) time on the rowing machine led me to an appreciation and understanding of how to remain healthy and active for the rest of my life. Now compounded by my knowledge of injury, rehabilitation, and general wellness, I strongly encourage everyone to consider the rowing machine for a way to stay active for 4 main reasons:

  1. It’s low impact. An ideal choice for those with joint pain or osteoarthritis type symptoms. 
  2. It’s a full body workout every time. Rowing requires legs, back, shoulders, and arms at the pull of every stroke. 
  3. It’s simplistic. A slight learning curve of the components of the stroke are the only precursor to a workout you can complete no matter your age or activity level. 
  4. It’s scalable. The rower appeals to novices and experts alike. You can complete the same workouts as high-level athletes at your own pace and comfort level, increasing intensity/pace as your cardio tolerance grows. 

As for staying active during the winter, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity a week (30 mins a day), coupled with strength training 2x a week of the major muscle groups of the body is appropriate for all individuals age 18-65. It may seem like a large hill to climb if you’re just starting out, but remember to gradually increase your activity level to reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries.  With the new year I’ve set new goals to achieve in my journey to return to a much higher level of exercise and fitness. Alongside an old teammate we are in the throes of the 1,000,000-meter challenge: a goal to row about 20,000 meters a week or nearly the 150 minutes recommended above. I was hesitant to write this too early in fear that we may fall off the wagon, but two months and about 200,000 meters (almost 125 mi!) each down, we are going strong and haven’t missed a planned workout. If you would like to join or want advice about the rowing machine, please reach out. Have a great March, and let us know if we can help get you Back in Motion! Branden George, PT, DPT

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