What will stop you rowing?
Let's face it, training can be tough at times. You've had a busy day and all you want to do when you get home is eat and collapse in front of the TV. Setting goals to motivate yourself is one way of overcoming the barrier. Training with a partner or friend is another. Measuring your progress over time to how your times and performances are improving is a well-known motivator.
But these are all after you've purchased your rowing machine. The decision you make when buying the rower you'll be using in the months to come is often overlooked. If it's noisy, uncomfortable, complicated to use, or just dull and boring, you're less likely to turn off the TV and get off that chair to commit to a thirty minute session.
So this is why I focus on all parts of the rowing machine when doing a full review. Here, I'll look at the individual components of a rower and how they might impact on your training, and ultimately whether you'll achieve your fitness goals.
Row, row, row your boat....
All the reviews on this website follow a pattern (well, more or less) as they look at each part of the whole rowing machine experience. From getting it out of the box to the daily use, I assess how the buyer's experience can influence yours.
1. Unpacking/ Assembly.
Would you believe me if I said I once had an email from someone who had paid over $600 for a rowing machine right months ago but they still hadn't used it? It happened. He had taken the components out of the box but had found the instructions confusing and, after three failed attempts, had given up.
The parts still lay where he'd left them in his garage waiting to be assembled. Obviously, his goals would not be met if the kit lay in pieces.
Most of the machines we've tried require only a minimal knowledge of basic DIY skills. However, some makes don't help themselves by supplying poorly written instructions, or even in the wrong language. So when buying any piece of fitness kit that requires assembly, if you're not a natural with a box of tools make sure you can call on some one who is. You only assemble them once, so make sure it's done correctly.
b) Quality of the seat - pretty obvious. If you're going to training for anything over twenty minutes, a well-padded seat that doesn't wobbly on the beam is essential.
c) The foot rests - if your feet keep coming free due to poor straps you have to stop as it impossible to row without your feet held securely in position. Also, if the foot pads are too small or narrow, the taller and larger footed amongst us will struggle.
3. Resistance Type (noise / ease of use)
I've written more extensively about resistance types here - but briefly, if you live in an apartment many air resistance models may be too noisy. If two or more people are going to be using the machine, a hydraulic model is unlikely to last long with the extra use - see here for why this is the case. If you have a leaker hydraulic cylinder that needs replacing you could miss a week or more while you wait for the replacement part.
4. The Performance Monitor / Display
From the most basic 'show me how many srtokes I've done' to PC-compatible or online connectivity, the performance monitor can be a big factor in how much benefit you get from your machine. I mentioned above that seeing your progress is a great motivator. If your monitor can keep track of all your sessions and display it on a graph, then it's a lot easier than maintaining a training diary or spreadsheet - although not impossible of course.
Likewise, if you can race against the time you achieved on your last session, or go online and compete against anyone in the world, it's another reason to get off your settee and get rowing.
Many makes now come with smartphone apps to add more variation and interest to your sessions. As I've said elsewhere on this site, variation is key to keep you coming back to your training - boredom is the enemy of anyone wanting to get into shape.
Also see my guide to what the performance monitor is telling you here.
It's not just the price!
Obviously most of us have a set budget when buying a model. But don't base your decision on which model to buy on price alone. Check out our reviews for help on all of the factors above to see if any of these may influence your choice. Make the right choice and it could make the difference between meeting your goals... or not.
Roy Palmer is an athletics coach, teacher of The Alexander Technique and a rowing fanatic.