Rower Versus Treadmill- What’s the Dif, Yo?

This is what happens when I write after I’ve worked out and while I’m listening to hip hop music beside me. I get delirious, and start rambling.

Today I skipped my swim to sleep in just a little. I had a late night at work with Fourth of July, and yesterday’s WOD was rough on my arms. They were super sore this morning.

But skipping my swim didn’t give me an out from exercising. I’m on a roll with my weight loss. I’m down 16 pounds from when I started (May 1). I want to keep going.

So, I went through my CrossFit WOD book and chose a few Hero Workouts to convert to rowing workouts. I found a good one, “Michael”, which is 3 rounds for time of 800 m run, 50 back extensions, and 50 GHD sit-ups. I don’t have a GHD, so I modified it with Flyaways and regular ab-mat sit-ups. And instead of running, I rowed the distance.

Somewhere between rowing round 2 and the Flyaways in round 3, I started wondering why I love my rowing workouts so much, but I despise treadmills.

Let me be clear. I love my rower, but not as much as I enjoy my outdoor ZooFit workouts. The rower is a personal preference and used in time crunches for me. With my summer job, I don’t have as much time to go all the way to my normal workout spot and do a full workout. Storing a rower is easier than storing a treadmill, also.

I have come up with a dozen workouts incorporating the rower. Some are rowing modifications from CrossFit workouts. A few are ZooFit specials. In fact, I created the “PJ”, which is 25-15-10 reps of calorie row and burpees. There are a few partner workouts. Chris and I recovered for a day or two from one rowing partner workout we did this past week. We took turns on the rower, while the other partner rested. Our goal was to get to 5K as quickly as possible. I set our paces to 2:00/500 m for me and 1:50/500 m for Chris. On our turn, we went as long as possible at our pace. As soon as we went over, we switched out. The two of us were going balls to the wall for 1:30-2:00 at a time. Then we would recover (a little), and then go balls to the wall again.

I guess my point is I feel there is a lot of variety available with the rower. The only downside is my cats are terrified of the thing. And while it’s really hard to do any workout with a rower outdoors, I still prefer it over a treadmill any day of the week. 

I have a deep loathing for treadmills. I’ve been thinking about this all day now. Why do I hate treadmills so much but I’m perfectly okay with a stationary rower?

If I was super creative, I would spend the time writing a poem in iambic pentameter to demonstrate why I hate treadmills. But instead, I am a list-lover, so that’s what you get:

  1. Why the hell are you spending $35-$50 a month, or MORE, to just walk or run on a treadmill? There is a whole world outdoors, with SIDEWALKS, and NATURE TRAILS. There are mountains and paths to hike. Soccer fields, football field, freaking TRACKS to run around. And those are all FREE! The hell, people?
  2. Okay, I’m bad at citing research, but there is a lot of it out there which states exercising outside is better for you than indoors. The book Go Wild by John Ratey (who also wrote a revolutionary fitness book Spark) claims exercising outdoors gives you twice the benefits as performing the same exact movements indoors. It truly baffles me why we, as a species, are moving more and more indoors. We work in offices with fake lighting, spend way too much time watching television, and now we are shifting even our workouts inside? Seriously, people. Get outside. You need it.
  3. You aren’t going anywhere. Granted, you aren’t going anywhere when you use a stationary rower, but it’s completely different. As Denis Leary so lovingly put it, “Have we turned into gerbils, ladies and gentlemen?” Instead of wasting energy going NOWHERE, you could take a walk or a jog and go somewhere meaningful- the movies, the library, the grocery store. And help the planet along the way. 
  4. Treadmills are not environmental. Like, at all. They run on electricity. They are made mostly of plastic. I know conservation fitness hasn’t made it big yet, but people are waking up as they are working out. In Scandinavia, they are plogging, a new trend where joggers pick up trash on their route. It’s awesome. You should try it.
  5. Treadmills are boring…… Oh, sorry, I fell asleep writing this, that’s how boring treadmills are.  Treadmills are so dull, gyms have to plaster televisions all over the place, or install machines with televisions, because people want to DO something while they go absolutely nowhere.
    Can you read a book while walking outdoors, or working out in the park, or even rowing on a stationary rower? No, but your mind is engaged in different ways. And if you are reading a book, not listening to a book, but reading a book, on a treadmill, then you are not working hard enough.
  6.  Everyone does treadmills.  Okay, so I love exercising, and I love things like burpees and Turkish get-ups and even my invented Zoo-maker. Just because I love them doesn’t make them easy.  Burpees and Zoo-makers are hard, complex movements. Treadmills? “I’m walking.” Good for you, so is everyone else on the planet. Want to see the zombie apocalypse? Go into an LA Fitness on January 3rd. EVERYONE is zoned out on a treadmill.
    It’s not exactly that I need to be different from everyone, and that’s why I hate treadmills, but I just think there’s got to be better ways.
  7. Treadmills are not great for your joints. Maybe it’s just people who jump on the treadmill and start running 7 mph from day one without a clue how to properly run, but the treadmill is not gentle on your knees or ankles, or anything really. Running on concrete and asphalt is not much better. I prefer trails and grass, natural substrates. Gravel in extreme circumstances, but I prefer dirt, forest floor, and grass. In fact, when I run on grass, I often run bare-footed. It feels so much nicer, and it helps my already messed up knees.

My rower is a great tool for me. I’m not saying everyone reading this should drop what they are doing and grab a stationary rower (but if you did, I would start a new blog dedicated to rowing workouts). I am saying if you have the choice, I would go with the rower. If you have the choice, go outside and run. Find a nice grassy field, or a beach (I hate the beach, but you gotta do you), kick off your shoes and run to your heart’s content.


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