Get Fit by Rowing
I’ve come to realise something. Not everyone cares about being Fitter, Faster and Stronger. Some people just care about the fitter part. And as most of the collections or plans I have on here are about improving your performance for some kind of rowing time trial, I figured it was about time I took care of those of you looking to get fitter using a rowing machine.
So, welcome to the “Get Fit By Rowing” collection. Not the catchiest name in the world, but sometimes, descriptive is better than exciting!
You can find the playlist on YouTube here (This series is in the middle of being made right now):
The details then. This collection will last for 24 workouts. It’s designed to last 6 weeks, so 4 rows a week. But if you want to do more or less, that’s ok – just do them in order from Row 1 to 24.
All of the workouts are listed at the bottom of this page with links to the matching YouTube video where you can read the full description (intensity / stroke rate / reason) for the session.
The most important workouts to do for any general fitness plan, regardless of the equipment you’re using are LOW intensity, and MAX intensity sessions. The Medium sessions in between aren’t as vital, but they do add variety to your training which is why they’re there too.
And in this series, HOW you gauge your intensity is what I’m doing slightly different. I’m going to describe each session using Heart Rate Zones, as it’s something I’ve not covered before and because if you’re looking to get fit, a 2K training zone is often meaningless, or wildly changeable!
Don’t fret though. I’ll still continue to give perceived effort out of 10 and 2K training paces for those who prefer them.
But it’s important to understand that Heart Rate based training and 2K pace training are different protocols. They may start off the same, but as the workouts proceed, they grow apart.
2K based training is all about rowing at a pace relative to your current 2000m time, and sticking to that pace regardless of how the intensity may increase. For Heart Rate training, you row at an intensity that keeps your heart rate in a specific training Zone, and if you start to climb out of that zone, you reduce the pace to get back to that zone.
The Heart Rate Zones we’ll be working in are:
Zone 2 – Low Intensity Rows at a pace that keeps your Heart Rate between 60 and 70% of maximum and intensity which is perfect for growing your endurance by increasing the mitochondria in your blood cells.
That 70% isn’t a target. I’d rather you kept heart rate to 65% of max, and had headroom in case it started to climb. If it does climb, reduce your pace by one or two seconds because once you drift out of Zone 2, the endurance building benefits of this workout are reduced.
Zone 3 to 4 – These are more intense rows where you’ll feel like you’re working hard, but not to total exhaustion. Your heart rate will be between 70 and 90% of max. Again, these aren’t targets. Aim for 80%. As you go through these workouts, you’ll find your heart rate will naturally drift up. So that headroom is important to keep you out of Zone 5 for as long as possible.
Zone 5 workouts are the shortest, but most intense and these will develop your VO2max, how your body can use oxygen during exercise.
During these rows, your heart rate will be between 90 and 100% of max. And where in the other zones it’s important not to drift up, for Zone 5 rows, it’s important not to ease back down. You need to keep the intensity up through these rows. 95-100% max is what you’re really looking for.
It should go without saying at this point though that if you’re working close to maximum heart rates, it’s up to you to be sure your body is ok to do this. If you’re in the slightest bit unsure, check with a medical professional who knows your body as well as you do.
If you’re interested in using Heart Rate Zones for training, you’ll need two things. A heart rate monitor that you can see your heart rate when you’re rowing and you need to know your maximum heart rate.
Finding out your max HR can be a bit tricky, as the only way to know for sure is to do a ramp test which pushes you to your maximum.
But not everyone wants to do that, so the other option is to use a formula to calculate it. It’s not precise, and for some people it can be wildly off the mark, but the following equation will give most people a close enough ballpark.
For men, multiply your age by point 6 4 and take it away from 211.
For women, multiply your age by point 8 8 and take it away from 206.
Don’t worry, there’s a calculator here that’ll let you input your details and where you’ll also find a test protocol to properly discover your maximum heart rate on the rowing machine if you’d rather be accurate about this.
One other change is that I’m going to swap what machine I use every now and then. I now have a Concept2 and a Water Rower with the Smart Row app – so after one or two rows, I’ll swap machines.
After all, when it comes to fitness, it doesn’t matter what machine you’re using – what matters is HOW you’re using it.
And this comes down to sticking to the intensities. The most important rows are the Zone 2 and Zone 5 rows. And what’s vital is that you keep them in their zones.
It’s REALLY easy to let your ego take control and row too fast during a Zone 2 Low Intensity Row. But then it becomes Zone 3 and you’ll greatly reduce the core fitness benefits of these rows.
And, because you’ve gone too fast in this row, you won’t have the energy to go all out maximum in the Zone 5 rows. This makes them drop into Zone 4, robbing you of VO2max development.
I’ll try to put as much info as I can into the introduction for each video, but I also want to get you rowing as quickly as possible, so I do try to keep them short. You could always watch the 2 minute intros prior to climbing onto the machine, and skip to the warm up when you eventually strap in.
However, all details about intensity at the intention of the row is contained in the video descriptions – so if you don’t watch the intro before you row, maybe read the description with your morning coffee?
And that’s it. I hope you enjoy this series. Make sure to leave me a comment and use the hashtag get fit with rowalong on all video comments. And of course, I’d love it if you subscribed to the channel and shared the workouts with anyone you think may enjoy them.
Here are the workouts for the Get Fit by Rowing series (the Z number at the front is the HR Zone). Remember to check out the YouTube video (which each one links to below) to read the full workout description, pace guide, stroke rate etc.
Week 1 S1 – Z2 – 2 x 15 minutes with 1 minute rest – LOW INTENSITY at 20spm
Week 1 S2 – Z5 – 10 x 30 seconds / 30 sec rests – MAX INTENSITY at 30spm+
Week 1 S3 – Z2 – 30 minutes with 1 min drills every 4 mins – LOW INTENSITY at 20spm
Week 1 S4 – Z3-4 – 6 x 4 min with 90 sec rests – HARD/TEMPO INTENSITY at 26-28spm
Week 2 S1 – Z2 – 3 x 10 minutes (45 sec rests) – LOW INTENSITY at 20spm
Week 2 S2 – Z5 – 3 x TABATA – 20 seconds Max, 10 seconds rest x 8 (2 min rests)
Week 2 S3 – Z2 – 3 x 11 mins (60 sec rests) – LOW INTENSITY at 20spm
Week 2 S4 – Z3-4 – 3 mins easy, 2 mins harder, 1 minute even harder. 5 times.
Week 3 S1 – Z2 – 2 x 15 minutes (30 sec rests) – LOW INTENSITY at 20spm
Week 3 S2 – Z5 – 15 x 45 sec / 45 sec rest – MAX INTENSITY High Stroke Rate
Week 3 S3 – Z2 – 36 min LOW INTENSITY – Arms / Back for 1 min every 5 mins
Week 3 S4 – Z3-4 – 30 min intensity pyramid – 20/24/30/24/20 x 5
Week 4 S1 – Z2 – 6 x 5 mins (30 sec rest) – LOW INTENSITY at 20spm
Week 4 S2 – Z5 – 10 x 1 minute intervals at maximum intensity with 1 minute rests
Week 4 S3 – Z2 – 30 minutes – LOW INTENSITY at 20spm
Week 4 S4 – Z3-4 – 1 min at 2K rate and pace – then 19mins at 18spm – 2K+22
Week 5 S1 – Z2 – 30 mins at 4min LOW INTENSITY / 1 min drills x 6
Week 5 S2 – Z5 – 5 x 1min / 4 x 45sec / 3 x 30sec at MAX INTENSITY
Week 5 S3 – Z2 – 33 minutes – LOW INTENSITY at 20spm
Week 5 S4 – Z3-4 – 12 x 3 mins (2 min rests) – 26-28spm – High Intensity
Week 6 S1 – Z2 – 35 minutes – LOW INTENSITY at 20spm (optional 1 min rest)
Week 6 S2 – Z5 – 3 x 30sec / 4 x 45sec / 5 x 1min / 4 x 45 / 3 x 30 at MAX INTENSITY
Week 6 S3 – Z2 – 40 minutes – LOW INTENSITY at 20spm
Week 6 S4 – Z3-4 –
Row well, be well.