In part one of this article, Dr Cam Nichol looks at why rowing is more than a fitness trend, and definitely one you should get on board with
Rowing is having its time as one of the biggest fitness trends in the past few years. As a result of the numerous new offerings in the market, it can get confusing what to choose, where to start and why to even choose rowing to improve your fitness.
Rowing gives you great value and, whatever your goals are, should form part of your training regime. But the rowing machine is often left unused at home after an impulsive Christmas purchase, or sits in the gym corner gathering dust as it’s daunting shape stares you down.
Not any more.
You see, the paradox of rowing is that the better you get, the more you get out of it and so improving unlocks greater depths to your fitness. When done correctly, rowing is one of the most time-efficient and effective total body movements a human being can do. So if you’ve ever wanted to shed fat, build muscle, develop strength or even reap the rewards of ‘legs, bums and tums,’ look no further than rowing.
But before explaining the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of rowing, it’s important to understand at a deeper level where rowing sits in the fitness industry, why it’s become so popular, and why it truly is a quality movement that should stay with you for the rest of your life.
Fitness fact one – the fitness industry isn’t honest
The fitness industry is rife with nonsensical fads, marketing jargon and psychological manipulation to sell you something. Whether it’s a trendy neon-lit class, new season of workout gear or complicated piece of kit, we’re always told the same thing: “this is the magic secret you’ve been missing all your life.”
The truth is that most of these products either consciously or unconsciously, lull you into a ‘buy-fail-buy cycle’ by keeping you at arms length from what you really need: regularly performed simple, effective and enjoyable fitness. And so you’re hooked in with new trends, fads and gimmicks, which are designed to distract you from this simple recipe, persuading you to part with you earned-earned cash.
Rowing isn’t new or a gimmick and has been around for thousands of years, which makes it one of the untrendiest trends since the trend of trends began. And because humans have been rowing for thousands of years we all know how challenging and beneficial it can be for you, ever since the great Pharaohs of Egypt first described the benefits in 1400 BC.
The reason it’s become more ‘trendy’ or ‘sticky’ is largely due to the fact there are lots of companies offering new machines, new software and new training programmes to ensure you get on the machine often and frequently. These are all valuable tools, but my advice would be to only use what helps you stick to your rowing practice regularly, everything else is unnecessary noise.
You certainly can’t fake fitness. You have to earn it.
Fitness fact two – Fitness is simple, but not easy
Another truth is that real fitness is actually pretty simple: move well, move often and recover well. It’s a simple recipe, but far from easy to stick to.
Rowing is simple, but not easy.
It’s not easy because, as we all know, it’s incredibly difficult to find the motivation, time or will power to properly comply with the simple mantra of train often and recover well. In the medical world, this is referred to as ‘compliance’ and it’s the reason ‘big-pharma’ is a multi-billion dollar industry – it provides a beautifully simple solution to compliance: ‘take a pill’.
So I’d offer to you that if you can commit to embarking on showing up and completing this simple movement on a regular basis, you’ll get colossal benefit and realise how much you can achieve if you repeat simple things over and over again.
Fitness fact three – You can only earn your fitness
The elephant in the room is that there is no exercise pill to get fitter, you can’t buy a burpee and you certainly can’t fake fitness. You have to earn it.
And rowing is one of the most beautiful metaphors for life as I truly believe you get out what you put in both rowing and in daily living. By committing to a regular rowing practice, you’ll learn that you can quickly learn a new skill, you’ll be able to unlock mastery of a movement that was once foreign, and you’ll realise how much more incremental fitness you gain as you improve.
It’s a bit like compound interest in that the longer your money grows at the same interest, the more capital you’ll acquire. But that’s only true if you start as soon as you can and commit to ensuring you do it as a constant practice.
Rowing is a rhythmical, almost medicinal movement that can serve you as a tool to calm your mind, connect to your body and form a great movement practice.
As an example, when I started rowing I couldn’t have imagine rowing for an hour straight. But only six months after starting as a young adult, I was rowing for an hour straight and burning over a thousand calories an hour. Fast forward another year and I’d improved to row 30% more calories in that same hour.
Fitness fact four – Fitness should be fun
Whether your goals are weight loss, strength, aerobic fitness of physique, will-power will only get you so far – it has to be fun at some level to sustain the habit.
It’s hard to imagine a sport that has had a reputation of lactic acid and lycra as ‘fun’, though many lycra-clad people do love collapsing on the floor in pools of lactate.
I’d offer to you that rowing is yours and yours alone, meaning you can get out whatever you want from it. Don’t want to row a fast 2k? That’s cool. Don’t want to push yourself so hard you puke? Great, neither do I anymore!
Rowing is a rhythmical, almost medicinal movement that can serve you as a tool to calm your mind, connect to your body and form a great movement practice. It may be the case that you want to learn a new skill and master a movement. Or perhaps you just want a quick way to burn calories or get a good stimulus to your muscles.
Use the rowing stroke however you like and align it with what you want to achieve so you enjoy it and keep coming back for more.
Click here for part two where Cam goes on to discuss why you should indoor row, and how to get started.