The 2000m. Sub 7min. Rowing challenge

So what is this about? Most of the time I mention to people this little challenge I have been trying to do for the past few months; they kind of look at me with a confused stare. Why the rowing machine? what’s so good about 7min? and they don’t even blink at the 2000m reference.

I guess the only real way is to start from the beginning. Fundamentally I like to spend my time efficiently. I want to be in reasonable shape, with spending as little time in the gym as possible; I want the health benefits of exercise, without having to dedicate my entire existence to it (that’s to you gym sociopaths – you know who you are). I went through a phase of basic ‘compound exercises’ and punch bag work. 40min session max. Then like every sane gym goer I got bored. Cue home workouts, press-ups, and pull-ups, here we go. It lasted for a month max. While maintaining a semblance of health it’s just lame.

So I took up a free weeks membership at the local gym and by chance got on the rower. Checked out the little screen – simple enough. Select workout, standard list, 2000m. Go…

Well, fuck my life! Sorry. But Jesus! This was NO JOKE! I rowed 8:12s. Keeled over, lay on the floor and felt like I was dying. When I got home, I was coughing all evening. Basically, I gave myself an asthma attack. Not fun at all!

However, I was intrigued. I’m a fit guy. So how does my time fair in the grand scheme of things? To google! “What is a good time to row 2000m?” one of the top results ‘Mens Health‘. If you read it, there is some bull about how it will change your life, but ultimately it says 7min challenge. We have a starting point! This was further backed up with some threads from, those fanatics that do CrossFit, and some Concept2 records (those crazy people can go sub 6, which is kind of scary).

So back to the rower and my free week membership. I recorded a 7:23s, 7:36s, 7:30s, 7:36s. At this point I kind of resigned it impossible. It was too hard. Plus I was having those damn coughing fits. Then the stars aligned, I saw a post on Instagram from my cousin – he is a bit of an animal rowing times of ~6:50s. I was impressed and a little jealous to say the least. So I hit him up. He gave me some kind words of advice:

500m sprints, 5000m workouts and rowing at a damper setting of 7.

Well obviously those are not kind words, it is a training program. His real words were that going sub 7 is completely mental. With my previous resignation to the impossibility of the task, I could not really argue with him. Armed with my training program, I went back to the drawing board!

Then a few months go by, you know how life is, it’s easy to put this kind of stuff off – but every so often I’m still mulling over this idea of doing a sub 7. WHY IS IT TAUNTING ME 😥 !?! So on a random weekend, I decided to get off my arse and join one of the cheap gyms around the corner and make my commitment in cold hard sterling. I figure if I’m paying for this, it will motivate me even more. So with the golden nuggets of advice from my cousin, I decided to plan something a little smarter.

I needed to get both my cardio up and strength up!

The Plan:

  • Day 1 – 4  x 500m, Damper 10 (Strength Workout)
  • Day 2 – Rest
  • Day 3 – 5000m, Damper 6 (Cardio Workout)
  • Day 4 – Rest
  • Day 5 – 2000m, Damper 7 (Time Trial)

The 5000m is no joke. It’s very uncomfortable and my buttocks were in bits. The first time I tried it, the walk home was not fun at all. And it was the first time I really felt my legs were the focal point of the exercise. Then the 500m sprints are a killer in their own right. I always had the aim of doing 5 sets, but I could never bring myself to do it – I was dead. Your body feels like a lead after it! After one of these sessions, I had the realisation that this exercise is a full on ‘assault’ on your lungs.

So I stuck to this for about 6 weeks. I began to find the recovery much better. I could have skipped home if I wanted, but I didn’t. Also, I did not feel the need to pass out and my coughing fits were residing (yippee)!  The real truth is in the numbers though, from the 18th of July to the 31st of August I managed to turn around a 7:41s into a 6:56s.

I DONE IT! And no one in the gym gave a shit! I’m sitting there elated, taking selfies of me smashing my mini challenge out the park, and everyone looks the same old. I was half expecting to kiss a baby, sign some autographs, be awarded the key to the city… I digress.

Truthfully though, the 6:56s was the most comfortable row I have done out of all the sessions. It was tiring, but It was not unbearable like the 500m sprints, or as draining as the 5000m. The graft in those other workouts allowed me to develop a good level of fitness for the 2000m.

What I actually learned from this was, if you want to get better at something make sure you do it with a little tact. I wanted to get better at rowing and to achieve that, I found it best to row with slight variations in the distance and resistance. The damn coughing fits and sensations of wanting to pass out was most certainly my body telling me that I am doing too much too soon. But hey my body adapted and now I feel better for it. And most importantly, the rowing machine is not your friend (it hates you) but I would recommend you try it!

Finally, I feel I now have a workout that is under 10mins, that will actually give me the health benefits I crave, but get me out of the place I don’t want to be in the most.

Happy rowing.

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