I rowed a mile a day for two weeks — here’s what happened to my body

an image of people on rowing machines at the gym
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

When The Proclaimers sang about walking 500 miles it sounded like a pretty tough feat; my challenge of rowing a mile every day for two weeks, however, seemed slightly more achievable. 

Why a mile every day? Well, why not? Rowing (on the machine) has been praised for its many body benefits — not only is it a great way to work on your cardiovascular fitness, but it engages several muscles and well, you get to sit down as you work out! What’s not to love?

Rowing is a great full-body workout. Each stroke activates muscles in the lower body, as well as muscles in the core, upper body, and back. Essentially you drive with your legs, and use the muscles in your arms and back to pull the handle to your torso. Plus, rowing, like most exercises, is good for the mind thanks to the release of feel-good endorphins in the brain.

My gym has several rowers but my usual go-to is the Concept 2 rower. The units on the Concept 2 are set to meters, but a quick Google converted one mile to 1600 meters, so for two weeks, I set out to row 1600 meters every day. Read on to find out what happened.

Looking for more workout inspiration? Here's what happened when we tried the exact resistance band workout Chris Hemsworth used on the set of Thor: Love and Thunder, the best ab exercises to add to your routine, and what happened when our fitness editor did 100 dead bugs a day for a week

I worked my glutes, hard

At first glance, rowing looks like an upper body workout, but after about half a mile on day one, I realized how wrong I’d been. I could feel my glutes firing up, and as I focused on my form, I could feel that I was working my lower body as I pushed away from the footplates. 

I got faster 

Before this challenge, I was pretty new to rowing, so rowing a mile every day did feel odd at first, as I wasn’t used to the movement. After a few of my daily miles, I got into the swing of things and actually, by the end of my two weeks, I was far speedier, hitting my mile at a casual 6 minutes 40 seconds.

Rowing is a great way to get fitter, plus if you’re looking to lose weight, research has found that when incorporated into a training plan, over a period of six weeks, the total body fat percentage of participants dropped by a significant amount.  

It was low impact

Unlike my usual blend of resistance training, Crossfit-style workouts, and running, rowing is a lovely, low-impact exercise that doesn’t hammer the joints. Primarily, this is because you’re sitting down in the rowing seat. In fact, I’ll definitely be using rowing on my active recovery days in the future. Research has proved rowing to be an exercise suitable for seniors thanks to its low impact capabilities, and that rowing can also prevent sarcopenia; the loss of muscle mass and strength. 

After two weeks of daily rows, I noticed I didn’t feel sore and my body wasn’t crying out for a good stretch. Albeit, this may have been very different had I rowed for longer.

It helped improve my posture

When you’re rowing, your form is important. As a personal trainer, I often see people in the gym pulling the handle of the rower to their knees, rather than all the way to their ribs, or yanking the handle to their body before driving back with their legs.

Keen to learn the correct way to row? There are four parts to each stroke on the rowing machine — the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery. The drive is really the main portion of work, where, from leaning forwards from the hips, hands gripping the handle, you drive back with the legs before pulling the handle to just below the ribs. Then, extend the arms before bending the knees and sliding the seat back to the start position. When done properly, rowing can help with posture, and it really did force me to engage my core and back. 

I felt strong 

The biggest surprise for me was how strong I felt every morning after my time on the rower. There’s something about the full-body exercise that left me feeling ready to take on anything. As well as being important for physical strength, for me, exercise is as much about looking after my mental health. One study found that strength training can elicit a more positive body image, and I definitely left the gym with a buzz after my sessions on the rower.  

I rowed a mile every day for two weeks — here’s what I learned 

Two weeks later, I think I’ve found my new favorite gym machine. Rowing every day for a fortnight was a great accompaniment to my marathon training, as it really helped me get a sweat on, without putting any extra strain on my poor, battered knees. 

Will I continue rowing? The answer is a definite yes. All hail the rowing machine; this piece of kit should be part of everyone’s workout repertoire.

Inspired? Here's more on how to lose weight using a rowing machine, and the best rowing machine workouts to try. 

You can also read about what happened when I did 50 bird dogs a day for a week and here's what happened to my abs when I did 50 leg raises a day for 14 days.

Furthermore, here's what happened when I tried running without music for two weeks

Lucy Gornall

Lucy is a freelance health and fitness journalist as well as a pre and post-natal personal trainer. Although a sweaty gym session (skipping rope is a must) is her favorite way to ‘relax’, she’s also a fan of bingeing on The Office, snacking on chocolate-coated raisins, and fizz-filled brunches with friends.