Row your way to better health

Sweat is seen on the forehead of German rowing athlete Christine Huth at the Gym at the Athlete's Olympic Village in Beijing on August 5, 2008.

Story highlights

  • Cross-training allows the body to work different muscles and gain strength
  • Rowing is one of the best workouts you can do to build cardiovascular health
  • Shockwave class has familiar circuit-training structure with cranked-up intensity

(TIME.com)I've broken a sweat in a bunch of quirky ways over the last couple months in my role as exercise-trend guinea pig for Healthland readers.

Switching up my workout routine has not only kept exercising fun, but as many experts will tell you, the variety may also be improving my overall athletic performance: cross-training allows the body to work different muscles and gain strength, while letting you avoid boredom.
It's especially key for people training for distance events like marathons and triathlons, since it also helps muscles recover and prevents injuries from overuse. It also ensures that you're keeping your entire body in optimal shape — not just legs for runners or arms for heavy lifters.
      Recently, I spoke with Patrick McCrann, a marathon and triathlon trainer, about the best cross-training workouts for runners. He mentioned rowing as a particularly good method — and a popular one — especially for runners who want a high-intensity replacement exercise.