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Just Brew It column: A love affair with the Concept2 rowing machine

Tuesday, Feb. 4 | By Peter Brewington
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Has anyone ever tried the rowing machine at the gym?

I’m a big advocate of it.

It’s a tough workout. You have to use your upper body and legs in a synchronized manner, and to make it a viable workout you do it for a prolonged period of time, like 20 or 30 minutes, which may take a while to build up to.

I hadn’t used one in a while until about a year ago, when I saw two of them sitting semi-unused in the Fauquier Wellness Center where I work out.

I started up again, gradually, getting on for about seven minutes, before working up to much longer periods like an hour.

I owned a Concept 2 rowing machine for a while in my 30s. It was an old Model B I got used from the gym at USA TODAY, my former employer.

I remember my excitement when I saw a little sign saying the old rowing machines were being sold.

What a cool opportunity, I thought, to own my own for $100. They cost $900 or more new.

Still, I knew it would be a tough fit in my one-bedroom apartment in D.C., and getting it home was also an issue.

The eight-foot long machine got loaded into the back of my old Honda Civic hatchback. It did not completely fit and stuck out a little, making for a white-knuckle ride from Rosslyn across Key Bridge to my apartment near Georgetown.

Once home, it was not a perfect marriage. Over nine feet of space is required to use it, and it does not qualify as chic furniture.

I used it sporadically, and it didn’t make the cut when I got married — although I wish I had it now.

What do I like about rowing? I like the motion, sliding up and back on the seat, and the feel of the pull, which is immensely gratifying.

You can look at the clock and performance monitor, which gives you a lot of data on how you are doing, like how many strokes a minute you're rowing, or how many calories you're burning (it's often about 11 or 12 a minute) and tons of analysis on your time.

You can also play games on the monitor, including one called fishing, where you have to speed up at times to try to catch fish.

Rowing gives you a great total body workout, and depending how long you go, and how hard you pull, you'll sweat. When you’re done you can feel the toning benefits in your chest, shoulders and legs.

While I might sound like an expert practitioner, it's not true, as I recently learned.

Intrigued by the rowing bug, I looked at a YouTube video on proper technique last week. Apparently, a cardinal error I've been committing is not straightening my arms completely on the pull. I bend them a little, which is incorrect.

That was a demoralizing revelation to say the least.

My ego damaged, I'm trying to incorporate the feedback and row with straighter arms.

The rowing machines at the Fauquier Wellness Center are situated between two TV sets, one always showing Fox News and the other CNN. I prefer ESPN.

Rowing is a fairly intense workout and it’s hard to watch TV closely as you slide back and forth on the machine.

Still, it's a tremendously satisfying experience, especially when you're done.

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