rowing split times by age

Rowing Split Times by Age: Make the Most of Your Workouts!

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It’s your favorite cardio fan Kathleen here to talk today about your split time.

If you’re really new to rowing, you might not even know what I’m referring to, but don’t worry, I’ll get you up to speed so that you will know all the “row speak” by the end of the article.

Most people who row are always looking for ways to improve their split time, regardless of age, but is that realistic?

I know that I can’t do some of the things I used to do when I was 25, so is it reasonable to expect me to row as fast as a 20-something?

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Maybe you don’t care about the pace of others on the rowing machine and you only want to find ways for improving your personal split time. I hear ya! I’m a bit competitive, but sometimes, I just want to focus on myself.

Regardless of what your reason is for reading this post, I’m glad you’re here.

In this article, I’m going to cover what we mean by split time, tips for how you can improve your own personal average split on an indoor rowing machine, and whether your goals are a bit unreasonable for someone your age.

Are you ready? This isn’t going to be the same dry talk about numbers. Your buddy Kathleen will try to spice things up so you can learn as you laugh.

Let’s get started!

What Does Split Time Mean?

When you hear people talk about their split time, they are referring to the amount of time it takes you to row 500 meters.

Sometimes it feels like rowers talk about nothing else but their split time! It’s equivalent to runners talking about how fast they can run one mile.

 

The numbers work very much like golf does. The lower your split time number, the better you’re doing. A low number means that you are rowing very fast.

For example, a typical indoor rowing machine split time would be 5 minutes or less. This means that you can row 500 meters in 5 minutes.

Experienced rowers can do 500 meters in 2 minutes or less! I saw a world record where a person did 500 meters in 1.11!

It might seem odd that trying to beat your old record on a rowing machine by just 5 seconds seems impossible, but it can be done.

What Does the SPM Mean?

This is different from your split time. Stroke rate or SPM refers to how many strokes per minute you do.

This metric has nothing to do with your intensity or your 500-meter time. This is simply the rhythm that you are rowing at.

If you are a beginner, you may notice that during a rowing workout, you are rowing like crazy to start, but by the end you can barely keep yourself going.

 

Rowers are always looking for a more consistent stroke rate, and faster is not always better, unless you are racing or trying to improve your fitness level.

When I first started, I focused on my form, so I was rowing rather slowly at 18-20 strokes per minute. That was great for me to start with. I tried to stay within that stroke rate range until I was certain that I was doing the strokes correctly.

Later, I found that for shorter rows, I could row at 30-35 SPM. I should be happy with that because in a competitive scenario, stroke rate would be something in that range. However, it’s difficult to maintain the exact same stroke rate during an entire workout

It’s best to aim within 2 or 3 SPM of your goal. If you want to row at say 25 SPM, then work on staying within 22-28 SPM.

Practice makes perfect, friends, so pay attention to your erg, and you will get the hang of it.

What Is a Good Rowing Pace?

Glad you asked. I think every newbie has asked this question.

I think part of the answer here would depend on your definition of “good”.

what is a good 500m row time?

Do you mean good enough? Or do you mean good for an overweight 60-year-old? Or good for a 20-year-old? Good overall?

I’m going to go with the last point. For a 500-m distance, a good pace, meaning not incredibly fast or overly slow, would be about 2 minutes.

This will vary tremendously depending on your age, weight, current fitness level, and experience with rowing, so don’t feel bad if your split time is 5 or even 10 minutes.

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How Rowing Split Times Change with Age

One truth about life is that as we age, we slow down.

This is true in just about every age group. We walk slower, we type slower, we generally just start winding down.

Now for some very active people, this slow down may not happen until they are in their 80s. Others may start feeling this in their 50s. Sometimes it has nothing to do with our level of physical activity, some of us simply didn’t get the high-energy, long-lifespan gene.

500m split times rowing and rowing machine stats

Generally speaking, however, I believe most people start noticing old father time taking its toll by the time they reach 60.

This is also true with exercise.

This doesn’t mean that if you’re rowing a 2-minute 500-meter row right now, you’ll be doing 15-minute split times by the time you hit 60, no. It will not always go that bad, but you shouldn’t be surprised if your split time becomes longer than the average in your age group.

You’ll find plenty of charts and graphs on average times to complete a 500-m distance, and many of those include professional rowers. If you may, I want to show this table that I’ve made after poring over many records and stats. This represents some useful data about different age groups of women using a Concept 2 indoor rowing machine.

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Average Rowing Split Times by Age Group

Don’t let those 90-year-olds scare you when you see that they are doing 500 meters in just about 2 and a half minutes, while it’s taking you 5 minutes or more. Remember that these are competitors, so they train regularly.

Rowing Split Times Chart by Age:

Age BracketAverage Split Time
(minutes/500m)
19-291.55
30-391.56
40-491.62
50-591.77
65-691.86
75-792.02
85-892.52

Rather, be inspired. You can be a champion rower in any age group, even into your 90s!

Tips for Improving Your Rowing Machine Split Time

For those of you who want to improve your split time, congrats! Doing this will also help you lose weight, improve your cardiovascular system. and make your muscles stronger, of course.

Here are our top tips for improving your 500M split:

  • Make sure that your machine is set up so that it suits you. Your feet should be secure, your seat comfortable, and your shoulders relaxed. And this is important: Don’t keep a death grip on the handle.
  • Practice the proper rowing stroke first before you focus on speed.
  • Don’t let your knees fall out to the side! Keep them straight ahead.
  • Keep your elbows close to your ribs. No chicken wings, folks!
  • Learn to row at a consistent speed for your distance. Don’t go all out for the first 100 meters and then slack off. It’s better to pace yourself, unless you are racing!
  • When it comes to rowing, sequence matters! The proper rowing sequence is Legs, Hips, Arms, Arms, Hips, Legs. Don’t try to change it! Learn to use it!
  • Keep your shoulders down and relaxed.
  • Don’t slam the seat forward so that you hit your heels. At the risk of sounding like yoga, let me say that it’s all about CONTROL. You must learn control!
  • Good practice makes good flow.

Beginners struggle hard to go fast, fast, and faster! This usually ends up giving them a backache, neck ache, or elbow pain, so they stop rowing.

Lady using a erg split calculator at the gym

Don’t even worry about your split time until you have in a few dozen rows. Practice the proper form first. Use a mirror to make sure you are doing it right or take a class. Technique matters more than speed when you’re starting.

Later, you can focus on your speed and all the other numbers on the erg. You want to keep using your indoor rower for exercise and not let it become a big paperweight or clothes hanger.

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Can I Still Lose Weight at a Slower Split Time?

Oh yes!

If you’re concerned that you’re not getting in the aerobic workout you had imagined because you are going slower, you can set that worry aside.

Chances are that within just a week or two (depending on your age, weight, and how often you work out each week) you will find yourself able to do the strokes correctly. With time, you will see higher stroke rates and lower split times.

Gym instructor explaining a 1000m row time for a beginner

You can lose major amount of weight by rowing, even if your split time is 5 or 6 minutes. The trick to losing weight is to continue rowing most days of the week and eat a health diet.

Older age groups (over 50) will find that they may take an extra week or two to get up to speed, but even slower times will give you a full-body workout.

Be patient. As my mother used to say, “All good things come to those who wait.” While I’m STILL waiting on my million dollar lottery ticket, I have found that consistency and other factors (such as a good diet and plenty of rest) will have you losing weight and feeling great in no time!

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The Final Takeaway

It all comes down to one question. What are you willing to do to improve your split time and overall health?

Commit yourself to spending the next 90 days rowing 5 or 6 days per week for at least 20 minutes each time, and you’re going to be shocked at what has happened to your body over that time frame.

What are good rowing split times?

If you’ve been rowing for some time, but you are looking to improve your split time, may I suggest practice, practice, and more practice. Try shaving off just 2 seconds each week or even just 1 second a week. You will get to those higher stroke rates if you keep at it. It’s pretty simple.

Yes, some of the things I’ve talked about here are subject to the laws of nature. If you’re 75, chances are that you won’t be able to reduce your 500M split time, but you CAN work on keeping the time that you can already do.

Stay healthy and happy, friends, because life is too short for anything else.