Finding ways to get physical activity during the pandemic has been a challenge, to say the least. While people are doing their best to adhere to social distancing practices, the narrow streets in my neighborhood make it hard to take a carefree stroll. As a result, I’ve gone from being a person with a consistent gym routine to someone who averages fewer than 200 steps a day.
During this time at home, I’ve used a solid number of free apps and Instagram challenges to work out, but many of my favorites involve jumps and burpees, which might make my neighbors hate me. Plus, I like using equipment, and I miss the gym, TBH. But I live in an incredibly small studio apartment (I consider it a fancy dorm room), and something like an elliptical or a stationary bike could disrupt the flow of my apartment. In short, I wanted something I could hide under my bed if I needed to. I also didn’t want to invest in something super expensive—if I was only going to use the equipment for a little while and then leave it to collect dust when I can finally get back to my gym routine, I wanted that to happen without shame.
With that in mind, I was intrigued by the Stamina InMotion Rower, a compact rowing machine that was meant to mimic the full-body workout that a rowing machine provides. The rower is only 27 pounds and is made of stainless steel. It has a cushioned seat, adjustable foot pedals, five levels of resistance, and a meter that tracks time, strokes, and calories. It sounded small, lo-fi, and functional. But it took me some time to buy it, primarily because it looked like something that might fall apart on the first use. Ultimately, the good reviews convinced me that it would meet my quarantine needs, and it has. I typically do about 25 minutes (often to the musical stylings of Beyoncé Knowles Carter’s Homecoming album), and while it’s not as intense as a HIIT workout, it does leave me sweaty and feeling accomplished.
There are some things to consider before buying this yourself. This rower is low to the ground, so if you have mobility issues, it might not be your best bet. The product description says it can support up to 250 pounds, but I wouldn’t recommend it for taller folks since the entire length of the machine is about 5 feet. And there were also reviewers that mentioned that the Stamina InMotion Rower doesn’t produce the traditional rowing movement. (Instead of the chain that helps create that movement on typical rowing machines, this one has a metal bar. This limits your ability to pull the handle the way you normally would.) It looked like a regular rower to me, but—since I’m a rowing novice—the reviews did give me pause. When using a rowing machine, proper technique helps reduce the risk of muscle strain and injury, SELF previously reported. This means that how you hold the handlebar, how you extend your legs, and your overall posture are all important to help you get the most out of your ride. For a bit of insight on how to use this safely, I asked Rozalynn Frazier, C.P.T, interim special projects editor at SELF, if she had any tips.
Though Fraizer says it’s difficult to size up the machine without trying it, the product description and the videos indicate that the Stamina InMotion Rower doesn’t do the same job as a traditional rowing machine. “It keeps your body upright rather than allowing you to lean back, so you don’t get a full hip extension when you are performing the movement,” Frazier says. “Also, when you row, you want to bring the handle to your chest. Here the handle goes to your abdomen.” She notes that this isn’t necessarily harmful, it’s just not the same form you’d use on a traditional rowing machine. Finally, Frazier says that when you’re using a traditional indoor rower with a flywheel, the faster you go, the harder your body must work to move against the accumulated resistance. Given the lack of weighted resistance, it would be unwise to expect the same leg-heavy workout you get with a traditional rower.
“To get the most out of this piece of equipment and up your intensity, you have three choices,” Frazier says. “Turn up the resistance, row faster, or row longer.”
Eventually, I purchased the rower, and—as someone who considers themselves a total rowing beginner—it’s made me a happy little studio-dweller. I doubt that this rower will stay with me for years to come, but since I’ve reintroduced regular cardio into my life, my mood is a little better, and my step counter has cut back on sending me threatening messages (kind of).
[Editor’s Note: The Stamina InMotion is available for purchase, but it won’t ship until the end of August. We’ve included a few similar alternatives below that will.]