Everything POTS, Lifestyle, Living With Chronic Illness

My Experience Buying a Rowing Machine

Rowing machine for exercising with POTS

That’s right, I purchased a rowing machine! I’ve thought about doing this for a while and even had one of my former professors recommend it, but I never took the plunge and got one. However, multiple factors came together recently that made NOW the perfect time to commit to buying a rowing machine. 

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With gyms still closed (and I no longer have a membership in my hometown–where I’ve been hunkered down for quarantine), I needed to up my home gym game. Who can relate?

Also, my exercise tolerance for running hasn’t been great as of late. Ever since I got sick with “something” in mid-February, I’ve been recovering from a POTS flare. Anytime my symptoms flare-up, running gets much more difficult, and sometimes, unfortunately, I have to stop until I recover.

Because of this little bump in the road on my healing journey, my Cleveland physician mailed me another copy of the Levine Protocol. Which, can I just say, was the most thoughtful and compassionate thing I think any medical professional has ever done for me. After being dismissed by so many doctors prior to going to Cleveland Clinic, this truly made me feel validated and cared for–even from a distance. 

Anyways, I got the hint when I received that packet in the mail: I need to follow the Protocol’s guidelines more strictly again until my exercise tolerance bounces back.

This means that I have to do a little less running and a little more seated exercise for the time being. Sigh. But that’s what it’s like living with POTS! I go through phases where I can only tolerate seated exercise or walking. The good news is that I do build my tolerance back up. I’m confident that running will be my primary form of exercise again soon!

Why I Decided On a Rowing Machine

Since I already have a bike that I can ride around on the country roads near my parent’s house, I didn’t see the sense in buying a stationary bike. Plus, I wanted something that could fold up and take up less space to fit in an NYC apartment. 

So, I decided on buying a rowing machine! I’m still unsure how I’m going to get it down to NYC when I go back mid-July since I’ll be taking a bus… Guess I’ll have to ship it! 

But, anyhow…

I wanted a rowing machine that can fold up when not in use and one that’s sturdy, comfortable, not too loud, and not super expensive. I’m on a post-grad budget here. I chose the MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine because it fits all the criteria!

I have to say, I’m really glad I finally caved and made this purchase. In the past, I’ve read about how elite rowers have bigger and stronger hearts compared to others. While I’m no professional athlete, it still made me think, yeah, I want a bigger and stronger heart too! I’m in! Let’s do it! And now I finally can.

Now, one of the first things I had to do after buying my rowing machine was to learn the correct form. I definitely was one of those people who assumed you just got on the thing, pulled the handle, and kept going. Nope! There is a proper rowing form to avoid injury. I realized this after my back started hurting as soon as five minutes into rowing. 

Here’s how I fixed my form: I watched a video on common rowing technique errors to help understand what I was doing wrong, and then learn how to do it right. 

Once I got rid of my chicken wing arms, perfected my hinge, and corrected my driving motion, my back pain disappeared. Not to mention that it felt so much easier. Never forget the importance of checking your form! Even if you think you’re doing it correctly!

My Thoughts on My Purchase

It’s been about a month now since buying my rowing machine, and I have some thoughts on the rowing life so far.

Guys, I’m gonna be honest. My upper body strength sucks. It’s practically nonexistent. That being said, I’ve only worked my way up to 15 consecutive minutes of rowing in a month’s time. Even on a low resistance level. This whole rowing thing is a killer workout for my arms! Which is perfect timing since I’ve brought out all my tanks and dresses now that it’s officially summer. I’m ready to show off my strong arms and shoulders!

Also, I’ve had to travel back and forth to Cleveland for two consecutive weeks of this past month, so I wasn’t exactly on a consistent exercise schedule like normal. So while I can’t say I have made major cardiovascular gains from this month, I can say that my upper body strength has grown immensely! 

Before this, I couldn’t do more than 3 or 4 push-ups (real ones, not modified). I got down to do some the other day and, I kid you not, I did fifteen without even tiring. I only stopped because I was so shocked with myself.

Like, was that ME? Who just did 15 push-ups without stopping? What?! As Matthew McConaughey would say, alright alright alright!

So, am I happy with my MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine purchase? Most definitely! 

I know that as my upper body strength increases I’ll be able to row for longer. For now, I’m combining days that I row with days that I walk the hills in my neighborhood. Together, they make for a great base pace workout (from the Levine Protocol) to build aerobic endurance. 

I’m sure even the short amounts of rowing that I’m doing are making my heart stronger too. I think it will just take more time and consistency–and less traveling!–to really reap the cardiovascular benefits like those seen in athlete rowers. And I’m so here for it! 

Have you tried rowing before? What has your experience been like? Let’s chat in the comments below!

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