How to Row Faster: Steal this distress tolerance strategy

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Rower sprinting

Want to Learn How to Row Faster? Embrace Discomfort. 

Here’s how. 


I asked a coaching client recently about her rowing goals. 


She sighed and said, “I’m not happy with my splits. They’re too slow. How can I row faster?” 


Great question!  


A few things will help you get faster on the machine. Optimizing your technique on the rower, and building strength off of it are both hugely important.


Wearing comfortable clothing (That includes your sports bra if you wear one!) and the right shoes will also help by keeping you focused on the task at hand. 


[Side note: Running shoes are awesome, for running. For rowing, there are better options. Choose the right shoe for the right job!]


There’s another key piece to the puzzle of how to row faster, though, and that’s what I’m sharing with you in this blog post. 

Let’s get started!


A rower pulling hard on the rowing machine, viewed from behind with sweat on her back. The image has the headline "steal this strategy to row faster"


Understanding the Role of Discomfort in Rowing


There’s no getting around it. 


If you want to get faster at rowing, or use rowing to supercharge your health and fitness, you have to be willing to get uncomfortable. 


At high intensity, rowing requires a combination of strength, endurance, and mental fortitude. 


“Discomfort” roars up as your muscles strain, your heart pounds, and your lungs work overtime to supply oxygen to your body.


Your brain may well be telling you – screaming even – that it’s time to stop and get back into your comfort zone. 


It’s natural to want to avoid that feeling. But if you can instead accept it as a natural part of the process you can shift your mindset and welcome it as an opportunity for improvement. 


Want to Row Faster? “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable”


Have you ever heard the phrase, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable”? 


It’s essential if you want to row fast. 


Nobody who’s ever done a sprint like a 2000-meter rowing race has said it was comfortable. 


It’s very much NOT. You’re spending  8-ish minutes rowing as hard as you can, and questioning your life choices at that moment. 


How do you get comfortable doing something all-out like that? 


UCanRow2/Concept2 Master Instructor Angela Hart, a 40-year coaching veteran, knows how.  


She has a brilliant strategy for this. One that she usually only shares with her coaching clients and in our instructor certification seminars.


Steal This Tolerance Training Strategy to Learn How to Row Faster 


It works like this: 


Traditionally, coaches will have their athletes repeatedly row the full race distance, trying to get faster every time.  


That’s a crusher for the body and the mind! 


Instead, Angela says, warm up, then row as hard as you can, and see how long you can hold that split. 


When you slow down you’re done for that session, regardless of how much distance you’ve covered.  


On a spreadsheet, your “tolerance training schedule,” record the date, the split you held, how long you held it, and any notes about the session. 


Repeat that 2-3 times a week, making note of your fastest pace and how long you were able to stay there.   


Over time you’ll see that both your body and your mind learn to tolerate that discomfort and allow you to go faster, for longer.  


To Row Faster, Get Your Mind Right Too 


Before I talked about embracing discomfort. Welcoming it. Pursuing it, even. 


The key to being able to do that is changing how you look at it. 


I had a workout partner once who was a master of reframing:


  • “We’re almost halfway done!” she said in round 2 of a nasty 6-round workout, as reality and sweat were starting to set in.
  • “The next time’s the last time!” I joined in as we started round 5.  
  • “This is fun!” my partner croaked as we both gasped for air after a round of frog jumps (Lies we tell ourselves – I laughed out loud at that one!).  


That one zinged in, even as it penetrated my fog of workout intensity. The workout definitely wasn’t fun, not at that moment.


But getting through it and proving to myself I was up to the challenge definitely was. 


Of course, there are practical strategies too that help make rowing workouts go by faster, such as: 

  • Counting strokes
  • Splitting bigger amounts of time or distance into smaller ones, or
  • Focusing on different technique elements as you row


The big takeaway here is that how we choose to look at challenges is everything. Our mindset MATTERS. 


Even the sucky stuff gets easier when we can view it as fun, beneficial, or moving us toward our goals. 


Does this inspire you to train for a 2k, or another distance? We hope so, it’s fun! Promise! 😉 


Got another strategy you love for doing the WERK? Share it in the comments! 


Related Posts

Rowing Splits Explained

How to Row Faster: The Rowing Sprint Start

Your 2k Rowing Strategy

Row-Along HIIT workouts (and more!) 

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