Cameron Nichol |

“We are what we repeatedly do” cont.

In part two of this article, Dr Cam Nichol goes on to discuss why you should indoor row, and how to get started. Are you ready to start rowing?

Part one available here

If you’re not yet convinced you need to start rowing, here’s a few more reasons. 


A well-executed rowing stroke utilises 85% of the body’s musculature across nine major muscle groups. That’s a ‘total-body-workout’ by anyone’s standards and a good reason why you don’t need a pair of dumbbells under your seat like spinning.


It has the ability to develop strength, power and endurance in the same movement, using major muscles at the back of the body, which help with other movements like squatting, pulling, hinging and jumping. This means by getting better at rowing, you improve a lot more than just your boat moving abilities.


The nature of moving from a globally compressed position to fully extended helps to get all six major joints moving, encouraging good lubrication of the joints and can help improve mobility. It’s therefore a great tool to warm-up, greet the day or unwind after a hard days work.

Rowing is simple to learn but difficult to master.


Because it’s low-impact, there’s a reduced risk of weight-bearing injury and offers itself as a great way to get fit or stay fit as you age. There’s a lovely sight to behold at any indoor rowing event when you see youngsters rowing in events on the same day as octogenarians.


Rowing is simple to learn but difficult to master. This means if you embark on improving your technique, you’ll not only unlock more fitness, but you’ll notice yourself reaping the benefits of committing to the pursuit of perfection and the life benefits that come with mastering a new skill.

Where to start? What to do? How to do it?

Starting something new can be really daunting and it’s super easy to get lost in a sense of panic and overwhelm.

So I’d first ask yourself what you really want from your fitness – is it to be aerobically fitter? Stronger? Look better naked?

Whatever the answer, please be honest with yourself and tether that motivation to your rowing training.

Once you’ve answered that honestly, find a coach or someone that can hold you accountable and share those goals with them. These days, there are a load of options out there either in-person or online, so check out what the likes of your local rowing club or CrossFit gym has to offer, as well as online resources like RowingWOD (my website) and Go Row Indoor from British Rowing.

How often largely depends on your lifestyle but I’d strongly offer trying to commit to at least two sessions per week, so you can start to build a habit and make it a regular part of your training.

Here’s a few ideas to get started:

Aerobic fitness builder

Week 5 rounds of the following
1 3 minutes on, 1 minute off
2 4minutes on, 1 minute off
3 5 minutes on, 1 minute off
4 6 minutes on, 1 minute off

Within a month, you’ll have built up to rowing for 30 minutes. You can then play around with this pattern in the next month, making sure to reduce the number of rounds if the time goes up, as well as increasing the rest.

Aerobic fitness builder continued

5 4 x 7 minutes on, 2 minutes off
6 4 x 8 minutes on, 2 minutes off
7 3 x 9 minutes on, 2 minutes off
8 3 x 10 minutes on, 2 minutes off


Row for 1 min on, 3 min rest

Repeat this 3-5 times, aiming to start fast and then get faster each round.


10 attempts to get your fastest speed*

*Each attempt can only be a maximum of 5 rowing strokes

* Rest at least 3 minutes between attempts


If you have a favourite TV show or Netflix series, put it on and flip the rowing machine screen down so you can’t see the numbers. While watching your favourite show or movie, row with good form until you feel uncomfortable. Then hop off the machine and gently stretch, only returning when your body feels better and the back/hamstring niggles have gone. This helps build tolerance to the machine and is an upgrade from ‘couch potato’.

What are you going to do?

That clever philosopher chap Aristotle once said ‘We are what we repeatedly do.” And I’d offer that what you decide to do next will define you, whether you like it or not.

I feel I’ve given you ample reason to get cracking on the rowing machine and have offered a few simple tools to get started and resources to visit.

Please embrace it.

Because the world we live in isn’t a Disney movie and no-one is coming to save you. The world is a dynamic and distracting place where big corporations pay a lot of money to gain your attention, only to sell it to someone else in the hope you’ll buy what they’re offering.

Rowing offers an escape from the distractions, it offers discipline, honesty and medicinal value. It’s a movement we sadly don’t grow up with anymore and one that is so valuable for the human body.

If you can take the first step and choose rowing now, today, or even this week, your life will be richer because of it. Thank you for your attention and best of luck.