One of the underrated advantages of treadmills and bikes is that they attempt to replicate something with which most people are already familiar—walking, running, or biking. The barriers to entry are low, and the task of planning and completing a workout is a little more intuitive, since most people know what those activities feel like. Those heuristics are out the door with a rowing machine, though. Do you just... pull? How far? How hard? And why does it insist on measuring distance in meters? We asked Caley Crawford, the Director of Education at Row House, for tips on getting started so that, hopefully, your experience doesn't end with you throwing your hands up in frustration and crawling back to the elliptical room. 

The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine includes the excellent PM5 monitor that provides all vital data. It can display your workout performance in two ways. You can choose to see your workout in total distance and time, or as “splits”. Splits is a way of seeing how your pace is varying along two set points. Either way is useful, but splits give you more of a “real-time”, in the moment calculation of how you are doing.
In the 1970s, the Gjessing-Nilson ergometer from Norway used a friction brake mechanism with industrial strapping applied over the broad rim of the flywheel. Weights hanging from the strap ensured that an adjustable and predictable friction could be calculated. The cord from the handle mechanism ran over a helical pulley with varying radius, thereby adjusting the gearing and speed of the handle in a similar way to the changing mechanical gearing of the oar through the stroke, derived from changes in oar angle and other factors. This machine was for many years the internationally accepted standard for measurement.
There’s no denying that this machine will work your arms, but the majority of your drive should be coming from your legs. While the arms should be constantly, well, rowing, your legs should be taking on most of the work by bending and pushing your body back up. Generally our legs are much stronger than our arms, so it makes sense that they should be doing more than the rest of your body—especially in the case of the rower. And be sure to use them to drive straight back, not upwards—lest you fall out of the seat (ouch).
Rowing machines are often used by people who are looking to get a full-body workout, and also by rowers to stay in rowing shape during the off-season. According to Men’s Total Health, rowing is a natural motion, and is therefore fairly easy for anyone to pick up and do properly. Also, rowing is a low-impact exercise, meaning that the potential for injuries to your joints is lower than on such machines as treadmills, for example.

Currently available ergometer (flywheel-type) rowing machines use a spring or elastic cord to take up the pull chain/strap and return the handle. Advances in elastic cord and spring technology have contributed to the longevity and reliability of this strategy, but it still has disadvantages. With time and usage, an elastic element loses its strength and elasticity. Occasionally it will require adjustment, and eventually it will no longer take up the chain with sufficient vigour, and will need to be replaced. The resilience of an elastic cord is also directly proportional to temperature. In an unheated space in a cold climate, an elastic cord equipped rowing ergometer is unusable because the chain take-up is too sluggish. Thus, as the result of several factors, the force required to stretch the elastic cord is a variable, not a constant. This is of little consequence if the exercise device is used for general fitness, but it is an unacknowledged problem, the "dirty little secret", of indoor rowing competitions. The electronic monitor only measures the user input to the flywheel. It does not measure the energy expenditure to stretch the elastic cord. A claim of a "level playing field" cannot be made when a resistance variable exists (that of the elastic cord) which is not measured or monitored in any way (see more on this in "Competitions" section).
In sweep or sweep-oar rowing, each rower has one oar, held with both hands. This is generally done in pairs, fours, and eights. In some regions of the world, each rower in a sweep boat is referred to either as port or starboard, depending on which side of the boat the rower's oar extends to. In other regions, the port side is referred to as stroke side, and the starboard side as bow side; this applies even if the stroke oarsman is rowing on bow side and/or the bow oarsman on stroke side.
One of the underrated advantages of treadmills and bikes is that they attempt to replicate something with which most people are already familiar—walking, running, or biking. The barriers to entry are low, and the task of planning and completing a workout is a little more intuitive, since most people know what those activities feel like. Those heuristics are out the door with a rowing machine, though. Do you just... pull? How far? How hard? And why does it insist on measuring distance in meters? We asked Caley Crawford, the Director of Education at Row House, for tips on getting started so that, hopefully, your experience doesn't end with you throwing your hands up in frustration and crawling back to the elliptical room.
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