Looking to break my weekly workout cycle of running, weight lifting and spinning, I tried Indo-Row, a group exercise class on rowing machines. Josh Crosby, creator of Indo-Row and our instructor, helped me and the other newbies set up the machines so we could get cranking. After a five-minute warm-up, we went through drills aimed to teach us the technique. Josh cheered us on as he moved around the room, motivating us with his energy, intensity and music.
Watching the display screen on my machine, I received automatic feedback on my intensity and distance. There were no resistance knobs to fiddle with; I was powering the machine with my own strength. As a runner, I tend to focus on speed, so it was hard for me to shift gears and work on pushing and pulling hard, not fast. My inclination was to stroke faster than the person next to me, but as Josh explained, the objective was to row in sync with the rest of the class, working together as a team would if they were rowing in a skull on the water.
About half way through the 50-minute session, while doing intervals at various intensities, I got into the rhythm of it. I felt my legs, abs, arms and back working to power through each stroke. Surprisingly, my lower body was doing most of the work. As my heart raced, I could tell I was getting as good a cardio workout as running, but minus the pounding on my knees. I blasted about 500 calories (a 145-pound woman will burn between 400 to 600, depending on intensity). Plus I was toning my upper body, which is a boon for me since I rarely have enough time to fit in weight training. "People have totally redefined their bodies, tightened their butts, their abs and their core," says Crosby.
We finished class with a 500-meter race, measured on our display screen. As if we were competing in the Olympics, we split into teams representing different countries. I was rowing for South Africa and not wanting to disappoint my teammates, a 65-year-old class regular to my left and a 30-something first timer to my right, I pulled full force. Team South Africa didn't win, but we crossed the finish line strong, proud and exhilarated.