My indoor rowing tips after 15 million meters

My 7 year rowing journey, including my Concept 2 setup, and some tips for anyone new to indoor rowing.


I bought my Concept 2 Model C rower in 2001, my plan (like most people who buy exercise equipment) was to use it every week. And, like most people, I failed. I used the rower sporadically for a while, and then I moved house, and it just sat there in my new home, gathering dust. I’d get the urge to start using it again (yes… January) and as usual, it didn’t last. I’ve always done some form of exercise, either in the gym or running, and have had some long periods of running every week, but I don’t think I’ve ever exercised consistently every week for a period longer than a year.

2014 - New Year’s day

This all changed when I hit 40. My daily routine was basically, driving to work, sitting at my desk for 8 hours, driving home, making the family dinner, and then sitting in front of the TV with the wife for an hour or so before bed. This was not exactly an active lifestyle. So I made a New Year’s resolution to row at least 30 km every week (4×5 km, 1×10 km). I used Excel and made a big table where each row was a week, and each column was 5 km (it had 10 columns, so 50 km). I printed the table on A3 paper, and stuck it up on the wall in the garage right next to the rowing machine. The aim was simple—don’t break the streak—the longer I could hit 30 km each week, the less likely I would be to miss a week, because I’d “break the streak”. I had to start-off slowly, but by week 3 I was up to 30 km, and with the exception of a few weeks (house move, and a work trip to NYC) I hit my target.

The table was not the thing that kept me going, 30 km per week on the rower meant about 2¼ hours of my time, and just rowing can be boring. To help alleviate the boredom I attached my iPad to the rower, got some sports headphones, and started watching Star Trek(TOS) from the very beginning. Exercise time was now also Star Trek time! When I got to the end of Star Trek, I watched Stargate SG1, all 10 seasons, and then Atlantis, and then… you get the idea. I watched TV that I would look forward to. During September I hit 1,000,000 meters, and as I’d been logging my rows in the Concept 2 online log book, I qualified for my free 1 million meter t-shirt and badge.

A photograph of the front of a Concept 2 rowing maching, which includes an iPad mounted to the rowers arm.
My original (2014) setup with my iPad attached to the monitor arm.
A large paper chart where crossed out squares indicated the completion of a 10km row. The chart has one row for each week of the year.
My 2014 progress chart, it’s old-skool, but it works.


2015 carried on much like 2014, 30 km per week (this time I didn’t miss any weeks). I hit 2 million meters in May (you don’t get any freebies for 2 million) and I also rowed my first 20 km. I did my first half-Marathon in July, and then my 2nd in December, when I also hit 3 million meters.

2016 - This is the year when I realised I had been lazy

There were three things that happened in 2016 that made me realise that I needed to up my game:

  1. I set a New Year’s resolution to row a Marathon by the end of the year.
  2. I read Row Daily, Breathe Deeper, Live Better: A Guide to Moderate Exercise.
  3. A friend of mine casually mentioned that she swam for an hour each day.

2016 started well, with my 3rd half-Marathon in January, but by week 6 my long running streak was broken due to a case of “man-flu” that lasted more than 2 weeks. There followed another couple of half-Marathons during the year. But, it was points №2 and №3 that eventually led me to reassess my rowing goal of 30 km per week, and this happened in August.

I was already doing a lot of what was discussed in Row Daily, Breathe Deeper, Live Better: A Guide to Moderate Exercise, but it was only when I got to the chapter on case studies that it suddenly occurred to me that the book was targeted at old people (ok, at this time I was 43, but I mean really old people—as in 60+.) All the case studies were of people in their 60s and 70s. So, here was me thinking that my 30 km per week was pretty good, and here’s this book encouraging people in their 70s to row 70 km per week!Combined with my friend doing an hour swim every day, I realised that it was time to up my game. So, during August I set a new goal of 70 km per week (typically 7×10 km). I rowed my first Marathon in November (3 hr 12 m 54 s, 2:17/500 m), and hit 5 million meters in the first week of January (finally—a new t-shirt and badge).

Setting challenges - 100 km in a day

Each year I try and set a new rowing challenge, this is typically something like “row a Marathon this year”, or “beat my 10 km time”, but during 2017 I set myself the challenge of rowing 100 km in a day, I started around 8 am and rowed 10 km, then had a 30 min break, followed by another 10 km, and so on, unfortunately after 80 km I had some serious knee pain, so had to stop.

During late 2020 I was approaching the 15 million meter mark, so decided to attempt the ‘100 km in a day’ challenge again, but I timed it such that I’d hit the 15 million meters during the 100 km attempt. I started around 8 am, finished around 11 pm, and spent around 9 hours on the rower in total. This time there were no knee issues, I’d done it! and I swore to never do it again, it was probably the hardest physical activity I’d ever done. Rowing 10x10km in a day requires similar effort to running 10x10km in a day (ok, maybe about 80% when compared to running). Note: I read an article recently (it was published in 2015) about 2 people who both managed to row 100 km per day, every day, for a month! That’s more than 3 million meters in a month (it typically takes me around 2 years to row 3 million meters). When setting goals, don’t worry about what other people are doing (it’s a big world with a lot of talented people), if you do it will only demotivate you. Your goals should be personal to you.

Concept 2 setup, maintenance, and upgrades

My rowing setup has evolved over the years to the point where I’m quite happy with the current configuration, which includes:

A side-on photograph of a Concept 2 rowing maching in front of a wall and a wall mounted TV.
My current (2021) rowing setup.

At the end of this Summer (2021) my Concept 2 will be 20 years old. Concept 2s are built to survive the harsh environment of commercial gyms, if you buy one for home use, they should last forever and require very little maintenance (they also hold their value well, during the pandemic my rower was still worth about 80% of what I paid for it!) Most of the changes I’ve made to mine have not actually been required, here’s how I’ve maintained and upgraded it over the last 20 years:

My tips for anyone who’s new to indoor rowing


Rowing is now part of my lifestyle, it’s fully integrated into my daily routine. I’m not trying to break records (obviously, I’m watching TV at the same time), but I am trying to make up for the 8 hours a day I spend sitting at a desk, and to be honest, 10 km per day is probably only just managing that.