To set the scene I am mid 40s male, 6'2 (188cm), 105kg (112kg at the start of the year) and haven't done any exercise in over a decade (I 'drive' a desk all day). I get a sweat on just walking up the stairs in the house so that gives you an idea of my (un)fitness level. I've also never rowed before.
2nd week in January C2D purchased, set up and ready to use. How hard can it be, right?
Noob error 1 : Your natural instinct is to get straight into it and push yourself fairly hard to see what you can do, so you pull hard on the bar and it all seems too easy! Then it hits you like a brick around the 3 minute mark with your heart rate through the roof, you're gasping for breath, completely knackered and your arms feel like they're about to drop off. You earn double noob points if you also turned up the damper setting from its default 4 to 10, because only softies row at such a low damper setting, right? Do not do any of this! You'll nearly kill yourself, you won't enjoy it and you'll quickly grow to hate your rower.
Noob error 2 : Rowing with a high stroke rate in the high 20s or 30s is not sustainable and doesn't generate any power as you're spending 80% of your time just sliding backwards and forwards on the rail and only 20% actually rowing. As a newbie you'll flake out quickly and you'll get mad with yourself that you can't row for very long.
Noob error 3 : It doesn't matter how many times people post replies with links to the 'rowing technique' video, you'll still be rowing wrong as it takes some practice to train your body to row right. I expect like every other newbie, I started off by pulling the bar on the drive and slid my arse back on the seat. This is all wrong. The drive must be done by pushing off with your legs. If your legs aren't aching you're not doing it right. Get as much power through your legs as possible with a hard push off then follow through with your body and arms to finish off the stroke. Once you get this rhythm right it becomes much easier.
Noob error 4 : Don't grip the bar tight in your palms as you'll get blisters. Just hook your fingers over it and keep it loose.
Noob error 5 : Reading the threads on here everyone is talking about doing 2k rows and are posting times in the 6-8 min range so naturally you want to do a 2k as well. If you're a complete newbie do not do this! You don't have the stamina or endurance to row 2k nonstop in your first few weeks and you'll nearly kill yourself if you try it as naturally you'll be trying to set a good time. What is likely to happen is you'll start off rowing as fast as you can to try to get ahead whilst you have the energy but by the time you reach 1k around 4:30 you'll be dead on your arse and coughing up your lungs so have to give up. Based on my own experience as a complete newbie, expect around 10 mins for a nonstop 2k row as a starting point. The 2k times you read in most of the threads on here are from competitve professional and elite rowers at the top of their game which heavily skew the figures. You've no chance of getting anywhere near those kind of figures without lots and lots of training.
If you are struggling to get into it or finding it all too hard here are my tips to get past it. These are from my own findings and experience on what works for me. This doesn't mean it will work for you and shouldn't be taken as expert advice but it may help nonetheless.
Tip 1 : Don't try to rush. It's hard to get out of this mindset as you want to see good progress quickly and see your body change from your hard work but if you try to rush it you'll burn out and grow to hate your rower. This leads me to ..
Tip 2 : Row at a pace you can maintain for long periods without you ending up gasping for breath and getting fatigued. This feels all wrong when you're just starting out as it feels too easy and a waste of time but trust me, it stops being easy once you're 3 or 4 mins into it. By doing this you'll naturally grow your stamina and endurance which will prepare you for doing time trials like 2k.
Tip 3 : I highly recommend doing intervals to start off. This is probably going to be a controversial comment but in my opinion the highly regarded Pete Plan for Beginners is unsuitable for complete newbie rowers. The very first week of your rowing has you doing 2x 5k distance sessions. What the heck?! This is completely insane for a newbie and is roughly 30 mins of solid rowing. There is no way that a newbie has the stamina or endurance to do that much without breaks and in fact even 2k would be a struggle. You would have to row really slowly to not burn out and it would be boring as hell. My opinion is that expecting newbies to row nonstop for long periods is a fast way to see them toss the rower in the back of the garage and give up on the whole thing.
Intervals are much more manageable and give you that vital rest period for you to catch your breath. After messing around with different workouts for a week I found a nice interval set on the 'workout of the day' page for a 30 min workout doing 8 sets of 3 mins rowing with a 1 min rest/'paddle' row in between, making a total workout time of 32 mins. This is really doable for newbies whilst you build up your stamina and endurance and it's what I've been doing for the past 2 weeks, gradually improving my distance.
Here are my numbers:
(I don't set up the intervals in the PM5, I just watch the timer and ease off for a min every 3 mins, so these distances include my 'paddling' as well)
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Date Dist. Pace/500m Power Stroke rate/min 24/1 5573m 2:52:9 68W 20 25/1 5774m 2:46:8 75W 22 27/1 5949m 2:42:0 82W 25 28/1 6004m 2:40:7 84W 25 30/1 6068m 2:38:6 88W 24 1/2 6065m 2:38:8 87W 25 2/2 6171m 2:35:9 92W 25 3/2 6154m 2:36:5 91W 24 4/2 6305m 2:32:7 98W 24 6/2 6465m 2:28:8 106W 24
With those new improvements I did my first proper attempt at a 2k on 4 Feb and at a manageable and sustainable pace I did it in 9:36. 2 days later on 6 Feb I had another go and reduced that to 9:20. Doing the intervals I am nearly at the point where I can carry on rowing through them at the same pace but I have to pause momentarily to take a sip of my juice to wet my throat and also dry the sweat from my head and face .
1. Don't make the same noob mistakes as I did.
2. Don't try to rush your progress as you'll get frustrated and quickly grow to hate it.
3. Stay at a manageable pace and only try to push more if you feel your body has some stamina in reserve to take it. Don't try to force it if your body isn't ready.
4. If you find nonstop distance rowing daunting, try doing intervals.
5. It becomes noticeably easier after your first couple of weeks so stick with it!