[Case Study] A Beginner’s Guide to a Faster 2,000m Row Time

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Let’s dive in.

When it comes to developing the fitness of everyday athletes, we always address four main areas: Health, movement, strength, and cardio. Each of these areas are broken down into specific testing elements by our Strength Matters Assessments. In total, we analyze scores from 252 data points. The tests are easy to administer, some challenging to complete, and they provide a plethora of information for us to make better, more informed decisions concerning the needs of each everyday athlete. The 2000m row test falls under part one of the cardiovascular assessment process. It’s what we refer to as a “work capacity snapshot.” In this issue, I want to share with you the story of Terry Moore and her amazing 2000m row journey.

The Case Study:

Name: Terry Moore
Age: 56
Country: USA
Occupation: Health Care
Original 2,000m Row Time: 14:12
New 2,000m Row Time: 8:29
Time to Achieve: 18 Months

You will find a lot of information online on how to achieve elite rowing times, but there is little or no information to be found on how take novice rowers to intermediate levels and beyond whilst overcoming the myth that cardiovascular training is brutally hard and can never be enjoyable. I will always argue that most people perform cardiovascular training way beyond their capabilities – it’s like asking someone who’s never deadlifted 3 x bodyweight to keep trying to do it having never even deadlifted half their bodyweight before. We don’t do it in strength training so why do we default to this type of methodology when it comes to the cardiovascular system?

Now in Terry’s case, it’s important to understand the bigger picture of her overall cardiovascular assessments so I would like to share with you three other data points we collected right at the start of her journey:

  • Average Daily Step Count: 2,432 steps per day
  • 20 Min Walk Test: 1.04 Miles

If we would have only looked at her row time at the start, we would have automatically assumed that Terry has a rowing problem therefore she must do more rowing. However, taking these other data points into account we approached her training plan with the understanding that Terry had no aerobic base to support cardio. We needed to start at ground zero and build her tolerance levels to cardio training up – which starts with good old walking.

At the minimum, we look for an average step count of 7,000 steps per day for healthy individuals, though ideally, it would be closer to the 10,000-step mark. For the walk test (how far can you walk in 20 minutes) we looking for a score of above 1.5 miles. Terry was somewhat off these benchmarks. As simple as the metrics are, they are so key for the enjoyment of cardiovascular exercise. If there’s no aerobic base, a workout like the 2,000m row test is going to become a symbol of fear, loathing, and dread. To alleviate the pain she already associated with the test, here’s how we approached improving Terry’s 2,000m row without prescribing any rowing.

Stage 1: Walking for Volume

The first thing we instilled in Terry was better walking habits. Like so many working professionals, her daily step count was below 3,000 steps per day on average. We set out to gradually increase this over time. The graph below shows these changes:

Terry’s Walking Statistics

In just over a month, we increased her daily step count from 2,432 to 3,335 per day. A minimal change to some, but it kick-started something inside of Terry because in the period between months two and three it skyrocketed to an average daily step count of 12400 steps per day. Here is where it stayed for another 14 months, until recently in May 2020 it increased again to 13,342 after a month of attempting to reach 15,000 steps per day. Consistency has been Terry’s friend throughout this period of transition and shows how the simple act of walking more can quickly become a habit if practiced regularly.

Stage 2: Walking for Speed

After a period of consistency in her volume and frequency of steps, we then went about tackling the speed at which she was walking. The thought process was let’s start to rev that engine of hers up. Once a week, Terry performed the 20 minute walk test. Just as the number of steps she walked daily increased, so did her speed over time. From a humbling 1.04 miles at the start to achieving 1.64 miles in May 2020.

Terry’s Walking Speed

Stage 3: Hello Rower (Again)

After the initial testing of her 2000m row in October 2018, I asked Terry to re-test in April 2019, six months later. She scored an amazing 11:42, over two minutes faster than her previous best effort. All whilst having not rowed since. It was only then that we started to reintroduce the row erg as part of her workouts. She had a better base and we wanted to continue her cardio development.

The workouts on the row erg we prescribed were “easy” in nature. We focused on volume first, often pairing it with other strength training exercises two to three times per week. Not once did we push her out of her comfort zone, though we were able to expand that comfort zone over time. We kept it this way for over a year until she tested again, and she achieved a remarkable 8:29.5, nearly six minutes faster than her original time. Terry went from a novice to an intermediate rower. She has a yearlong base of aerobic development behind her and is now ready to embark on those elite training programs you read about online.

Terry’s Rowing Times

Lessons You Can Learn from Terry

A lot of everyday athletes chasing faster 2,000m row times often miss the biggest parts of the cardiovascular training puzzle – the addition of more sustainable volume and spending more time building their aerobic base. They tend to attack the 2000m row by training faster, harder, and for longer. That’s a short-term approach that leads to unsupportive foundations. As everyday athletes, we look at the long-term approach to health and fitness, which means not just being able to perform great athletic feats but to also be able to recover faster from them.

If you’re reading this and wondering about your aerobic base, here’s something to ask yourself:

  • Men: Can I currently row 2,000m on a Concept 2 faster than 7:10 minutes?
  • Women: Can I currently row 2,000m on a Concept 2 faster than 8:10 minutes?

If the answer is no, you need a bigger aerobic engine. It’s that simple.

Don’t underestimate the power of walking. Walking activates the small aerobic muscle fibers which are not usually stimulated by higher-intensity aerobic workouts and can help circulate blood and improve lymph drainage (important to the body’s waste-removal system). It benefits everyone, from beginners to competitive athletes alike, by building their aerobic base and assisting with workout recovery and even some injuries. It should always be a part of your training.

Cardiovascular development should be an enjoyable journey, yet too many people are fearful of it and equate it with pain, suffering, and misery. Understand your limits, adapt accordingly, and build from there. Who knows? Your 2000m row time could drop by six minutes too, just by walking more.

Terry’s Thoughts

“I am the typical workaholic who sits at a desk all day. When I met James Breese I was obese and had sore knees which made it difficult to walk. I did not enjoy life. And I was angry at myself for becoming this way AGAIN. I dug myself out of this hole before but as soon as life happened, I quickly went back to my old habits. I was aging well beyond my years.

The journey has been methodical, and I have been steadily making progress. At first I was hard on myself. I read so many posts of people doing these fantastic feats and workouts that I knew I would never be able to do. But as I continued with James, we started to fix my mobility and I got more active. I was stunned.

My body and mindset changed. I started to look forward to being able to do more. And the fun part is that the journey is ’painless.’ Yes, I work hard but it is smart. As I have learned, I have to earn the right to do the next level. I now consider myself an everyday athlete. Life is fun again. The best part is, life has happened again big time. And yet I’ve not gone back to my old ways.” Terry Moore, everyday athlete.

Next Steps

The information outlined above will help you enhance human performance and treat chronic pain, but if you’re looking to go a bit further, we save our very best content for our Inner Circle Members.

Therefore, if you want to take your health and fitness to the next level we recommend:

#1) If you want step-by-step guidance on how to lose weight, get stronger, and live better, check out our amazing 1-on-1 coaching program:

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That’s it for this week, look out for another one of our amazing blogs next week.

If you found this content useful and think it could help others, please share it across the various social channels and tag us too! The whole purpose of Strength Matters is to help others achieve their goals, and by sharing this with others you’re helping us help as many people as possible.

-James.

P.S. Leave a comment down below if you have any questions!

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[Case Study] A Beginner's Guide to a Faster 2,000m Row Time
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[Case Study] A Beginner's Guide to a Faster 2,000m Row Time
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You will find a lot of information online on how to achieve elite rowing times, but there is little or no information to be found on how to take novice rowers to intermediate levels and beyond whilst overcoming the myth that cardiovascular training is brutally hard and can never be enjoyable. In this article, we share with you just that.
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