A month ago I decided I'd lay off the heavy weights and chin-ups and instead focus on endurance and cardio work. So began a month of skipping, boxing and rope flicks (symmetrical and asymmetrical, which looked a like what these German guys are doing.
I also used a lot of cardio machines in an attempt to beat previously standing personal bests. Whilst on the rowing machine I had a look at some of the in-built games that you can play. These are designed to encourage you to increase and decrease your speed of rowing so that your heart gets used to working at different rates. It's great for general fitness (and, for example, training for a fight).
The fish game was brilliant. At the left of the screen is your cursor, a medium-sized fish at the bottom of the screen. The fish is facing the right edge. Moving right to left on the screen are a number of fish of varying sizes, some bigger than your fish, some smaller. The harder you row, the higher up the screen your fish rises. Any oncoming smaller fish your fish will eat; any oncoming bigger fish will eat you. Hence you row hard to rise your cursor to catch the small fish above you then ease off to catch the ones below. The same goes for staying out of the way of oncoming bigger fish. It's pretty fun and works your reflexes as well as your body.
The darts game was a lot harder. There's a dartboard at the right of the screen. You're given a supply of 100 LCD 'darts'. The darts fly out from left to right at varying heights, meaning you need to react quickly and vary your speed. The harder you row, the higher the arc your dart will have. If your dart flies out from the top of the screen, you need to ease off to let it sail down toward the centre of the board. The next dart could fly from the bottom, meaning you'd need to row hard to raise its arc. At the end of your darts, you'll have a combined score.
Target practice was similar to the above but the board was designed more like an archery target, with the aim to get the arrow into the centre.
Interval training involved a series of 500m blasts of rowing, interspersed with 30 second rests. This seemed to go on indefinitely. Interesting to begin with, but hard to keep up with no end in sight.
A lot of the cardio machines were difficult to get on as they are very popular. The same goes for the punch bag, the skipping ropes and the heavy rope. These three are all stored in the same corner of the gym which is normally occupied with people doing these activities or others (sit-ups, gymnastics rings, etc.) At quiet times, I managed to get on a few of these. These aren't exercises you can particularly measure, but as I trained I could feel my endurance sustaining better than in previous years.
In the month of the project I managed to make one solid improvement with my 10 minute row: 41 metres onto personal best. It's not far off what I was rowing when I was 24, and still doing Muay Thai. My cardio was exceptional back then, so I'm not doing too bad for a 33-year-old carrying a little extra these days. I'm also getting through cardiotone classes without gassing. Now to get back onto weights and chin-ups. Still no visible abs.