If you’re reading this, chances are that you are thinking about getting started with rowing.
That’s a great choice! Rowing is the nearly perfect sport for everyone since it’s very low impact and it offers a houseful of health and fitness benefits.
How do you get started?
That would depend on what your goals are. Are you in high school and thinking of joining a college team?
Are you a seasoned rower but want to join a club?
Maybe you just want to start an indoor rowing program.
Depending on your goals, you can start rowing tomorrow. Well, OK, perhaps I should say you can start rowing sooner than you think.
Check out my complete guide for getting into rowing and make the jump just a little bit easier.
Is Rowing Hard to Get Into?
The answer to this would be that it depends on what you want to do and what your rowing background is.
For example, for many high school rowers or those who have been rowing with a youth league, getting into a college program just takes a little exposure.
If you’re fairly new to rowing and you’d like to learn/do more, you can join a local club with very little effort.
If you’re thinking of buying an indoor rower and rowing for fitness or pleasure, or maybe you have dreams of competing in the indoor championships, you can start the day you receive your rowing machine!
Let’s talk about each one of these rowing goals and how you can accomplish your dreams.
If Your Goal Is to Use an Indoor Rowing Machine
Indoor rowers, frequently referred to as an erg, are a great way to get fit and compete at the same.
Many people use indoor rowers to stay in shape. Some rowing machines, such as Hydrow and Ergatta, allow you to race against others if you like, or you can simply enjoy a rowing experience without the water.
There is also a World Indoor Rowing Championship for those of you who want to compete but don’t have access to or don’t want to row on the water.
Some rowing machines, such as Hydrow and Ergatta, have beginner’s programs that will teach you how to row properly.
More budget-friendly machines won’t offer this, but there are plenty of videos online that offer free advice for beginners.
Once you think you’ve got the hang of things and you want to compete, you might find it helpful to record some of your erg scores. These are often used as entry criteria for colleges and indoor championship entry rules.
If You Want to Join a Rowing Club
Rowing clubs can be one of the best ways to get fit, make new friends, and scratch that competitive itch if you’ve got one.
If you’ve never rowed before, you might find club teams that are willing to take you on. This will depend greatly on the club programs.
If you were a student athlete of or you’ve done some rowing in college or in high school, you most likely won’t have any trouble joining a rowing club, provided you are willing to put in the time and effort.
Find a rowing club near you by doing an online search. If you are lucky enough to have several clubs in your area, you might want to check out more than one and see where you might best “fit in’.
It’s important to remember that you may not like everyone you meet in the boat house or rowing community, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t row with them. You must be a team player because you may end up with your frenemy in the seat behind you at a regatta.
Work on your stamina at home with an indoor rower. You can take a photo of your best split time and take to the club you wish to join.
Generally speaking, you will find that most rowing clubs are happy to accept new members, whether you have a rowing experience or you’re a beginner, as long as you are willing to be a good member of the rowing team. FYI: You might also like to read my article: Rowing Quad vs Four to understand more about on water rowing.
If You Want to Get Recruited for Rowing in College
Nearly everyone who wants to row in college can do so. The trick is to get on the college team.
Most college coaches say that they will accept almost anyone. You just need to prepare yourself for disappointment if you aren’t chosen for the team.
Remember that there are only so many seats in the boat, and if you don’t make the cut, don’t feel bad about that. Not everyone is suited to be a collegiate or Olympic rower.
Many people who are successful in college rowing go on to the Olympics or National teams. If this isn’t your end goal in life, you can still row in college for fun and fitness, you simply won’t be in the college regattas.
- Related Posted: What is Coastal Rowing
Is It Easy to Get Recruited for Rowing in College?
In a word, no. Getting a college coach to notice you is a bit like a job interview.
Start by sending emails to the rowing coach. Tell them about your high school career and send them short videos of your skills or your most recent race. Send them videos of your erging workouts (not the entire thing) along with a screenshot of your data (your split time, etc.)
Continue to stay in touch during your junior and senior years. You don’t need to email every day, but once a month should be enough to let the coach know that you’re serious.
If you are going to be in a regatta, invite the coach to come to watch you compete. Don’t be concerned if you don’t see the coach. They might send an aid in their place. Just do your best and hope for the best.
Send the results of your regatta via email just in case the coach couldn’t attend.
There are probably dozens of people doing what you are doing, however, a few of them will stop communicating when they don’t get an answer. Staying in touch with the coach is the best way to get an invite.
You also need some talent. If you are very thin and/or very short, don’t be disappointed to realize that you aren’t going to be on the team. It’s like someone 4 foot 8 who wants to join the Lakers. It’s not going to happen.
Be persistent in your communication and keep working your hardest. That’s the best way to get recruited for rowing.
What Body Type Is Best for Rowing?
When it comes to rowing, the taller the better.
The perfect body type for rowing would be tall with long arms and legs.
Even if you don’t have the “perfect” body type for rowing, this doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.
Keep in mind that tall also means heavier. Boats filled with heavy people go slower, but the long arms and legs allow for more powerful strokes (read more on how much does a rowing boat weigh).
There are always lightweight competitions for those who don’t meet the big and tall category.
If you are very small, short, and/or thin, you can always work as a coxswain!
People come in all shapes and sizes. While everyone would love to have the perfect rowing body, a good club coach realizes that they need to work with what they have.
Tall and talented may be what college coaches can look for, but for a local club, they sometimes have to take whoever shows up!
My Advice for Beginners Who Want to Get into Rowing
No matter what your goals are, you can have fun, meet new friends, and get into some of the best shape of your life by rowing.
Even erging can offer tremendous physical benefits and create a social network that you will benefit from for many years.
My best advice for anyone who wants to get into rowing would be:
- Practice, practice, practice! If you want to row on the water, join a club, participate in the activities of your rowing community, or find a buddy who has a boat. If you are extra lucky, that buddy will teach you how to row.
- Get an erg and practice every single day. While the erg won’t teach you the skills you need for the oar, it will improve your stamina.
- Wear the proper clothing. While baggy sounds comfortable, it’s a guaranteed way for your hands or the oar to get caught in the fabric. Wear tight-fitting (think lycra or spandex) shorts or leggings, a tight-fitting top (sleeveless in the summer, long sleeves in the cooler months), and thick socks. Don’t wear flip-flops. You can wear a hat but make sure that it will stay on your head! Think practical, not fashionable.
- The choice to wear gloves is a personal one. Some people wear them and swear by them, others say that blisters and callouses are a sign of pride.
- Be sociable and practical. If you’re a newbie, no one expects you to know everything and it’s completely understandable that others will LOL when you crab and get thrown out of the boat. Don’t beat yourself up because you aren’t perfect and don’t hold a grudge against those who may laugh at your mistakes. In a few years, you’ll be the one laughing at the newbies, so take it all in stride and learn to laugh at yourself.
How Do You Make Rowing Fun?
Remember that you want to get into rowing because it’s fun, not because you want to literally beat everyone you see with your oar!
On-the Water Rowing
So, how do you make rowing fun and not boring? If you’re asking this question, then I’m sure you’re new to rowing. The truth is, there’s no place for boredom to set in in this sport. Perhaps, at first you’re unsure of what to do, or you’re probably feeling intimidated or tired, but you will most definitely not be bored.
It’s easy to make rowing fun if you’re the kind of person who enjoys water adventures, working in a team, bonding with others, and contributing your best.
Rowing brings you to a natural environment, so it’s going to be a refreshing experience every time. There will be nonstop challenges posed by the natural elements and your team, so it’s going to be a lot of fun IF you open yourself to it.
However, indoor rowing or erging is an entirely different animal – it has plenty of room (and walls!) for boredom to sneak in.
Working out on a rowing machine while staring on a blank wall day in and day out can zap your enthusiasm in no time. Traditional rowing machine workouts can easily take the fun away and turn your fitness equipment into an expensive clothes hanger.
Here are simple ways to make rowing fun and something you’ll be excited to do every time.
- Do HIIT workouts – they’re short, efficient, and the best way to keep your body guessing.
- Pick a smart rower – one with diverse workouts programmed into them, providing you with something new every day and endless challenges. Think Hydrow and its immersive workouts or NordicTrack with the iFit app!
- Row with a friend – nothing beats working out with a person you like to spend quality time with. It can be your wife, high school buddy, your kids, or a friendly neighbor. What a way to hit two birds with one stone – burn calories and bond with someone important to you.
- Stream YouTube, Hulu, or Netflix while you work out – Find a rowing machine that allows you to work out while you watch your favorite network or TV program.
- Compete online races – who says you can’t do races indoor? Hydrow and Ergatta are just some of the smart rowing machines that allow you to do races, and there are many others.
- Try gamified smart rowers – are you the type who loves video games and virtual races? Then you need to check out Ergatta and Aviron – they’re what the doctor ordered to take the place of your video games that’s been making a potato couch out of you.
- Virtual rows – if all the excitement tires you some days, you can relax but still work out by doing virtual rows on scenic waterways – this is a feature you’ll find in Hydrow and Ergatta rowing machines.
The Bottom Line
Rowing is incredibly fun, but it can also be a lot of hard work, especially for beginners.
Put in the effort, however, and it will pay off!
Get that erg, make a plan, and go introduce yourself at your local club.
Let the fun begin!
Written by Petra Amara – RowingCrazy.com
CEO & Founder of RowingCrazy, National Rower, Coxswain Womens Eight Team, Rowing Coach & Writer
Petra is a Mother of two and owner of Rowingcrazy.com. Petra lives and breathes rowing, she also has a passion for writing which lead her to start RowingCrazy.com to share her rowing experience and expertise with others.