The machines rely on water for resistance instead of the more common air.
ON DAYS when I’m up early enough, I love seeing crew teams row on Lake Washington. It looks effortless and beautiful as they glide in sync across the glassy water in their lightweight shells.
I have not been compelled to try it yet, mostly because every time I get on a rowing machine at the gym, I loathe it.
The Indo-Row class at Rival Fitness Seattle, a Capitol Hill gym, might be the experience that tips me over the edge to getting up early for crew. The gym uses Indo-Row machines, which rely on water for resistance instead of the more common air. The result is a rowing machine that feels smooth, although perhaps not so effortless.
When I arrived for the class, I wondered how I would survive a full hour of rowing. It seemed like a long time for an activity I wasn’t so keen on.
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Our teacher, Laura Bordeaux, started us off with a thorough rundown of rowing technique. I’ve been on rowing machines before, but this was the first time I understood exactly how to use my legs and the leverage of my upper body to get the most strength and distance from each pull. Once I got into it, it felt fluid, and I also could feel the intensity of the work in my legs and core.
The class is designed to work like an actual rowing experience on the water. We did drills to get used to the different oar speeds we could pull at.
Then we moved into drills to experience how strength plays into rowing. Bordeaux had us pull at a slow oar speed, but told us to aim to get our split times down while maintaining our speed. I loved seeing how much faster I could get by using my legs and pulling harder.
Once we had strength and speed down, we moved into drills where we synced up with everyone else in the room and rowed together. I started to see how much fun it could be to row on a boat with other people all pulling in sync. And how hard.
We took breaks between drills and did some stretches before doing our final push in the class. Bordeaux paired us off with the person opposite us to race for one minute at a time.
The rest of the class cheered while their team members were rowing. Laura moved around the room, shouting out distances and encouraging us to reach 250 meters in our minute intervals.
It was actually fun. And the supportive atmosphere made it easier to push through when I had to row.
By the end of the class, I had rowed more than 6,000 meters. How did that happen?
Rowing on the water still sounds kind of cold. But I liked getting a taste of outdoor rowing in the Indo-Row class, while still staying warm and dry.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times staff photographer.