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Fitness | GEAR

Rowers get you fit and in the flow

October 27, 2003|Roy M. Wallack

The rowing machine might not be the most popular piece of fitness equipment at your gym, but the tide could be turning. Participation in rowing was up 10% in the United States last year, by one estimate, and Forbes magazine recently named the activity to its "Ten Healthiest Sports" list. If you're after a workout that will keep you fit for years, here are four club-quality machines.

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A top seller builds momentum

Concept 2 Indoor Rower: Newest version of the top-selling rowing machine.

Likes: The heavy, bladed flywheel maintains your rowing momentum better than water-based machines. Adjusts easily: Just move a lever from level 1 to 10 to change difficulty. New computer features include exercise time, calories burned, power output, race against a pace boat and an electronic display that logs a year of workouts.

Dislikes: Loud air-friction flywheel. Turn the TV way up. Water-resistance machines are far quieter. Not easy to store.

Price: $850. (800) 245-5676; rowing@concept2.com

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Furnishing a bona-fide workout

The WaterRower: Smooth, quiet, nice-looking water-resistance machine.

Likes: A serious workout. Use of a half-submerged, horizontal flywheel in a clear polycarbonate tank provides a natural feel and sound similar to rowing. Practical, stores upright in 4 square feet of space. Wooden frame looks like furniture and comes in various finishes. Oval-shaped oar fits great in hands.

Dislikes: Small, old-fashioned digital display is difficult to read. Cannot adjust resistance during activity. Adding or removing water is a hassle. Available only by mail order.

Price: $1,099. (800) 852-2210; waterrower.com

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Listen to the quiet

First Degree Fluid Rower: The next best thing to being on the water, with adjustable resistance.

Likes: Natural feel and quiet of real rowing. You can adjust the degree of difficulty while in motion. The vertically oriented flywheel is more visible than the WaterRower's horizontal flywheel, which may help motivate some. Metal heel bars provide good foot support. Tall, well-cushioned seat. Overall solid feel.

Dislikes: Somewhat difficult to store because it doesn't fold up or stand vertically.

Price: $1,499. (800) 295-0377; homgymcentral.com

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Modeled on kayaking

Speed Stroke Kayak Trainer: A great workout that feels like real kayaking.

Likes: Superb abdominal and aerobic workout due to the constant side-to-side torso rotation of kayaking. Display has everything you need: speed, distance, split times for 500-meter and 1,000-meter distances. Can use it barefoot.

Dislikes: Though the kayak paddling motion is easy to learn, some may prefer the simplicity of rowing. Won't work your leg muscles because the seat is locked. Can't adjust levels of difficulty. Does not store easily; takes five minutes to separate into two pieces for storage. Air-resistance flywheel is louder than the water rowers.

Price: $1,295. (917) 239-9689; kayakpro.com

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-- Roy M. Wallack

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