Getting fit with an accessible rowing machine

By Tai Blas
Contributing Writer

I have recently discovered a completely accessible way to get fit: an accessible Ergometer (rowing machine) made by Concept2. With the addition of free computer software called Erg Chatter, the Concept2 performance monitor is made completely accessible to blind users.

With the purchase of a Concept2 Ergometer and either a model 3 or 4 performance monitor, you receive a 15-foot USB cable. Connect this to the back of the monitor on the rowing machine and connect the other end to a computer. Download the free Erg Chatter software, run the setup program, open the installed Erg Chatter program and you are up and running. It’s as simple as that.

You can press C from your computer’s keyboard to configure the data you want spoken to you and at what intervals you wish to receive updates. You can use your computer’s built-in speakers, plug in external speakers or attach headphones to your computer for updates.

I plugged one of the male ends of a Y-type audio cable into the earphone jack of a two-pound netbook next to the Erg machine and plugged the other male end into my iPhone. I then plugged my headphones into the female jack on the cable. This allows me to listen to music and hear my statistics as I work out.

Erg Chatter tells me my stroke rate per minute (the number of rowing strokes I take), my average split speed (the average length of time it would take me to row 500 meters), total elapsed time and the approximate number of calories necessary to propel you thus far into the workout. This calorie data should not be confused with the number of calories you as an individual have burned, as these stats are not one in the same. 

Erg Chatter has the ability to report your heart rate statistics when used in conjunction with a compatible wireless heart-rate monitor. The Model D Erg comes with a heart rate monitor, or you can purchase a heart-rate monitor from Concept2 for use with other Concept2 machine models using the PM3 and PM4 monitors.

I really enjoy the sport of rowing and look forward to getting out on the water this spring. And this is a great way to train and stay fit in the winter!

I am very impressed with Concept2’s commitment to building accessibility into its products. Currently, the company is working on an accessible application for rowing statistics that will run on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

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