Indoor Erg Rowing.jpg
Huffing, puffing, trying not to hurl on the erg.

I am currently having a love-hate relationship with indoor rowing. I love how I can get a good full-body workout which will improve my endurance and conditioning without the physical discomforts of running.   For years I’ve been a wannabe runner. I’ve read articles on running, invested in running shoes, downloaded running programs, and signed up for races. I’ve done all of this, and the farthest I’ve actually run at a time has been 1 mile. One long, air-sucking, joint-aching, ankle-swelling mile.

One of the reasons running appealed to me is that it a great form of exercise and has a great community. Running also has fun gear: cute shoes, funny tees, tracking apps, pretty compression socks, bumper stickers, specialized clothing, and more. The problem was not only did running suck, it also hurt.

I first tried indoor rowing in 2012 when an indoor rowing gym (Rowbot Fitness) opened up near me. I got in on a Groupon deal which got me a free orientation (introduction to rowing) and a set number of classes for a low price. Although I really enjoyed it and loved the instructors, it wasn’t love at first row. I was still a die-hard Zumba fan, and that was my aerobic exercise of choice.

Once I began doing Crossfit, my interest in rowing peaked- as a substitute for the dreaded running that often popped up in the workouts. Although at the height of my fitness I was able to complete an 800 meter run without significant discomfort, I turned to rowing for anything above 800 meters and even for the required 400 meter warmup whenever I could- especially when the weather was too hot or too cold.

Fast-forward to this fall. I decided to try my gym’s rowing class and fell in love (sorta) as soon as I learned the proper way to row.  My 2K time is 2:37, but I get stronger and faster at it every week. (Here are some great tips.) According to this Infographic, my body type is more suitable for rowing than swimming, running, or cycling which is good because I hate running and cycling, and I can’t swim. What’s the “hate” part of this relationship? The feeling that my heart is going to explode out of my chest, the seeming lack of oxygen in the atmosphere when I’m in the middle of a workout, and the fear that I’m going to toss my cookies as a result of the effort that I put into rowing.

I am finding that I can get a very good cardiovascular workout with rowing without  having to worry about increasing the swelling in my legs or aggravating my joints. I’ve also found that indoor rowing has a close-knit community with a shared love-hate relationship with the erg.This looks like the beginning of something special.

Note: I have been seeking, but have not yet found, information on the benefits or contraindications of rowing for people with primary lymphedema in the lower extremities. (I have, however, found several articles advising against it for individuals with upper extremity lymphedema.) I would love to hear what others have found.

Sites of interest:

Rowing Machine Benefits for Women

Videos showing technique

Benefits of rowing for seniors

General information on indoor rowing