The Rowing Machine
If you're interested in exercise and weight loss, you've probably seen rowing machines (also called "ergs") at your gym, and maybe you've even seen someone using one or used one yourself. The ergs are designed to closely imitate the motions and resistance a rower would experience in a real boat, on the water.
You can find more information about rowing machines on the Concept2 Rowing website.
Why Rowing Machines Collect Dust in the Gym
If you're interested in exercise and weight loss, you've probably seen rowing machines (also called "ergs") at your gym, and maybe you've even seen someone using one or used one yourself. The ergs are designed to closely imitate the motions and resistance a rower would experience in a real boat, on the water. If you're at all intrigued by the idea of a total-body team sport, I'll tell you why you should consider joining a rowing club instead of (or in addition to) sweating it out at the gym. Do you wonder why no one is using the ergs at the gym? Although they do provide an excellent workout, they're a miserable approximation for rowing outdoors. Even most rowers, generally a group with a high tolerance for pain and suffering, dread them.
What are the Benefits of Rowing Outside?
In my opinion (full disclosure: I'm a rower who hates ergs), the erg is just all the pain and suffering of rowing, without the balance of positive aspects of exercising outdoors. There's something special about driving to the boathouse so early in the morning that it seems like the whole world is asleep. The cool air and the beginnings of a beautiful sunrise are magical, compared to the usual rush and clatter of the city. As soon as we're on the water, my stiff muscles begin to work as we speed along under the bridge, no sound but the bubbling of the water and the "clunk" of the oars turning in the oarlocks. Rowing on the water offers several experiences that make the rowing machine pale in comparison. These experiences are the feeling of speeding through the dark morning, becoming familiar with and truly experiencing the sunrise, occasional wildlife sightings, and camaraderie with your team-mates. From a technical perspective, it's also more challenging to use an actual oar instead of the handle on the erg. If you like competition, rowing in a boat also gives you the opportunity to race against other boats and celebrate the results of your hard work either in practices or national events. It's definitely an intense athletic experience, but it can also be a very invigorating way to begin your day in the outdoors.
I also find that being part of a team is a strong motivator to stick to my workout schedule, because if I decide to skip a workout, it doesn't just affect me. My team mates might not be able to row if I sleep in.
Joining a Rowing Club
Many communities near water bodies have rowing clubs that you can join. Due to the cost of the racing shells (the boats), you probably don't want to try out rowing on your own dime. Community organizations will usually combine funds to purchase equipment and share it among the members who pay dues. Contact your local boathouse and see if you can visit and learn more about the club. Enjoy spring outside, not in the gym! To search for rowing clubs near you, check out the USRowing website, also a good resource if you want more information about the sport of rowing. Now is a great time to get started, because many clubs have learn-to-row programs at the beginning of the season (March-May).