A group of Rogue Valley indoor rowers are bending their will — and their backs — to the goal of winning (or placing very high) among teams competing in a global rowing competition.

A group of Rogue Valley indoor rowers are bending their will — and their backs — to the goal of winning (or placing very high) among teams competing in a global rowing competition.

Even though the event — called the Concept2 Rowing Challenge — is open to teams of all ages, the over-50 crowd at Baxter Fitness Solutions has moved up to third place in their division with 1.6 million meters logged since Sept. 15. The event ends Oct. 15.

Rowing — or "erg-ing," as the indoor version is called — is but one of many workouts at Baxter gyms in Ashland and Medford, but because it's an impact-free mode that works the cardio systems and reaches all muscle groups, participants take to it like fish to water, and they are deeply motivated by the competition.

"I went over 4,000 meters today for the first time," said Brandy Carson. "I signed up for the competition because it would make me get here more to work out. It makes you very competitive, and we want to push little Baxter's gym into world prominence."

Ellie Holt-Murray attributes a 33-pound weight loss to rowing, and praises the workout because it gives her time to memorize lyrics (she teaches voice at Southern Oregon University).

"It's inspirational. That's the core reason I do it," she notes.

The 140 rowers at Baxter Fitness are pitted against 156 health clubs around the world. The two leaders — Big Blue (an Atlantic rowing team in New York) and Greenville Indoor Rowing in South Carolina — are way ahead at around 2.5 million meters, but a dozen other teams are breathing down Baxter's neck.

"It just kind of took off here," says Baxter. "The competitive juices got flowing."

Older people are able to compete against younger athletes, he adds, because if you sit there rowing, the miles pile up at the same speed as someone putting in the same effort. The more effort, however, the more meters get registered.

"I love it because it makes me feel great, more in tune with my body," says Claudia Law, who's been putting in 7,000-meter days (1,000 meters equals six-tenths of a mile). "I don't have the aches and pains I had before. It's head and shoulders above the other workouts I've tried. I've got serious back problems and this alleviates a lot."

As for being No. 3 in the world, Law exclaims, "I'm incredibly thrilled about it!"

So is Louis Plummer, an Ashland Rowing Team member who has racked up 35,000 meters in the competition so far.

"I've worked out with weights, and there's the feeling you're supposed to get in shape, but with this, it has a purpose, the competition, as well as getting in better cardio-vascular shape.

"I was shocked to see where we are in the competition now," says Plummer. "You never want to let the other person down. When you have that mentality, you can do a lot more."

After getting aches and pains from hiking, Judy Howard found rowing was kinder to her body. It provides a full-body workout, and offers a great spot to meditate.

Her husband, Steven Dewey, a lake rower and member of the Ashland Rowing Club, says that when erg-ing, "I dream I'm on water. It gets my heart going and has helped with cholesterol and liver issues from paint fumes. My doctor read my cholesterol results and got all excited and hugged me!"

Standings for the race are posted at www.concept2.com/sranking03/team/teamStandings.asp?re_index=39&group=team.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.