Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

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Lemming
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Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by Lemming » February 7th, 2019, 9:17 am

Hello all. I see there are a lot of newbies reading these forums and as a newbie myself I thought I'd chime in with some thoughts and observations following a full month of rowing now on my C2D.

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? :mrgreen:

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?! :lol: 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)

Code: Select all

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
When I first started these I found them a struggle but doable without killing myself. If someone had said to me that in 2 weeks time I'd be able to do nearly another 1k distance I'd have laughed at them. But it happened :) . Your stamina and endurance builds up in the background and each time you do another workout you find that it gets a bit easier and you can generate more power with your legs and arms for stronger strokes which equates to bigger distances. The best part is that your improved stamina also means you're not a complete wheezing wreck at the end and you recover faster.

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 :| .

TL;DR :

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!
Last edited by Citroen on February 18th, 2019, 2:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Reduced the power output just a little

Dangerscouse
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by Dangerscouse » February 7th, 2019, 10:19 am

This a great post Lemming
46 HWT; 6' 4"; Liverpool 1k= 3:09; 2k= 6:36; 5k= 17:27; 6k= 21:23; 10k= 36:21 30mins= 8,356m 60mins= 16,317m HM= 1:18:40; FM= 2:49:39; 50k= 3:28:18; 100k= 7:52:44; 12hrs = 153km

"You reap what you Row"

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KeithT
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by KeithT » February 7th, 2019, 11:22 am

Great post and there is some stuff in there that even experienced rowers can pay attention to.
51 yo, 6'3" 207#
PBs (all since turning 50):
1 min - 373m, 500m - 1:21.9, 1K - 2:59.8, 4 min - 1265m, 2K - 6:29.9, 5K - 17:27, 30 min - 8277m, 10K - 36:30, 60 min - 16036, HM - 1:20:22

Cyclist2
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by Cyclist2 » February 7th, 2019, 1:35 pm

I agree, great post. It's easy to forget all those details of just starting out after 30+ years of rowing! Keep it up and it won't be long before you're doing sub-8 (sub-7?) 2Ks.

My only thought is; get a headband to keep the sweat off your face and out of your eyes. I couldn't row without one.
Mark Underwood. Rower first, cyclist too.

Allan Olesen
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by Allan Olesen » February 7th, 2019, 3:04 pm

Lemming wrote:
February 7th, 2019, 9:17 am
You would have to row really slowly to not burn out
Yes, that is exactly the intention.

If you can't row 5 km, you are rowing too fast. Simple as that.

Noob error 0: Thinking that intensity is more important than duration.

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lancecampeau
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by lancecampeau » February 7th, 2019, 4:18 pm

Lemming wrote:
February 7th, 2019, 9:17 am
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.
This also describes my situation perfectly... However, I'm now 2 years into this project and can add a little perspective from that point of view.

My first 2K was a 9:32 and it burned like hell. It took 14 months of sustained effort to go under 7 min (6:58.1). Weight training and extensive 10K and HM pieces were required to build the necessary strength and aerobic capacity to do this. Starting from scratch, I had to do a LOT of work to build up a good base.

Long distance rowing was another focus.... Here are some milestones and time frames for those looking for some context.
- 3 months to hit 5000m
- 4 months to hit 10,000m
- 5 months to hit 21,097m (half marathon)
- 7 months to hit 25,000m
- 9 months to hit 30,000m
- 10 months to hit 42,195m (full marathon)
- 10 1/2 months to hit 50,000m
- 15 months to hit 63,291m (marathon and a half)
- 23 months to hit 100,000m
Male, 45, 6ft / 241 lbs, 183cm / 108 kg / Started erging in Jan 2017
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Lemming
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by Lemming » February 8th, 2019, 8:19 am

Thanks for your comments gentlemen.

KeithT : "Great post and there is some stuff in there that even experienced rowers can pay attention to." I don't know about that, Keith. I would think any seasoned rower would be know all that already, probably a result of making the same newbie errors!

Cyclist2 : "My only thought is; get a headband to keep the sweat off your face and out of your eyes. I couldn't row without one." I keep meaning to get one but never get around to it. I need to pause briefly for a swill of my drink to hydrate my dry throat anyway.

Allan: "If you can't row 5 km, you are rowing too fast. Simple as that. Noob error 0: Thinking that intensity is more important than duration." Of course, but again that's easy to say as a seasoned rower. When you're new to it your natural instinct is to row fast because in your head the faster you row the more calories you'll burn and hence lose weight faster and get fit quicker. Rowing slow doesn't compute in the head of a newbie even though it's the endurance that is better for all of the above in the longer term (ignoring diet changes which is the biggest contributor).

I still stand by my original comment that 5k nonstop rowing for a complete newbie rower in their first week is bad advice and serves no other purpose but to put them off rowing altogether if that's the kind of thing they have to look forward to. 5k/30mins ish is boring as hell. It would be much better to build up to that by starting with some lesser amounts in the first new weeks in an attempt to train the rower to get into the mindset of rowing at a sustainable pace rather going at it full bore and flaking out after 1k.


Lance: Excellent work getting under 7 mins! I wonder if I will ever manage that looking 2 years into the future? I managed to knock another 2 secs off my 2k time today and down to 9:18 fairly comfortably. If I'd gone try-hard mode I reckon I could've done 9:10 but it was part of a 30 min session and didn't want to knock myself out.

mitchel674
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by mitchel674 » February 8th, 2019, 1:46 pm

@lemming this is some excellent noob advice.

Like many endeavors, I typically advise new folks to take the time and learn the basics. Early sessions spent focusing on the rowing stroke will pay back huge dividends down the road. Bad habits or technique learned early will only frustrate and hinder progress. It is much easier to start with proper technique than to unlearn bad habits or form.

As far as the beginner Pete plan, I don't know anyone here who would recommend the BPP for a total Noob. I do often recommend the BPP for beginners because I enjoyed the structure and gradual escalation of meters. BUT, new rowers should spend a few weeks on their technique and building up some level of rowing endurance and proficiency before embarking on the BPP. One should be able to comfortably row a 5k at a steady state pace before starting the BPP.
55yo male, 6ft, 162lbs

Allan Olesen
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by Allan Olesen » February 9th, 2019, 6:38 pm

Lemming wrote:
February 8th, 2019, 8:19 am
Of course, but again that's easy to say as a seasoned rower.
Probably. But it is also easy to say for me. In my second or third rowing session ever, I did 6+10 km. I wanted to do 10, but was interrupted by other business at 6 km and had to start over half an hour later and do the full 10 km.

At that time, I was 50 years old and in quite bad shape. A few months later, I was in the top 33% in my age group, and all my training had been slow, long duration training.

Unfortunately, people are so obsessed by training their brains out that they hinder their own progress. So instead of saying that I give bad advice, perhaps you should start listening.

_PBH_
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by _PBH_ » February 13th, 2019, 3:22 pm

This thread caused me to look back at my rowing history. Lemming's introduction describes me fairly accurately. I'm 42 (soon to be 43! :shock: ). I'm 6'0 and weighed 189lbs on January 2, 2018. That was the first day I ever sat on a rower. I had no clue. My first week of rowing, I was doing 10 minute sessions (~2200m), barely able to survive them. I started increasing the time on the next week to 15 minutes, and then 20 minutes the third week.

In February I found this site. I was trying to figure out how to get better on this damn machine. I was rowing 20 minute sessions doing ~4600m. I joined this web site on February 5th. I started rowing 30 minute sessions, and surpassed that 5k mark by 1500m. I then found a structured plan developed by Concept2 and TECOM (US Marines) aimed at the 5k. This was just what I needed.

I've since continued rowing ~3-4 days per week. I lost 20lbs. I've surpassed 1 million meters total, and have the T-shirt to prove it.
My best 2k is 7:44.9 (November 5, 2018). I haven't rowed a 2k since.
My best 5k is 20:20.1 (June 20, 2018). I haven't attempted a 5k since then. I should try this one -- I think I could best it.
Most of my rowing is now 30 minute SS (Weekdays) with a 60 minute row thrown in on occasion (Saturdays). I surprise myself each time I finish a 60 minutes session. My last was at a better pace and lower hear rate than my early 10 and 20 minute sessions! I would have never thought that possible.
My home gym now includes both a Concept2 Model D rower and a BikeErg.

My point in this is that Lemming needs to add an additional Tip (and maybe one Concept2 should adopt!) -- it should be included in every Concept2 rower that is sold:
Join the C2forum.

I don't participate very often, but I browse through the threads often. I feel I've learned a lot from the people on this site. I know I would have stopped rowing many months ago had I not found this site.
Brett | 43 | 6'0" | 168lbs
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Dangerscouse
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by Dangerscouse » February 13th, 2019, 3:58 pm

_PBH_ wrote:
February 13th, 2019, 3:22 pm

I don't participate very often, but I browse through the threads often. I feel I've learned a lot from the people on this site. I know I would have stopped rowing many months ago had I not found this site.
I really enjoyed reading this and I sincerely hope that I have contributed, if only slightly, to your motivation.

Keep on pushing PBH, and we want to see a 5k TT soon!!
46 HWT; 6' 4"; Liverpool 1k= 3:09; 2k= 6:36; 5k= 17:27; 6k= 21:23; 10k= 36:21 30mins= 8,356m 60mins= 16,317m HM= 1:18:40; FM= 2:49:39; 50k= 3:28:18; 100k= 7:52:44; 12hrs = 153km

"You reap what you Row"

Instagram: stuwenman

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jackarabit
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by jackarabit » February 14th, 2019, 12:19 pm

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Is this a newb error of transcription?
There are two types of people in this world: Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data

M_72_5'-7"_164lb
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Lemming
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by Lemming » February 14th, 2019, 1:14 pm

I took the numbers from the PM5. :?

Allan Olesen
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by Allan Olesen » February 14th, 2019, 2:15 pm

Lemming wrote:
February 14th, 2019, 1:14 pm
I took the numbers from the PM5. :?
...and the letters came from where?

Tenshuu
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Re: Noob errors from a newbie, some tips & encouragement

Post by Tenshuu » February 15th, 2019, 10:46 am

Allan Olesen wrote:
February 14th, 2019, 2:15 pm
Lemming wrote:
February 14th, 2019, 1:14 pm
I took the numbers from the PM5. :?
...and the letters came from where?
Maybe he works in the power industry, and out of habit writes kW instead of W :D
30M 5'7" 190LBs

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