Do you hear rowing is in the workout and immediately think “this is going to be bad”, or worse yet, “I’m going to skip that one”? Instead of skipping a WOD, why not learn some tips to help alleviate that fear, get you through rowing WODs, and possibly, dare I say, “enjoy” them. Learning simple concepts like the appropriate foot position, damper setting, and pace to shoot for can all improve your success on the rower.
During a WOD, do you get on a rower after someone else and leave the foot position where the last athlete left it? Did you know your foot position on the rower should be relative to your height? The taller you are, the lower your feet need to be to the ground. If your foot position is too high, your legs will limit your stroke length at the flywheel. If your feet are too low, your leg drive won’t be optimal. Once you find a position that is good for you, setup on this every time you jump on a rower and create consistency.
As you pull on the rower handle, it pulls the fan (flywheel) inside the rower. The damper will control the amount of air that is pulled into the fan on each stroke. A low damper setting will allow less air into the fan, which makes it easier to spin. The converse is true if you increase the damper setting, more air is allowed in the fan, which makes it harder to spin the fan. The more air that the fan takes in, the quicker the fan will spin down. Think of it like rowing a boat on the water. The heavier boat correlates to a higher damper setting. It takes more powerful strokes to get the heavy boat moving quickly whereas a light boat would require quicker strokes with less force. Again, this is something that you will want to play around with to get comfortable with and it will depend on the workout. A lower damper setting will hurt the lungs more and a higher damper setting will tax the muscles more. Think about what other movements you are doing in the WOD and experiment.
Now that you have a good feel for how to setup on a rower, you want to find what a good pace is for you. This is probably the most important thing to get right when there is rowing in a workout. A rower can turn into a torture device pretty quick if you pick a pace that is too fast. A good way to find a pace that is good for you is to row 500 meters as fast as you can, while keeping the pace on the rower within a 5 second window. If you try it one day and start your 500m at 1:50 and end at 2:15, don’t count this. Come back another time, start your pace at 1:55 and see if you can complete the 500m without going over a 2:00 pace. Once you find a pace that will push you in a 500m and maintain a 5 second window, you can use this as your baseline pace. It will depend on the workout that you are doing, but if the workout has a shorter row, say 250m, try and stick with your baseline pace. If the workout calls for a longer row, you will want to slow down your pace. Again, this will take a little trial and error before you find something that works for you on short and long workouts. Either way, if you have other movements in the workout and you push too hard in the row, it will take much longer to recover before you can jump back on the other movements. Try slowing your pace by 5 or 10 seconds to feel the difference in your recovery and see if you can get back to the other movements quicker.
Rowing is a trial and error exercise to a see what works for you, but once you get the foot position, damper setting, and pace figured out, you will hopefully feel more comfortable when a rowing workout is announced. You might even come to enjoy them. Good luck testing!