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Row, Row, Row Your . . . Machine?

September 12, 2011

Part of my new cross-training routine is the rowing machine at the Boss’s company gym. I first discovered it during my bench time after my injury last fall, when my physical therapist told me I could only keep exercising if I promised to do absolutely no exercise that would deliver any kind of impact to my shin bones. I said, great, I’ll go walking. He said walking–especially fast walking–would absolutely deliver impact to my shin bones. No walking. I said, okay, I’ll go on the elliptical, which has those little loopy things which take all the pressure off your joints. He said no elliptical. I decided to quit asking him and go straight to the gym.

Once there, I told the fantastic (skinny) (and young) trainers what I needed and they directed me to the spin bikes. As long as I promised to keep the resistance low, stay seated, and do plenty of spinning, they promised I’d keep the impact very low and do no harm to my near-fractured shin bone and stressed-out fascia. They also suggested the rowing machine, adding the caveat that I could do it as long as I promised to pull only, without doing the additional leg-pushing motion true rowers usually engage in–thus sparing my injured legs. In addition, I added a Friday afternoon Pilates class to increase my flexibility and increase my core strength.

Over the summer, I regained my running privileges but lost some cross-training freedom as the animals were home from school, so I stayed away from the spin bike and rowing machine. Now, however, I’m finding my way back. As I discover that my 3-plus-2 schedule requires me to find effective cross-training solutions, I’m finding the faithful machines at the gym are a great way to work a good sweat, all in the relative comfort of air-conditioned space.

The motion of the rowing machine is a great workout. Ironically, the gym brains decided to park the machine next to the window next to the company’s gorgeous lake, so as I row, I can ponder how I’m really not going anywhere, no matter how ferociously I’m pulling. I appreciate the irony.

I always warm up with ten or fifteen minutes on the stationary or spin bike. After I’m stretched and warm, the workout calls for me to do intervals, so after a warmup of five easy minutes, I do 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy, then 2 minutes hard, 1 easy, then 3 hard, 1 easy, then 4 hard, 1 easy, and then work it down, doing 3 hard, 1 easy, 2 hard, 1 easy, 1 hard, and then 3 easy to cool down. On paper that sounds quick, but please let me assure you that it works out to be 30 minutes of intense arm, shoulder, and legwork. After a summer off from the machine, it took about a session before I finally got the motion back and felt good in the seat again, not overextending my back. The advantage of having the machine by the window is that I can check my own form, of course, making sure my back is flat and that my arms and legs are working together, neither one taking more of the stress, now that there is no need.

The Boss enjoys hearing about my rowing to nowhere, and is a big fan of my letting him sleep in a little later most mornings.

Race day is officially 9 weeks away, so we’re in the meat of training. Today’s run was 1200-meter intervals, and we have a short tempo run this week, which means our pace will be tough–almost 5k pace.

I love my sport.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2011 7:57 pm

    i like the erg. i rowed in college and of course hated erg workouts then, but now i like it 🙂 every time i get on i remember my coaches yelling “legs, back, arms, arms, back, legs” (the form motion in slow motion when we did form drills). that’s funny about it being parked by the lake – kind of like when treadmills face the window so you can pretend like your outside.

  2. the Ringmaster permalink*
    September 27, 2011 1:33 pm

    Every little bit helps, when you’re having to work indoors . . .

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