“just wait until you turn 30,” everyone said. “that’s when everything starts to go downhill.” i refused to believe them. i was the exception to the rule. i was in better shape than most. i was fit. i was strong. and i took good care of my body. but there was one thing i didn’t account for – my joints. joint problems are a commonality amongst lifetime athletes; and although i had never had any orthopedic issues in my life, i celebrated my thirtieth on crutches, a week after having microfracture surgery on my right knee. ever since i have been trying to replace all of the good exercises that were previously performed on my good knee, with good exercises that could be performed on my bad knee.
discovering exercises that were knee friendly was not a challenge. but discovering knee exercises that were knee friendly and that i actually enjoyed was a huge feat.
i started off my knee-friendly workout searches in the pool. swimming is one of the best full body exercises i have ever performed. post surgery i swam and i swam often. however, after months of having no other options for aerobic exercise, i had maxed out the number of lifetime minutes i could spend staring at the bottom of a pool.
to break from the chlorine, i bought myself some brightly colored tights to get my yoga on. my knee wouldn’t allow me to perform every pose, but i could go at my own pace and adapt my movements to the constraints of my body. i grew to love and appreciate yoga on a spectacularly unexpected level. it acted as a great addition to my work out routines. yoga, however, was an anaerobic activity and it wasn’t ever going to provide me the pump and burn that i was looking for.
i needed to go fast, so one day i sat on the bike, and i never went back. biking (for exercise) simply isn’t for me.
i tried out the elliptical. i think there are many good things about an elliptical…. if you have never fallen in love with running; but if you have, an elliptical will never satisfy your needs. or at least it will never satisfy mine.
one day, i looked over into the corner of the gym, and i saw a sad, neglected machine that needed some love – the row machine. every time i was there it seemed to have gathered a bit more dust. all of the spandex clad gym jockeys would walk right on past without even considering what she had to offer.
but i decided to take her for a ride, and rowing has since become one of my favorite good aerobic exercises for my bad knee.
doing a sprint workout on a row machine has got to be one of the best workouts for heart rate training out there. i don’t understand why this fantastic machine is so commonly overlooked in the gym setting, but i foresee a lot more rowing in my future for many reasons.
- good exercise for bad knees – we’ve touched on this. rowing is a high intensity workout that is impact free, and that i actually find enjoyable. sources tell me that a rigorous rowing workout can burn up to 800 calories an hour.
- getting out of the gym – if i already enjoy rowing this much in the gym, i can’t begin to imagine how much more rewarding it will be when i eventually take my rowing workouts outside! i’m thinking that summer 2016 may be my outdoor rowing debut.
- full body work out – the number of muscle groups that are stimulated in a rowing workout far exceeds those stimulated while running, biking, or on an elliptical trainer. at various stages of the row, different muscles groups are engaged: the legs, the arms, the abs, the buns, etc..
or, for the scientific sort:
1 – Trapezius 2 – Deltoids 3 – Rhomboids 4 – Triceps 5 – Rectus Abdominis 6 – Erector Spinae 7 – Glutes 8 – Hamstrings 9 – Gastrocnemius and Soleus 10 – Quadriceps 11 – Wrist Extensors and Flexors 12 – Pectoralis Major
4. it yields results – eventually i am going to work all of those muscle groups so much that they will be even more tight and toned. then i am going to look like this:
who’s with me?
this is me recruiting teammates for my 2016 rowing team. i may not have the knees i used to have, but now that i have found the perfect exercise for my 30+ year old athlete joints there is no holding me back.