Staying in Shape When You Don’t Have Access to the Water or an Erg

If there’s one thing that every rower is obsessed with, it’s making and/or keeping their gains.

During the on-season, rowers work incredibly hard to gain fitness and endurance. While rowing may be primarily a mental sport, if you’ve lost the intensity for that 2k or 5k over the summer, getting back in shape can be a difficult and painful time.

There are many ways to stay in shape if you don’t have rowing equipment or water access. Here are just a few tips to keeping your gains:

The Aerobic vs. Anaerobic workout

In order to keep healthy, you must pick the right kinds of workouts. If you run for hours on end or do the same set of weights every single day, you may keep your endurance, but your muscles will get used to certain motions and when it’s time to get back on the water, you will not be ready. This is why it’s important to understand different types of workouts and mix it up!

An Aerobic workout uses energy! When we exercise aerobically we use glycogen and fat as fuel. As you start to exert yourself, carbon dioxide is expelled from your body. Lactic acid is not produced and this type of exercise can be done over long periods of time. It keeps your heart and lungs pumping, allowing you to gain fitness.

In contrast, Anaerobic workouts use only glycogen as fuel. Once all your oxygen has been depleted, you will experience lactic acid build up and fatigue. Doing these workouts will build your intensity and endurance, and will allow you to complete harder workouts in the future. These workouts are usually shorter in length and are more intense.

Balancing these two types of workouts will ensure that you stay in shape and will allow you to reach your fitness goals for the up and coming season.

Examples of Aerobic Workouts

  1. Running – Long distance running is a perfect way to stay in shape if you don’t have access to the water. All you need is a pair of sneakers and the lay of the land. A 20-minute steady state is around a 4k-6k depending on your level. This is about 2.5-4 miles. Depending on how you are feeling, you can adjust your running distances to what you would normally do for steady state workouts. This will give you the same amount of exercise.
  1. Swimming – Swimming is an incredible workout because it gives you all the cardio benefits, but is easy on your joints and muscles. The resistance of the water gives you an extra challenge, which will also improve fitness.
  1. Spinning/Cycling – Like swimming and running, this type of exercise provides a great aerobic workout. It keeps your heart and lungs in wonderful condition, and like swimming, has little impact on your joints.

Examples of Anaerobic Workouts

  1. Sprinting – Again, running is a fantastic way to stay in shape. As opposed to long distance, sprinting will bring an intensity that will lead to an anaerobic workout. Much like you adjust your splits for erging/rowing in shorter bursts, increase your speed and shorten your running distance. Run the distance, take a short break, and run it again, however many times you feel will give you the best workout.
  1. Power lifting – These workouts should focus on building muscle and increasing training capacity. The goal of anaerobic workout is to develop metabolic capacity and thus make the athlete stronger. By lifting maximum amount of weight with as many reps as you can complete in 3-10 seconds, you will build anaerobic capacity.
  1. Interval Training – This cardiorespiratory technique is perfect for creating more aerobic capacity. Body weight activities such as abdominal exercises for a minute, then walking for 30 seconds will give you a fantastic anaerobic workout. This will build muscle and increase endurance and core.

Don’t despair if you can’t get in a boat or on an erg! You can stay fit and focused no matter where you are.



“Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise: What Is the Difference?” 2016. Accessed July 11.

Bhattacharya, Christina. 2016. “Example of Anaerobic Exercise.” LIVESTRONG.COM. Accessed July 11.

“Examples of Aerobic Exercise.” 2016. LoveToKnow. Accessed July 11.

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