A rowing machine is an excellent way to get fit and stay in shape. Rowing uses all major muscle groups, offers a great cardio-vascular workout, and can be an injury-free way to lose weight if you're currently unfit and very overweight. So why do any other sort of activity?
The one problem with rowers is that it's not a weight-bearing form of exercise, and that means your bones don't benefit.
So one of the best ways to complement your rowing is to get on your feet and run, or even walk if the idea of running doesn't float your boat. It also gets you outside in the open air and offers an alternative to rowing. Research has also shown cross-training (taking part in another form of exercise) delivers more benefits per hour of training, than just sticking to one.
And as you improve your running, it will help increase your performance and technique on the rowing machine, and vice-versa. It will also prevent exercise boredom - the biggest, single reason that stops people training.
So how should you start a running program? Before I get onto that, just take a look at this rather disappointing statistic. This comes from a survey I completed in 2010.
"Did you know, 76% of those starting a beginners running program, give up within four weeks?"
Sad... but true.
Those interviewed (sample size 124) were all enthusiastic at the start. Their reasons for running, included goals such as weight loss, getting fit or they had an ambition to run a half or full marathon - many for the specific purpose of raising money for charity.
Yet, an overwhelming number had given up before a full month had passed - some even after only two weeks!
The top five reasons for stopping a running program.
Unfortunately, most of the above are simply due to inexperience, unrealistic expectations or failing to follow a structured beginners running program that could deliver results.
How To Start Running
Let's look at the above reasons for failure, because if you can avoid these, you'll have a much better chance of sticking to your objectives and seeing the many benefits running has to offer.
First up, it was unpleasant. This is usually down to running too far, or too fast early in the program. No one likes the sensation of burning lungs and limbs, and you don't have to experience this to get results.
A proper warm-up combined with a sensible training routine that builds distance and speed, can help to prevent discomfort when running. Another factor (often overlooked) is technique. This is one of my particular areas of interest and expertise.
A good running style not only helps to prevent injury and unpleasant aches and pains, it will help you perform to your true potential and add an extra dimension to your training. For more on technique, please click here.
Next comes the problem of not seeing results. While running is an excellent activity for losing weight, getting into shape and staying fit - it does take a little time. It's unrealistic to expect to see the pounds drop off instantly. But the more you run, the fitter you'll get and the further and faster you can run - therefore seeing the improvement escalate.
Not having enough time and finding it boring can come down the same reason - not knowing what type of running delivers the best results. For example, running one mile each time you go out will eventually give you little benefit as your body becomes conditioned to that distance.
Far better results come from a varied program of speed, intervals, hills and distance runs - variation also prevents boredom as each type has it's own challenges. Even 20 minutes of the right type of training will be beneficial.
Lastly, being embarrassed to run in public. A little harder to overcome for some, but with a good technique and exploring other ways to start (maybe starting on a treadmill or finding a secluded area) can help you to become less self-conscious.
ALL of the above can be avoided if you follow a properly structured beginners running program. I'm not going to pretend it's easy to start. Yes it does take some will-power and determination to get going - but it's possible to improve your chances of success by following a specific training path.
Roy Palmer is an athletics coach, teacher of The Alexander Technique and a rowing fanatic.