I could do this all day. Is that enough?
June 1, 2010 2:59 PM   Subscribe

Exercise/Weightloss/Rowing filter: Is increased heart rate necessary, or is increased activity sufficient?

I need to literally weigh less. I don't care about my size or my health. I definitely do not want to replace fat weight with similar muscle weight. [I'm pursuing a pilot's license. This is about how much an aircraft can lift, not how I look at the club or how long I'll live.]

My most convenient form of exercise is a rowing machine. I'm using the correct rowing form (for the most part), but I can't seem to get my heart rate up very much without my form decaying. If I stroke fast enough to get my rate up, I wind up with back pain the next day.

Is it sufficient to, say, row at a slightly-uncomfortable pace for an hour instead of a quick pace for twenty minutes? Would it be better to use half-strokes at a fast pace to get my heart up, or to continue with full strokes at the more sedate pace? Do I need to be winded for it to have been exercise?
posted by Netzapper to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Considering your stated goals, you're probably barking up the wrong tree by focusing on exercise. Your diet will be far, far more important.
posted by ludwig_van at 3:08 PM on June 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

Any activity will burn calories, but activity that does not raise your heartrate very much will only result in nominal calorie burn. ludwig_van is absolutely correct that diet will accomplish what you want in the most efficient way.

You can do the math on this: a pound=3500 calories. You can look up various exercise calorie burning guides online, here's the Mayo Clinic table. It says a 200 pound person burns 414 from walking moderately for an hour. That's probably the kind of calorie burn you'd get from the kind of rowing you're talking about. Keep in mind that this is not in addition to whatever calories you would normally burn, there is a caloric cost to being alive. So you're probably closer to 350 extra calories for the hour. That's 10 days to lose a pound. On the other hand, it's fairly easy to cut 500 calories out daily, which is days for a pound. By the time you get to ~20 days, you will have lost two pounds rowing and three pounds through diet.
posted by OmieWise at 3:47 PM on June 1, 2010

Yea, focus 100% on diet, exercise won't make much difference. In any case the tendency is to actually eat more after you exercise (because you burn your short term glucose store and that makes you feel hungry). So you wipe out any gain from the exercise. The hackers diet worked for me.

Alternatively you can fix this with $$$ move up to a bigger plane :-).
posted by Long Way To Go at 4:43 PM on June 1, 2010

Nthing Ludwig Van, a million times. Diet is way more important - and easier! - to lose weight by than exercise.
posted by smoke at 4:46 PM on June 1, 2010

Interval training can increase your body's insulin sensitivity, which will definitely help you eat less and lose more weight, so exercise isn't something to be brushed off. link.

A rowing machine might not be the best thing for interval training, considering your back. If I were you I'd just run up and down the stairs for about five minutes, rest a minute or two, go again. Once your insulin levels are lower, it's all diet.
posted by stavrogin at 5:11 PM on June 1, 2010

Or, to answer the question more specifically, getting your heart rate up is more important for reversing metabolic issues.
posted by stavrogin at 5:15 PM on June 1, 2010

My most convenient form of exercise is a rowing machine. I'm using the correct rowing form (for the most part), but I can't seem to get my heart rate up very much without my form decaying. If I stroke fast enough to get my rate up, I wind up with back pain the next day.

This shouldn't happen. By which I mean, please be sure you're not putting too much strain on your back or your arms when you use an ergometer. Remember this mantra: Legs, back, arms, arms, back, legs.

If your back hurts, you're using it too much. If your arms hurt, you're using them too much. Rowing is all about the legs, and poor form can result in serious injury.

But you don't need to be fast to get your heart rate going. You just need to work hard. (KICK! As hard as you can coming out of your crouch, and then slide ridiculously slowly back into that crouch. KICK! As hard as you can. Etc.) After fifteen or twenty minutes on a rowing machine, you should be sweating profusely.

Your rpm doesn't need to be very high for you to be getting a really hardcore workout. Please do be careful with your form -- I had a friend in college who had to dictate her finals because of a rowing machine-related injury.

I love me some good rowing, but I have to say you will be replacing fat with muscle really quickly if you're rowing every day. So if your main concern is losing weight quickly, I'd recommend other activity altogether.
posted by brina at 5:49 PM on June 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree with brina - if you're doing it right (power from your legs) you should have no trouble getting your heart rate up. I did find that starting up rowing machines again after a lonnng time away was hard on my back even with good form - but it was just extreme soreness from not having used my back muscles. The solution is to ramp up really slowly.
posted by yarly at 6:50 PM on June 1, 2010

Just to reinforce what everyone has said already: diet is going to make the biggest difference.

On the simplest level, it's conservation of energy: If you want to lose weight you need to expend more energy (calories) than you take in. Simplest way to do this is to just take in fewer calories. Expending additional calories (i.e.exercise) helps, but its hard to actually expend a lot of them.
posted by Diplodocus at 7:20 PM on June 1, 2010

You are not rowing correctly if you do not get tired or your back hurts after.

If your back hurts STOP you are doing something wrong.
posted by outsider at 8:00 PM on June 1, 2010

Response by poster: To those of you concerned about my back: it's not the pulling that makes it hurt. I'm doing that with my back straight. It's the crunch down into the bottom of the stroke--it's the repetitive motion, not the strain. I'm really not harming my back, I promise.

And I do get tired, just not winded. My legs and arms get all noodly afterwards. I feel drained. I just don't get winded and my heart rate doesn't rise much more than about 20%, which has always been an aspect of all other exercise for me.
posted by Netzapper at 8:26 PM on June 1, 2010

Well let's assume your diet is in order and actually answer your question.

Is it sufficient to, say, row at a slightly-uncomfortable pace for an hour instead of a quick pace for twenty minutes?

If we're are just reducing it down to one variable such as intensity with the intention of burning the most calories, than a higher intensity for a shorter time would be more beneficial. Beyond the fact that it will take less time to burn the same amount of calories with an increased pace, your body will also take longer to achieve a resting metabolic rate. This is measured by EPOC.

It seems like you are trying to use an exercise that your body is already well adapted to.
I would suggest doing something else such as Burpees for a short duration than jumping back over to the rowing machine for a slightly longer duration in which you can almost catch your breath again. Or mix it up any way you like, but HIIT is a sure and easy way for your fat loss needs.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:28 AM on June 2, 2010

As others have said, if your back hurts then either you're going at it too hard or your technique's wrong. It is definitely worthwhile getting some advice from someone who has been trained to row.

I spend a fair bit of time sitting down at work and occasionally get a stiff back but even when rowing a lot I don't get back pain. It should be strengthening your core muscles.

You definitely can lose weight by rowing. Concept 2, who arguably make the best machines out there, provide lots of advice on this very subject.

In summary: you need to row for longer, but at a lower heart rate to lose weight. A higher heart rate will build cardiovascular fitness.

Stroke rate, by itself, doesn't define what your heart rate will be. Your resistance settings and how hard you pull also matter.

As a case study, one of the British Olympic sailors, Sarah Ayton, rowed at low intensity for two hours a day in training for the Olympics precisely because she wanted to lose weight without gaining muscle mass.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:32 AM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

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