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Pulling Power

By pmc in Culture
Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 11:30:48 PM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

All over the world people - occasionally in groups, mostly alone - indulge in an activity that pushes them to their very limits. They may do it for as little as a minute and a half, or for as much as twelve hours. Afterwards, regardless of time, they will feel physically and mentally drained, but ultimately fitter, stronger, and healthier. What they do is indoor rowing.

The History of Indoor Rowing

Indoor rowing is a relatively new sport. It originated as a way to allow competitive water rowers keep their rowing fitness over the winter months, when the weather was too bad to allow them to row on open water. Quickly it caught on in gyms and fitness centres, for a few good reasons: it is a very effective cardiovascular workout; it is difficult to do in a dangerous manner (ineffective manner, yes, but it is hard to hurt yourself on one); and it provides an absolute and unequivocal measure of your performance. It is the last reason that changed the indoor rower from a piece of exercise equipment into a new sport.

The Rowing Machine

The standard model for serious indoor rowing is the Concept 2, from Concept 2. It consists of a seat and a slightly inclined rail, on which the rower slides. At the low end of the rail are footrests. Behind the footrests is a handle attached to a chain, which powers a flywheel. The flywheel has vanes on it to act as a load, and the rower can vary the amount of air passing over the flywheel to vary to load by means of a damper. Attached to the flywheel are speed sensors, which are in turn attached to a performance monitor. By monitoring the acceleration and deceleration of the flywheel, the performance monitor can work out how much power is being generated by the rower, and consequently how fast they are going.

The performance monitor is the heart of the system - it has a display that tells you exactly how well you are rowing (which in rowing is traditionally measured in the unusual unit of time per 500m). It also measures various other parameters: number of strokes per minute, heart rate, calories burned per hour, power output in watts and so on. The performance monitor is the part of the machine that means that you can get onto an indoor rower anywhere in the world, quickly set it up to be identical to any other machine, and see how well you are doing.

The Rower

The other part is you. You sit on the seat, strap your feet to the footrests, and pull on the handle. This is probably how most people have used the rowing machine for the first time. When you pull on the handle, the performance monitor starts up and shows how fast you are going. The natural human reaction is to look at the speed, and think "Hmm, I wonder how fast I can go?" So you speed up. After about one minute you are gasping for breath. If you last two minutes it'd be amazing. You will almost certainly be surprised at how quickly you stopped. Welcome to the wall.

The reason indoor rowing exhausts so quickly is that it places large aerobic demands on most of the major muscle groups for an extended period. Without training (lots of training) you will not be able to supply sufficient oxygen to all the muscles demanding it. This places most of your muscle groups into the anaerobic mode, which limits you to about 90 seconds of effort before they simply stop. It really hurts too. (This page describes what happens to your muscles when you are exercising, and why the wall appears so suddenly.)

If on your second attempt (assuming there is one) you remember how fast you went, and try to beat it, then you be hooked. The indoor rower will become one of your main pieces of exercise equipment. This is as far as a lot of people take it.

If, however, you find yourself in the gym starting to tailor your exercises to improving your rowing times, then welcome to the sport of indoor rowing. Quickly you will learn pacing, and then you can start improving your times. There are two ways of doing this - become fitter, or improve your technique. A fitness improvement is inevitable if you row regularly, and there are no end of (good) training programmes to allow you to target specific aspects - weight control, strength, endurance, specific distance.

Technique is different: like perl, there is more than one way to do it. The basics of the stroke are the same, but the speed you repeat the stroke at varies considerably, even amongst the elite. It comes down to a balance between pulling really hard, and pulling very frequently. The unusual thing is that there does not seem to be an optimum that you should strive for. The only way to do it is, after you have mastered the basics, to listen to your body and determine what is best for you.

Racing The Clock (and yourself)

The classic rowing distance is 2,000m. Everyone who does any sort of rowing at all knows their 2k time. The first time you try the 2k you will probably collapse in a heap at about 1k, gasping for breath (this is called "fly and die").

After a few attempts you learn what speed your should go at and then you are ready for a personal best attempt. Before you start a P.B. attempt 2k you will do a few minutes warm up to get your body ready - loosening the muscles, and getting the aerobic pathways opened. Have in mind a target pace - 1:45 for a 7:00 minute time is a noted milestone. Set the monitor to show your average pace during the race. Check your heart-rate is about 100 beats per minute.

And go. Pull hard during the first few strokes - get that flywheel spinning. Hit your rhythm and pull slightly faster than target to get your average down. After a minute the pace is correct, and 300m has gone by. Your heart-rate is now 140, and you're starting to sweat.

Keep the rate the same, keep the power up, and hold your technique. Wait for the 1000m mark. It arrives at three and a half minutes - your heart rate is now 175, the sweat is pouring off you, and your breathing is heavy. You're on target, and the pain begins.

Into the final thousand, and you start gasping for breath. You are sucking air into your lungs as hard as possible, and it's not enough. Your heart rate peaks at 184 - it won't go any higher. Your arms and legs start burning badly as you go get toward the 500m mark.

At 500m you think, just for one stoke, of stopping. But - you are just inside the target and you only have to endure this for another 100 seconds. You can't give up. Keep going - see how you feel after another 10 stokes and then decide.

400m - ten stokes later - and the power starts fading from your arms. All you can do now is up the stroke rate to compensate. Your world is just the display with distance and your current and average pace - all you can do is pull fast enough, and hard enough, to keep these saying less than 1:45.

200m to go and you start to feel the tingle that means your blood-sugar is low. You're getting light headed, but you know you've judged it right. All you can see is the monitor but now the figures stop making sense - you've forgotten your target. All you look at is the distance to go.

It says 100m - you know you can up your stroke rate now to get every ounce of energy into the flywheel. Pull, pull, pull and wait for the end.

At the end you collapse against the wall gasping for air - this time you didn't pass out or throw up. Don't even think about trying to stand up - you can't. Your heart-rate is still 184, your breathing is ragged, your muscles are burning, and your vision is swimming. You are not be wondering why you do this, because you are not capable of rational thought.

After about half a minute you collect your thoughts and reach for the performance monitor, and display the total time. Success - 6:58.6: a new personal best. Suddenly, everything does not seem so bad - a big grin breaks out on your face, and in a minute or two you'll recover a bit, grab the towel to absorb the sweat, drink some water, and row some more (slowly!) to cool down and fully recover.

Things will never get any easier as every 2k you do to the best of your ability will be as bad - they will take less time, as you will get quicker, but they will feel as bad.

That was my experience when I recently broke my personal best (which, to put it in context, just narrowly beats the world record for the 70-79 age group). This interview gives Matthias Siejkowski's far more impressive experience from when he broke the world record.

The trials in the pursuit of personal goals are one of the reasons that indoor rowing is popular, perverse as it sounds. As well as physical fitness it requires mental strength to row at your limits, and rowing improves both. There are no excuses for failure but, equally, success is purely your own work. This is a very effective spur to improvement - the buck stops at you.

Racing for the Elite

In addition to rowing alone, some models of indoor rower (suitably equipped) are capable of group racing. Group racing, as the name suggests, allows a group of rowers to start simultaneously and race each other, with feedback via the performance monitor, and a computer screen which shows the positions of each "boat" as if they were in a regatta. This leads to scenes of mass suffering such as the British indoor rowing championships (BIRC), and the World indoor rowing championships. It is at these sort of events that world records tend to be set - it is all very well racing yourself, but the adrenaline flows when racing others.

To make things a little bit fairer for everyone there are different categories: male and female, lightweight and heavyweight, and age bands (in decades). The age-bands will probably reduce to half-decade for over 40s for the sensible reason that the best 40 year olds are considerably better than the best 49 year olds.

"Racing" Others for the Rest

Although events such as the BIRC, and other smaller events, are open to anybody (and lots of lower ranked rowers go), most rowers row for fitness and personal achievement rather than glory. There are a number of different facilities available to allow ordinary mortals to have fun while getting fit.

Online racing is gradually gaining popularity - this allows people on different continents to race each other on a virtual "lake". This all happens in real time, and you see the view of the race update in real time.

The online ranking is the probably the most used. This takes the form of a log book where you can enter your sessions (date, distance, and time) and if you do an event distance or time (there are 11 of these, ranging from 500m to 100,000m - yes, it takes over 6 hrs to do this) you can rank it against everyone else who has ranked that distance this year. The rankings provide a useful incentive for improvement, and it is fun to watch as you rank a new time to see your position on the boards go up. Coupled with this are the forums, which are well used. These act as an online mentor, buddy, support, and encouragement group, and there is a wealth of experience to draw on there - including current and former world record holders, and several national champions.

Finally, for the paddlers, there is the nonathlon - this takes 9 of the ranking events, and assigns points to you on the basis of your performance against what is world class at your age and weight. This allows me (a 37 year old male heavyweight) to compete against a 66 year old female lightweight on equal terms - the 66 year old female lightweight (called "Old Granny") is beating me good. But I'll get her.


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Pulling Power | 53 comments (47 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Hm, not really for me, but a good article. (5.00 / 1) (#5)
by func on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 05:27:31 PM EST

Personally, I can't get excited about a sport that requires one to stay inside. Never could fathom why people would even want to row on a lake - why not make it interesting? Add some whitewater or wind or something... Different strokes, as they say. Maybe I should submit an article about whitewater kayaking, instead of making disparaging comments. :)

How about this (none / 0) (#10)
by rusty on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:59:36 PM EST

You do one about WW kayaking, and I'll do one about sea kayaking. I have a trip coming up this weekend. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Please do rusty (none / 0) (#14)
by Andy P on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 01:50:41 AM EST

I need something to motivate me to finish the 3/4 done cedar kayak in my garage, and a K5 story would be just what the doctor ordered.  It's going to be a long winter waiting to put it into the water... bahh.

[ Parent ]
Oooh (none / 0) (#41)
by rusty on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 11:45:18 PM EST

Cedar, eh? You're a brave man. :-) I'm considering the care needed with even fiberglass (no dragging up the beach, etc) and thinking plastic is the way to go. Still, wooden boats are just special, so part of me understands. Finish that thing! Think how sexy it'll be paddling a wooden boat you made yourself.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
LOL. (none / 0) (#11)
by SPYvSPY on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 11:39:59 PM EST

As a competitive rower that has had the pleasure of pulling Power 20's in some of the world's most hardcore heavyweight eights, I am here to tell you how ignorant your comment is. When a world-class eight man shell is pulling through the final sprint and winning by a half boatlength, the oarsmen in that boat are experiencing the kind of adrenaline rush that only the most insane atheletes will know.

As a matter of fact, once you've got rowing in your blood, even indoor rowing is fun. Nothing against kayaking, of course. I just need to make sure your petty trifles about rowing are qualified by a person with real time behind a Concept composite blade. ;P

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

Why ignorant? (none / 0) (#16)
by curunir on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 02:33:33 AM EST

I don't think the parent's post was ignorant, just specific to the poster's own interests. This is, quite literally, a case of "different strokes for different folks." If you can get worked up rowing, more power to you. Just understand that some of us need a sense of risk in order to get a true adrenaline rush.

I've tried pretty much every sport I've come across (including rowing, tho I'm sure I was never anywhere near your level), and there's only a few that deliver a true adrenaline rush for me. I can only get that feeling from rockclimbing (> 100 feet high), skydiving (I'm told the rush goes away after a few jumps), skiing (15-20 ft cornices) and kite boarding. All four of them involve the risk, however slight, of dying.

Everyone is different. Just because you get a killer rush from rowing, doesn't mean that everyone will. Anyways, to the author of this story...like the ancestor post, rowing is probably not for me, but I really enjoyed reading about it. Thanks!

[ Parent ]
I'm sorry... (none / 0) (#31)
by SPYvSPY on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 10:11:57 AM EST

...but the original poster's message was derogatory toward rowing. He/she characterized rowing as a boring sport that consists of pointlessly paddling around in circles. I needed to point out the nuances that were being lost due to the extreme lack of actual experience behind an oar. And as far as risk-taking goes, try catching your blade in the water during a full sprint. You might not live to tell.

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

Another rower's view... (none / 0) (#40)
by sjeh on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 05:27:55 PM EST

And as far as risk-taking goes, try catching your blade in the water during a full sprint. You might not live to tell.

Very true... this is why (at least here in the UK) there are only events for octuples at J14 level - catch a crab in one of those flat out and you're in serious trouble ;-)

I'll take this opportunity too to get in a standard prop for rowing: I took it (along with sculling) up as my main sport three years ago and haven't looked back. I was really not very sporty at all before but suddenly found myself totally addicted. Obviously I'm not at such a level as the parent poster but still get in 10-12 hours of training a week - there's something that keeps pulling me back. It's strange - when people say, "All these weights, and ergs, and other horrendous things - why do you bother?", I find it hard to answer (the only good thing about an erg is the great feeling of achievement you get at the end - they're quite possibly the most sadistic machines ever sold to the public ;-) but it basically boils down to the adrenaline rush of a race and the brilliant feeling of coming first... Anyway, give it a go before you knock it - you might just enjoy it ;-)

[ Parent ]
Exercise, on Water???? (none / 0) (#20)
by pmc on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 03:24:54 AM EST

Are you mad? You might fall in!

Mostly, I agree with you - the thing about gyms is that they are immensely boring. I've tried reading books (they get sweaty), chess computers (for the stationary bike), music etc. I can just about manage when there is something interesting on the TV, but overall it's a drag.

Rowing, on the other hand, because of the feedback and because it is (for me) an end in itself now, is sufficiently engaging to occupy me without getting bored.

But... different stokes for different folks, as they say. I look forward to your article too (and Rusty's).

[ Parent ]

possible disadvantage (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by seanic on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:07:01 PM EST

One factor some people seem to overlook when indoors using stationary excercise machines is cooling.  When the body overheats its performance is reduced and can even be damaging.  As the body warms during excercise the blood provides two functions.  The first of these is to deliver oxygen to the muscles the second is to transport heat away from the core.  When the body gets hot more blood circulates near the skin, much like the coolant in your car flows through the radiator once the engine is up to temperature.  Excercise creates a condition where the demand for blood needs to be balanced between the muscles and the skin.

If you are outdoors rowing, biking, running, etc. you can reach a substantial speed which provides considerable cooling through convection.  When indoors the only cooling mechanism is radiation which is typically of low efficiency given that it is dependent on the temperature difference between the body and the room which is typically only 15 C / 27 F.  Admittedly, the amount of heat you can dissapate through radiation is limited when exposed to the sun or high temperatures and, in fact, can be reversed so you absorb heat.  I'd wager that fans, possibly driven by the work produced while excercising, could provide some cooling to improve stamina and possibly times.

"The majority of the stupid is invincible and guaranteed for all time. The terror of their tyranny is, however, alleviated by their lack of consistency" -- Albert Einstein

Some indoor rowing machines have fans (none / 0) (#9)
by HidingMyName on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:59:12 PM EST

The vanes on the flywheel help in cooling the rower, and act as fans. It still is not as good as a nice breeze on the water, I'm sure, but it helps.

[ Parent ]
I do notice (none / 0) (#12)
by Anonymous 7324 on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 12:02:27 AM EST

that it can be hotter inside. On the other hand, treadmills in heavily air-conditioned rooms are absolutely fantastic, as are stair-steppers. It's entirely empirical, but I've found that I markedly improve im performance if, when I first walk into the room, I think it's fscking cold -- it means I'll feel like I'm at just the right temperature when I really get going. Cheating? Probably. Conducive to a good workout? Hell yeah!

[ Parent ]
Fans (none / 0) (#21)
by pmc on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 03:28:25 AM EST

Fans are, indeed, widely used, and they do make a large diffence. Not so much for the 2k, as this is only seven minutes and the power levels are so high you can't cool effectively anyway. For longer sessions you do need them - it is practically impossible to do an hour session somewhere hot without some sort of forced cooling.

[ Parent ]
Yay for rowing! (2.50 / 2) (#13)
by felinegirl on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 12:28:07 AM EST

Kudos to you, kind sir! Great story. I rowed competitively in high school and have continued to do so for pleasure since. I haven't been out on the water in years and have loved/hated going to the gym to work on the erg machine. But it really is satiating to feel the bittersweet burn and FINALLY finish your workout. Thanks for the nice descriptions. Btw, which excercises can you do to improve your rowing abilities in particular?

Exercises. (none / 0) (#22)
by pmc on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 03:39:13 AM EST

The best exercise is to row - you get better by doing it. After you start to level off your times then it may be time to bring in other forms. The two main areas that I think should be focussed on is stamina and power. So anything that involves staminia - swimming, cycling, running etc - is good. Power is trickier - there is little value in being able to do a single huge benchpress. Much more effective (I think) is three times twenty reps of a smaller weight. Raw strength (weightlifting style) is probably bad, and this produces big muscles which you've got to carry backwards and forwards one the slide.

But take these with a pinch of salt - I'm quite a way from leveling off so I'm not doing these myself (at the moment), and I'm certainly not a fitness instructor. I do do other exercise, but not aimed specifically at improving my rowing per se.

Oh, and growing - most good rowers are about 6'3", so I've only got 3 inches to go.

[ Parent ]

Hee hee (none / 0) (#47)
by felinegirl on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 01:34:32 PM EST

I'm only 5'2" and I'm full grown, so I'm not counting on any growth spurts anytime soon. But that would a nice surprise and a big help in the rowing arena. I wish I knew of places to row outside in NYC because rowing in a single would be so much fun! Thanks for the tips!

[ Parent ]
Exercises? (none / 0) (#32)
by SPYvSPY on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 10:32:58 AM EST

Do you mean exercises on the erg? I like the old Power 50 pyramid. Take a nice two minute warm up (after stretching, of course), and then pull a power 10. Take 10-20 strokes off power and go for a power 20. Continue until you get to a power 50 and then go to 40, 30, 20...etc., resting between each set. Throw in a race-pace 20 at the end (~30 - 35 s/p/m) and warm down for three to five minutes. The whole process should take 22-25 minutes total and will thoroughly kick your ass.

BTW, where did you row in HS? I was at Greenlake, in Seattle. ;)

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

I rowed in.... (none / 0) (#46)
by felinegirl on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 01:28:09 PM EST

Dallas, TX at Hockaday (an all girls boarding school). All fast girls who kicked my butt. But I really enjoyed it!

[ Parent ]
Gives you cancer. (2.33 / 3) (#15)
by Wulfius on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 01:59:25 AM EST

Anything indoors is bad for you.
Your accelerated aspiration rate means
your body is absorbing toxic fumes at much faster
rate than normal.

Furniture, carpet, treated fabrics (fire retardants, dyes), plastics all emit toxic
fumes into the atmosphere of a room.

Just one of the substances you inhale
when indoor rowing.

"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!

Warning! (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by rusty on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 11:52:03 PM EST

Living has been scientifically proven by the state of California to invariably cause death. Live at your own risk.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Growing fresh air (none / 0) (#43)
by dennis on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 11:55:29 PM EST

You can improve this situation quite a bit with houseplants. An excellent book on the subject is How to Grow Fresh Air by B.C. Wolverton. It's based on NASA research for lunar habitats - they put various plants in a sealed chamber and measured how well they removed chemical contaminants. The book presents the best fifty plants for purifying your air, rated on removal of chemical vapors, ease of maintenance, resistance to insects, and transpiration rate. Complete with care instructions and nice photos.

[ Parent ]
Air flow? (none / 0) (#17)
by pla on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 02:35:31 AM EST

I don't know if you would count this as "cheating", but what sort of provisions do you make for air flow?

In "real" rowing, quite a lot of air flows past you and cools you off. In a test a few years ago (on either Miguel Indurain or Greg LeMond, if I recall correctly), researchers found that even the absolute top athletes in a sport like long-distance cycling just crash and burn within a few minutes in normal laboratory situations. Eventually they realized that, in a real event, the athlete "creates" a wind of 40-70mph as a side effect of their exertion, and that single factor means the difference between going for 6 hours, or 6 minutes. I would expect this result to extend quite well to rowing.

So, would setting up a box fan in a window you face count as cheating, or not make much difference (for only 7 minutes, it might not matter all that much)?

The only rules (none / 0) (#18)
by pmc on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 03:16:50 AM EST

The only rule is that there can be no modifications to the machine (for competition use - on your own you can do what you like). Depending on climate most people have either fans, workout in air conditioned gyms, or workout somewhere cool enough so that they don't need extra cooling.

There is a nifty device called the C-breeze , which is a shell that attaches over the flywheel housing and produces a breeze. This is (I've heard) very practical, but not allowed in competition. Electrical fans are allowed (I think) but, as you say, for seven minutes it doesn't really make much difference. Competitions are usually done in big rooms anyway, and there is to and fro motion on the machine to give a little airflow.

When I'm exercising (in my garage) I prefer the door open as, after about one hour, it is getting hot and stuff. A breeze makes a lot of difference.

[ Parent ]

It's a winter sport (none / 0) (#19)
by KWillets on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 03:24:03 AM EST

Yes, ventilation is good, but when it's twenty degrees outside, an open window is plenty.  

Air flow has an effect on the air turbines that are used to brake the ergometer, so IIRC the rules require that the erg be some distance from walls, and in a room big enough to discourage recirculation.  Later models may have solved this problem by enclosing the turbine, but I don't know for sure.

[ Parent ]

Online rankings (none / 0) (#23)
by jbrw on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 05:25:15 AM EST

Where can I find a link to the online rankings?

I'm only just getting in to rowing (indoor or otherwise), and some sort of ranking would probably be an extra motivational factor.

I think my 2km time must be around 11:30 at the moment. Still, I do notice i'm getting a little a little faster and my stamina is improving every time, so it's all good.

There is a poster up in my gym at the moment for some charity indoor rowing thing. I'll try and remember to get the details when I go to the gym today.

Also, I assume the competitive rowing is all done at maximum resistance, right?
"We beat the .usians at their own game of zero tolerance"

Online rankings and other things (none / 0) (#24)
by pmc on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 05:54:13 AM EST

Where can I find a link to the online rankings?

These can be found here. Use the view rankings link on the left hand side. Near the ranking link is the training forum link. You should have a look in here too.

I'm only just getting in to rowing (indoor or otherwise), and some sort of ranking would probably be an extra motivational factor.

Welcome - it definitely is good for motivation.

I think my 2km time must be around 11:30 at the moment.

Try one and see (but take it easy - if you feel fine at the end then you know you can go faster). An alternative is to try a 500m and use the table at Concept 2 UK Website (it's on page 53, but the document starts at page 48!) to calculate your 2k pace (and advice on your pacing during it). It is reasonably accurate.

Still, I do notice i'm getting a little a little faster and my stamina is improving every time, so it's all good.

Excellent - keep it up. On the UK site there is a full training guide which is worth reading, and you can sign up for a newsletter here.

Also, I assume the competitive rowing is all done at maximum resistance, right?

No. Definitely not. The damper setting allows you to put in more power per stoke but, on the other hand, it requires more power per stroke. Bodymass usually means you can pull a higher damper, but that is only a very rough guide. I simply don't have the power to pull as hard as is required at maximum resistance without over exerting - I can do it for 500m, but for longer distances it needs to drop to about 8 for 2k, and 6 or under for longer distances. And I'm a heavy guy. If you go back to the page with the online ranking link on it, then there is a picture of the WIRC (I think). Almost every rowing machine has been set up for with different dampers. Start about 3-5 and once you get used to it, try varying it to see how you feel.

[ Parent ]

6.5 for me (none / 0) (#26)
by jbrw on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 07:27:06 AM EST

About 6.5 seems right for me at the moment. Any higher and it's too much hard work. Any lower, and it just doesn't offer enough resistance for me to pull against.

So i'll stick with that then...

And thanks for the link to the ranking charts.
"We beat the .usians at their own game of zero tolerance"
[ Parent ]

Just to follow up again (none / 0) (#25)
by pmc on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 07:01:04 AM EST

The world record was set with a damper resistance of about 6 (or about 75% of maximum)

[ Parent ]
A little better than I thought... (none / 0) (#48)
by jbrw on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 03:23:11 PM EST

Did 2000m tonight, and my time was 8m 42s, which was a lot better than I thought. Probably not too bad considering I haven't been going to the gym for too long.

I set this as a challenge to my (much fitter) flatmate, who went to the gym and promptly did 7m 39s. Bastard.
"We beat the .usians at their own game of zero tolerance"
[ Parent ]

not sustainable (none / 0) (#27)
by chia on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 07:41:58 AM EST

what is the difference between indoor rowing and treadmill running? besides the obvious, they sound exactly alike - there is nothing else to do than try to beat your pb, once you've got your pb down to a low point, it becomes either boring or really (really) strenous. this is why outdoor training is so much better, if you want to run/row slow then you can just enjoy the scenery and the company of others. but i guess it depends on where you live, climate, scenery etc... if you live in a scenic part of the world, outdoor training is far more rewarding.

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. O Wilde
Feedback (none / 0) (#29)
by pmc on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 08:55:45 AM EST

The main difference is feedback - the performance monitor gives both instant and cumlative feedback. So at the end of the race you know exactly how well you've done in an absolute sense (so you can compare it to other people).

Another difference is variety. There are 10 main ranked events on the C2 web site, and they all require different approaches - sure, you row for all of them, but they all feel different.

Yet another reason is it is a very strenous workout - so you can pack a lot into a short time (as little as 20 minutes).

I agree though - training for fitness is better out of doors (and the indoor rower is really the only aerobic machine I can use indoors) but in a city running and cycling is fairly restrictive, and difficult to train well using them. In the summer I usually cycle (about 1.5 to 2hrs a day) but at the moment I'm a bit overweight for this: I can handle it, but the bike can't. I can't run either, due to bad ankles (well, I can, but the impacts make them hurt really quickly).

Once you start competing, though, the rules change. It is strenous, it is hard, and sometimes you'd rather be somewhere else. But that is the same for any sport.

[ Parent ]

CRASH-B's (none / 0) (#28)
by alex3917 on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 07:43:46 AM EST

'The Event' that everyone who is anyone goes to in the U.S. is the CRASH-B's (Charles River All Star Has-Beens), founded by some former olympic rowers who all rowed together on the Charles in Boston. There are thousands of rowers and hundreds of rowing machines, and it is considered the world championships of indoor rowing. Basically you get assigned a heat and you row all 2,000 meters and then crawl around throwing up for the next hour. Lot's of fun, I did it two years ago.

The funny thing about rowing in the US is that to be recruited for college for rowing you don't need to know how to row. All you need is a good time on the rowing machine. The coaches figure they can teach anyone to row, its just the body and how well trained it is and your potential that counts. This is coming from a High School senior who's been rowing for 4.5 years and is busy applying to colleges :)

Ah! (none / 0) (#30)
by pmc on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 09:05:40 AM EST

I've been wondering what CRASH-B stood for.

[ Parent ]
balanced torso (none / 0) (#33)
by thirstyfish on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 10:51:42 AM EST

Didn't I read here on k5 somewhere about rowers running the risk of actually breaking ribs due to the strength of their back muscles when the front of the torso was not appropriately conditioned as well?

Probably an illustrative exaggaration, but I think it makes sense to add some complimentary strength exercises such as crunches and pushups.

Never heard of that (none / 0) (#34)
by KWillets on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 11:14:00 AM EST

The main risk to the ribs is slamming the handle into the abdomen at the end of the stroke.  Concept II's used to have a metal anchor on the handle where the chain was connected; I used to carry the imprint of that in my abdomen for several days after a CII erg.

[ Parent ]
O.o (none / 0) (#35)
by Anonymous 7324 on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 11:18:25 AM EST

so it's not just me. From a scientific point of view, that's wasted energy of course, but I've not figured out a good way to avoid punching myself in the gut repeatedly. :(

[ Parent ]
Phwwwff.. (none / 0) (#36)
by pmc on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 11:43:31 AM EST

Punching yourself in the gut is nothing. What I want a cure for is the incredible pain in the arse that you get after you've sat in the seat for over 40mins.

Cycling, rowing - what have they got in common? Terrible seats. No - worse than terrible: seats that are capable of inflicting great pain. You'd think that in the 21st century we would be capable of a comfortable seat. But apparently not.

That, and non-slip handles. Not so much a problem for me now, but machines is gyms tend to have really slippy handles, and it is worrying when you are pulling hard and the handle slips.

[ Parent ]

Bicycle seats (none / 0) (#44)
by phliar on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 12:37:16 AM EST

Cycling, rowing - what have they got in common? Terrible seats.
I don't know about rowing machines, but if your arse hurts after riding, you need to have your riding position (esp. saddle height) looked at by a professional. If you're riding hard, most of your weight is on your feet and not on the saddle. This also allows your knees to act as shock absorbers as you go over bumps, instead of having a firm saddle delivering a powerful blow to the butt. A soft saddle would compress the blood vessels and lead to getting tired early; a good position will have your ischial tuberosities -- the lumps of bone on your pelvis -- resting on a firm saddle.

I used to race bicycles, and this article has exactly the feel of a pursuit race on the track. Extreme pain, inability to stand if you rode right etc. Road races tend to be more "exciting" -- when you're riding shoulder to shoulder with twenty to forty riders, you really hope they can all ride in a straight line, and you have to ride straight even if you get pushed or bumped. The pain is the same, especially if you participate in the final sprint after a good race of a couple of hours. I'm certainly not a masochist, but the pain of racing certainly is addictive.

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

I have noticed that... (none / 0) (#45)
by Anonymous 7324 on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 01:18:50 AM EST

as well. I usually end up sitting slightly tilted so a cheek takes more of the weight than the tailbone, but it only helps marginally and fscks with the rowing itself, unfortunately.

The newer machines do seem to be getting better with having a strategic "dent" on the seat where my tailbone is, but again, it also seems to be somewhat of a hack.

[ Parent ]

Ripping out your back muscles (none / 0) (#37)
by LostAbbott on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 12:13:03 PM EST

I rowed for many years and competed for the University of Washington one of the best rowing programs in the world. I have actually seen film of a guy ripping all his back muscles out becasue he spent a lot of time working on his stomach muscles and neglected his lower back. In rowing all your muscles must be strong... -Abbott

[ Parent ]
Wow, they have contests and records? (none / 0) (#38)
by Nelson on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 03:06:52 PM EST

I didn't know they had races for these. I'm a fan of the Concept2 rowers. I'm a bike racer and it's one of the few things that gives a decent upper body workout without adding muscle bulk to my 145lb cat 4 frame. It's quite an enjoyable workout too. Low impact, kind of fun, it has a little computer to play with...

I didn't know they had races though, I'll strap my heart monitor on and see how I do, maybe get a little more serious about the erg.. I don't think I've peaked on one yet.

Generally I go 10k and I try to keep my 500m pace at 2:00 or below. It hasn't been terribly difficult for me, I think the first time I averaged about 2:15 at that distance and now I can keep it much lower. Also, like on a bike, I keep my cadence up, 35 to 40 strokes a minute seems to be much more efficient for me. Like on a bike, when you have a higher spin and can keep moving at that rate you tend to move faster and have a fair amount of control over your power output. Click up to a big gear on the back and recover, click down to a little gear and put that pain on; keep your spin in the 100+ range the whole time. You can do the same thing on the rower and you can usually keep your 500m pace pretty low while recovering.

My Rowing Machine - Water rower (none / 0) (#39)
by MightyTribble on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 03:57:02 PM EST

I use a Water rower. About the same cost as a concept2, but with a water-resistance flywheel. Makes a nice slooshing sound as you pull, and looks a damn sight nicer in your living room than a hunk of ugly metal. ;-)

It's also supposed to give you a more realistic 'feel' than a mechanical resistance rower, but never having rowed on real water or with a concept2, I couldn't comment on it.

It *is* great exercise, though. Aside from the all-round exercise potential, we went for the water-rower both because of it's better looks (we have a small apartment, and didn't want metal exercise gear lying around in the front room) and the casters, so we can easily stand it up in a corner when not in use.

Realistic feel (none / 0) (#49)
by etamirP on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 06:03:55 PM EST

It's also supposed to give you a more realistic 'feel' than a mechanical resistance rower, but never having rowed on real water or with a concept2, I couldn't comment on it.

I tried a friends water rower a while back and whilst it may mimic some aspects of on water rowing it certainly doesn't get close to just how *hard* it is to move a river backwards with an oar (CII is closer but not close). This probably allows you to get up to the kind of stroke rate you would do on water though, which can be difficult with rowing machines, so maybe it's closer in that way.


[ Parent ]

This is disturbing me (none / 0) (#50)
by Rainy on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 09:13:56 PM EST

I mean, all the indoor exercise machines that mimic real exercise. Don't you realize that seeing the landscape change, feeling the fresh wind on your body, splashing river.. or lake or what-have-you - it's all an *integral* part of rowing. Not that I ever did row, but I'm analogizing with biking.

In winter, do winter sports, or walk around, or something. If someone spent his whole life with the sole purpose of out-rowing everybody else, why not let him do that? Why compete with the psycho? :P
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day

Mimic real exercise..? (none / 0) (#53)
by RandomAction on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 05:31:39 PM EST

SlenderTone, or those other electro Muscle stimulators are mimcs, not indoor exersice machines. Yes getting out into the open is nice, but don't dissmis indoor rowing as mearly a mimic of exercise.

[ Parent ]
Other brands of rowing machines (none / 0) (#51)
by salvaico on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 10:37:48 PM EST

Can anyone recommend other brands of rowing machines?  I've been interested in getting one for awhile now, however the $800ish price tag is a bit steep for the C2.

Or are the extra so great that save a few hundred bucks will be regretted in the end?

Different Brands (none / 0) (#52)
by pmc on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 08:06:39 AM EST

Don't get a rowing machine with pistons - they suck badly. I'd definitely recommend some sort of feedback - a performance monitor or equivalent, which eliminates the cheaper machines.

Next, where are you planning to row? The concept 2 (and most other air resistance machines) are noisy when used at speed - you really can't do anything else in the room when using them (and possibly the next room too). So if your in a flat (apartment) then the C2 probably isn't for you.

How frequently are you planning to row? The C2 is very sturdily built (it is used in gyms, after all) and will require very little maintenance, but if it only once per week then this will be a bit wasted.

Most importantly, get to a shop or gym and try some - things to look for are smooth action, build quality, comfort, possibly physical size..

[ Parent ]

Pulling Power | 53 comments (47 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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