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How can masters build fitness for rowing?

We got a question from a masters athlete asking “What’s the best exercise to build fitness for rowing? … read more

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We got a question from a masters athlete asking “What’s the best exercise to build fitness for rowing?  I went to a learn to row course on Saturday that bought back memories of the pleasure it was to be on the water. I am keen to pursue the sport for pleasure, fitness and competition when I am fit ready and able.  I have not done any sport for some time now so I don’t really want to rip my muscles doing the wrong thing, then end up not being able to row.”
The person is 54 and has done 6 learn to row sessions about 15+ years ago and is now 30 kgs heavier.

Our coaching team advises

Rowperfect has a roster of amazing rowing coaches who can answer your questions – for a small fee you can email, skype, phone or have them visit you.  Each one has a different specialism – so if you want lightweights versus novices versus club coach-the-coach.

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Duncan Holland: My response is twofold; Losing weight and learning to row well enough to enjoy it are probably best thought of as separate objectives.  Rowing is difficult enough with a relatively fit body and learning to row well when overweight is near impossible.

Losing weight is not easy, anyone who says different is at least foolish, if not deceitful.

The other side of this is that the feeling of wellbeing and success when it is achieved is great!

English: Rowing Club Rowing on Snowdon Lake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My advice on this is to start by walking.  Build from easy and gentle until you can walk for an hour at a pace that raises a sweat.  If you are comfortable and have the appropriate environment cycling can be mixed in as an alternative.  Gym based exercise on a treadmill or exercycle are as effective but less fun than getting out there in the fresh air and seeing the world.

When you have got your weight moving down then start again with the rowing classes and supplement them with time on the ergometer if you can. Again, start slowly and short and build up till you can row for longer periods at a tempo that raises a sweat.

Stick at it and enjoy the process!

[Duncan charges £30.00 for his services]

Kristin Marvin:  The number one exercise, before starting up any sport again after being off for years is: walking! Hands down, it is the best overall whole body natural movement exercise. And, it is the most underrated.

Can you walk 6 days a week? 1km*, 3km*, 4km*, 2km*, 6km*, 2km* is an example of your daily/weekly mileage. Make sure to vary your route, your direction, your terrain (sand, grass, dirt, gravel, pavement), and what shoes you wear to get your body back into form.

In addition, there’s something even more fundamentally important: what do you do throughout the entire day everyday? Move as much as possible, in as many ways as possible.

  • Do you make your breakfast from scratch?
  • Do you move to work or drive to work?
  • Do you walk to get the groceries or take the car?
  • Do you have standing meetings or sitting meetings at work?
  • Upon arriving home do you sit on the couch or do you garden and/or move around until bed time.

All of this matters in terms of your health, your fitness and getting you ready to row. When you are comfortable and ready to row, have fun with a group of people in the learn to row program, and then… if there is an adult league join it (once or twice/week). After which, you can integrate into the competitive program at your leisure, no pressure 🙂

*If those walking distances [or you can do time] are too little you can bump them up to your level. At the same time you don’t want to overdo it, and you want to switch it up each day. 

[Kristin charges £30.00 for her services]

About Rebecca Caroe
Rebecca is the host of RowingChat podcast and is a masters athlete and coach. Passionate about helping others enjoy the sport as much as she does. View all posts from Rebecca Caroe

One thought on “How can masters build fitness for rowing?

  1. I agree completely on starting with low impact exercise like walking. Lots of programs you see on TV start running from scratch. This is madness that ends in problems in to many cases. Mixing movevement in your dayly routines is great for the live style change needed. And as Duncan states, get on your bike. Apart from the exercise, it has the advantage that you can cover bigger distances which makes it more enjoyable and makes it usefull for shopping, commuting etc. And next to that start rowing (also low impact) as soon as possible. Take it easy and enjoy the time on the water. Focus on fun and rowing in a controled way. Rowing more intense and faster will come in time. Be patient.

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