Advice For Indoor Rowing First-Timers

If you've never raced before then here's a general guide to Indoor Rowing competitions.

  1. Choose a race from our Indoor Race calendar. We suggest that you pick one close to home or in some wonderful place that you've always wanted an excuse to visit.
  2. Email or call the race organizer for an entry form. Fill it out completely and clearly and send it back in promptly.
  3. Put the race on your calendar. Be sure your family or friends know about it so they don't come up with any last minute conflicts that prevent you from going.
  4. Start training. If you have been rowing regularly anyway, this will simply mean adding a little more focus to your workouts. If you haven't been rowing regularly, it's time to get going again, gradually at first. If you never row hard, start rowing hard some of the time. If you always row steady state, add in some interval workouts. See the 2,000m Programme for advice.
  5. Measure your progress. Row a 2,000 meter time trial every 3-4 weeks. This is great practice for the race, gets you familiar with your pace, and shows you how your training is going. Don't worry if the improvement is not constant - it is normal to hit plateaus and have bad days.
  6. Know your pace. Pace is displayed in the central window of the Performance Monitor when you are in pace mode. The PM also shows your average at the end of any timed or distance piece. As the race approaches, be sure you know what pace you should be rowing. You can use your 30 minute pace as a guide. Subtract 7-9 seconds from your average pace for 30 minutes and try using that pace for a 2,000 meter piece. For example, if you can row a 30 minute piece at an average pace of 2:15/500 meters, try using 2:08-2:06 for your 2,000 meter pace. This pace will guide you when you get into the real race, where excitement and adrenaline will make it feel very easy to start out at a pace much faster than what you're actually capable of rowing. Don't be carried away. Hold yourself to the pace you know you can row. If you have extra energy in the last 500 meters, fine. Use it then and finish strong.
  7. Know your drag factor. The drag factor is displayed on the PM3 or PM4 screen by going to the "MAIN MENU", then selecting "MORE OPTIONS" and "DISPLAY DRAG FACTOR" or if the organisers are using the Venue Race software see below. At races, there is no prescribed damper setting so you are free to set the damper anywhere you want as long as you don't change it during the race.
  8. Be rested for the race. In training lingo, this is called "tapering". Do your last really hard workout about a week before the race so your body has time to recover. From then on, get plenty of sleep, and do just enough hard rowing to keep yourself feeling sharp. A good pre-race workout is to split the 2,000 meters into 4 pieces: a 1,000 meter piece, a 500 meter piece, and two 250 meter pieces. Do each one at your race pace and allow plenty of rest in between. Do this workout 3-5 days before the race. Besides that, do some relaxed 30-40 minute rows. You should be itching to pull hard by the time race day arrives.
  9. Race Day: get to the race location at least an hour before your race time. Be sure you know when your race is being held. The time of your race will affect the timing and size of your pre-race meal.
  10. Check your attitude. It's OK to be a little nervous - the adrenaline gives you energy. Think positively. Keep calm. Most of all, be sure to have fun.
  11. Warm up: There are usually a number of Indoor Rowers available for warming up on before the races. Be sure to find these and row for 10-15 minutes (or your customary warm-up) before your event. Don't be afraid of using up all your energy on the warm-up. It is important to be properly warmed up.
  12. The Race!: Row your own race. There will be lots of noise and activity, but it is important for you to focus on your own 2,000 m piece. Remember your pace and settle into it as soon as you are given the command to start. Resist the temptation to go out too fast in the first 500 meters. Better to finish strong than "fly'n'die". You may wish to write out your planned pace, or cumulative time, for each 500 of the race to remind you of where you want to be.