The Importance Of The 500m Split While Rowing

“Time per 500 meters”, similar to the 35 metre sprint test in running, is the most commonly-used measure of pace for those in the world of on-water rowing. A deeper definition of this measure can be explained as “the length of time it takes an individual to row five hundred meters.” Over time, this tool for measuring in on-water rowing was adopted by the indoor rowing community, as well. At this point, you could easily say that it is the dominant measuring method for the indoor-rowing community.

500m split

However, there are some who wonder why this is the case. There are a few things to keep in mind, in terms of why the “time per 500 meters” measurement is used. You may also want to familiarize yourself with some potential alternatives.


In the end, when we talk about the important of the 500m split, there are several factors to consider.


Why Do Rowers Use 500m Intervals?

Runners talk about pace in the same way that indoor/on-water rowers use “time per 500 meters.” Runners use the “time per mile” concept in the same way, and they use it for the same benefit. It is easier for a lot of runners and rowers to break things down by time per distance.


Furthermore, the distance for an Olympic rowing contest is 2000m. From a mental standpoint, a number of athletes divide that 2000m into four units of 500m. Although one race strategy can differ from the next, the general breakdown comes out like this:


  • The sprint start
  • Maintaining the middle 1000 to 1250 meters at your best possible racing pace. This could best be described as a vigorous-but-sustainable endeavour.
  • The 250 to 500-meter sprint to complete the race.


An on-water rower is going to use the 500m split time to figure out their progress. This is because the same measuring concept is used in racing. If you are looking to break 8 minutes in a 2000K race, the workout is likely to be established around your 2:00/500m. As someone practices more and more, it is likely that the habit will become more ingrained. It will probably become more precise, as well. Rowers can build on their natural intensity by working to row at that pace, utilizing a range of strokes-per-min. on your performance monitor, this would be referred to as s/m.

rowing machine 500m split

What If Pace Doesn’t Make Sense?

If pace doesn’t make sense to you at all, relax. One of the nice things about rowing is that you aren’t limited to just one way of understanding your progress. For example, let’s consider the performance monitor of the Concept2 Indoor Rower, which is widely considered the best rowing machine. With a rower such as this, you are going to be able to take advantage of several different display options for understanding your progress as a rower.


Consider a setting like “calories.” With this setting, you can keep in mind that the harder you work at rowing, the more calories you are likely to burn. This is a perfect method for someone who is using rowing strictly as a means of losing weight and building muscle. Everyone uses rowing machines as a means of profound, effective exercise, but some people aren’t really interested in rowing as a sport.

If you consider yourself to be one of those people, then you are going to love using something such as calories. Remember that this is not your only option for measuring progress. Watts is another possibility. This is obviously a measurement of power, and you can often find it being used by cycling enthusiasts.


Practicing ensures you are going to be able to eventually hone in on the pace for different distances. In a perfect world, your pace will be faster for short sprints, as opposed to longer pieces.


At the end of the day, it obviously makes the most sense to choose a means of defining your progress, and sticking with it. Your best bet for establishing an ideal pace will be consistency. The more often you work with a type of measurement, the more likely it is that it will become ingrained into your routine. The more ingrained your routine becomes, the easier it will be for your mind and body to focus on establishing the best pace possible. There is no such thing as a universally standardized measurement approach, except for the one that makes sense to you.