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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Liven up your workout with a little help from your computer

By Kim Komando

RowPro by Concept2 monitors your workout and allows you to compete against other rowers using the software via the Internet.

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Have you tossed your New Year's resolution of exercising more and getting fit? Perhaps all you need is a little motivation. Here's where your home computer can help.

Fitness programs combined with an Internet connection add fun and competition into your workouts. Take rowing, for instance. When you're indoors, the scenery never changes.

RowPro Home (www.digitalrowing.com; Windows; $99) adds interactivity and competition to your workouts. It works with rowing machines made by Concept2 (www.concept2.com).

Concept2's rowing machines come with a display. The display links to a computer using a USB cable. Once connected, the RowPro program will monitor every stroke you row and then display that onto your computer's monitor. An animated rower mimics each stroke you make. For an added challenge, you can race against other rowers through your computer's Internet connection.

NetAthlon (www.fitcentric.com; Windows $100) works with many different types of fitness machines that have USB or serial ports. It also will work with retrofit devices that attach to your fitness equipment. For a complete listing of compatible equipment, check its Web site (www.fitcentric.com/html/fitness _machines.htm).

The program itself has courses for rowers, treadmills, step mills and cycles. Additional courses may be purchased for $10 to $25, and include both outlandish scenarios (a lunar bike mission), and realistic ones (rowing on the Charles River). It also allows you to race against others through your Internet connection.

If you find that you need more than just a cardio workout, Yourself!Fitness (www.yourselffitness.com; Windows; $30) is like having a personal trainer and nutritionist. After you enter information such as age, sex, height and weight, it measures your current fitness. This is done by measuring your pulse at rest and then after physical activity. Based on your goals, it will devise a workout program.

Yourself!Fitness has more than 400 exercises. The exercises are a mixture of yoga, pilates, strength training, flexibility and cardio. To ensure that you are eating properly, the program also offers weekly meal plans.

There are online services as well. The Yoga Learning Center (www.yogalearningcenter.com) uses streaming video and downloadable audio to teach yoga. The resource guide explains poses and how to do them. A 90-day membership costs $30; a year goes for $90.

Power Pilates Online (www.powerpilatesonline.com) brings the core strengthening techniques of pilates into your home. It offers about 30 different downloadable video classes. There are no monthly membership fees; you pay per video. The videos run from 10 minutes to nearly an hour, and start at $10.

Using a computer in your fitness program isn't perfect. Fitness equipment used must be near your computer. And a computer can't let you know if you are doing an exercise correctly.

However, it can provide enough fun to keep you going.

Contact Kim Komando at gnstech@gns.gannett.com.