I bought my Concept 2 Model 2 indoor rower, or, ergometer, back in late 2016. I loved the motion of rowing and I found it to be an incredible workout, but I never used it as much as I’d have liked. I also felt I had to use my gym membership, so I tried splitting my time between it. Long story short, from 2016 through 2018 I only rowed about 250,000 meters (about 156 miles).
Something had to change.
In the spirit of lifelong learning, I quit the gym and decided to go all in on rowing. In addition to being a great cardio workout, rowing utilizes somewhere around 84% to 86% of the muscles in the body. By doing some simple calisthenic movements you can cover all of your bases for general fitness (unless you want to look like a meathead, but more on that later).
Now to business:
A few weeks before the end of 2018, I started upping my distance rowed per workout and days per week. I went from doing 2km-4km to 8km-10km. My only goal was increasing aerobic capacity for what I was sure would be a hellish ride. Or, row, as it were.
Finally January 1st came:
The big day.
There are a few plans out there that are fairly standardized and usually meant to increase your 2km time, which is the gold standard of the rowing sport. The one I chose was The Pete Plan.
The Pete Plan incorporates a rotating schedule that repeats every three weeks. It is a 6 day a week plan that includes intervals as well as at least 3 days of longer rows of 8km-12km.
After my first week on the plan, I’ve completed 55,613 meters, or about 34.56 miles. This is actually well ahead of schedule!
The plan was meant to be 24 weeks, but depending on how I feel at the end, I may drag it out even longer. The great part about rowing is that it never gets easier. As you get stronger, you push/pull harder, you go faster. If I end up getting too fast, I may add in additional meters to the longer steady-state rows so I can go for a full hour a couple times a week. If that’s the case, I may be looking at 2,000 miles instead of 1,000!
From the time I started taking training more seriously, I’ve already knocked an average of about 15 or 20 seconds off my 500m split and I’m noticing changes in my body. The biggest changes are in my aerobic capacity, or VO2 Max, and in my legs. My body naturally builds muscle in my upper body with little effort with weights, but I’ve definitely been skipping leg day for a little while.
Incorporating Rowing Stats
The Concept2 online logbook is a godsend. I can compare my times against myself or thousands of other people broken down by a number of factors including age, gender, weight class, etc. It’s also got some great challenges which will definitely keep me motivated throughout the year. Click here to read about how to transfer your results from your rower to the online logbook.
I ended up buying the thin seat pad Concept2 sells on its website, which helps when I reach about 8,000 meters (I guess I have a bony butt). I’ve also tried both pair of rowing shorts they sell. My initial impression is that I like the black and blue polypro/spandex rowing shorts better than the cotton/lycra version. Both have sufficient padding to help on longer rows, but the lycra ones itch a bit. Hopefully a couple of washes will help the feel.
But Trevor, will I gain any muscle rowing?
Well, depending on how you’re eating, it is possible to gain a little bit of muscle when only rowing. It is considered a strength-endurance exercise. I would encourage you to take a look at pictures of marathon runners vs marathon rowers. Marathon runners look like stick figures. Marathon rowers look lean, but they clearly have muscle. You will not look like a meathead if you are only rowing and doing a bit of calisthenics. You could, however, look very athletic and trim. An added bonus: rowing is low impact, so you can do it the rest of your life! Looking at the age ranges on the Concept2 online logbook, there are tons 70, 80, and 90 year-olds littering the boards. Some of them actually have better times than me, to which I applaud them for their badassery.
How have I fared so far?
I’ve lost a total of 7.1 lbs in the last month. 4.49 lbs was fat, 2.6 lbs were muscle. It’s all but impossible to lose weight and not lose a little muscle too. My current ratio is 1.73 lbs of fat lost per 1 lb of muscle. I would like to see 2.5 to 3 lbs of fat per 1 lb of muscle, which I admit is a bit arbitrary. To accomplish this, the best option is to take things slower, reduce carbs slightly, increase protein a little, and reduce my calorie deficit from about 828 calories/day to a little under 500 calories/day.
Hopefully my update will have some better stats, but the year is already off to a great start!
Keep on rowing! Continue on to update 2.