There's no shortage of fitness video games these days. They're available for gaming systems such as X-Box, Wii, and PlayStation. As a tester on the fitness equipment team at Consumer Reports, I've come across many of them. So when I spotted an ad for RowPro, a rowing simulator that works with the Concept 2 Model D—the highest-rated rowing machine in our tests—I decided to check it out.
RowPro ($119) works only with compatible Concept 2 rowers. You install the software on a computer and connect the computer to the performance monitor on the rowing machine via a USB cable. The simulator's many well thought out features can help you get the most from your rowing workout. For example, you can compete against a virtual rower or race a live opponent in real time on line. I found I was motivated to work harder when I used these competitive options.
Other RowPro features include 3-D graphics to simulate rowing on a river, multiple training plans, and a training log that records your workouts. It also has a "coaching clinic," which provides good cues on proper rowing form. But it doesn't give you any feedback, so it's up to you to figure out what you're doing wrong. I recommend filming yourself with a camcorder or cell phone and comparing the video to the simulator's clinic to get a better sense of what you need to correct.
Unfortunately, RowPro is somewhat cumbersome to use. For instance, in order to create an online rowing event or regatta, you need to set the race up through a web browser, then join it through the RowPro program. Also whenever you want to start or stop your workout, you have to do it through your computer, not the rower. While these points might seem trivial, they could be annoying for people who are accustomed to remote controls and voice recognition used in other gaming systems.
There's no doubt that RowPro could benefit from high-tech features you find in other gaming systems, such as wireless connectivity, instant feedback, and video chat. Still, I recommend trying it—especially if you have a big monitor or a TV connected to your computer.