Indoor Rowing vs. Outdoor Rowing: Pros and Cons

Indoor Rowing vs. Outdoor Rowing: Pros and Cons

When it comes to rowing, enthusiasts have the option to choose between two main environments: indoor or outdoor. Each setting offers its own unique benefits and drawbacks. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of indoor rowing and outdoor rowing, helping you make an informed decision about which option suits your needs best. Whether you are a fitness enthusiast looking for an effective workout or a rowing aficionado seeking the thrill of natural elements, read on to discover the advantages and disadvantages of both indoor and outdoor rowing.

Pros of Indoor Rowing


Indoor rowing offers the convenience of being able to exercise at any time and in any location. Unlike outdoor rowing, you are not dependent on the weather conditions or the availability of a boat and a water body. With indoor rowing, all you need is a rowing machine, which can be easily set up in your home or at a gym. This convenience allows you to maintain a consistent workout routine without any external limitations.

Weather Independent

One of the significant advantages of indoor rowing is that it is weather independent. Regardless of whether it’s pouring rain, freezing cold, or scorching hot outside, you can still engage in a rowing workout indoors. This eliminates the need to cancel or reschedule your exercise sessions due to unfavorable weather conditions. Indoor rowing provides a reliable and consistent training environment, allowing you to focus on your technique and performance without any external distractions.

Training Metrics

Indoor rowing machines are equipped with various training metrics and monitors that track your performance during each workout. These metrics include distance covered, stroke rate, calories burned, heart rate, and more. By having access to these real-time measurements, you can accurately assess your progress, set goals, and track your fitness improvements over time. The ability to monitor and analyze your training metrics provides valuable insights into your rowing technique and allows you to make necessary adjustments to optimize your performance.

In conclusion, indoor rowing offers several advantages over outdoor rowing. Its convenience, weather independence, and the availability of training metrics make it an attractive option for rowers of all levels. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned athlete, indoor rowing provides a reliable and effective way to improve your fitness and achieve your rowing goals.

Cons of Indoor Rowing

Lack of Real Water Experience

One of the drawbacks of indoor rowing is the absence of the true water experience. While indoor rowing machines are designed to mimic the rowing motion and provide resistance similar to real water, it cannot replicate the sensation of rowing on an actual body of water. The feel of the water, the sounds, and the overall environment that comes with outdoor rowing are missing in indoor rowing. For those who enjoy the serenity and tranquility of rowing on a lake or river, indoor rowing may not provide the same level of satisfaction.

Limited Scenery

When rowing outdoors, you have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature surrounding you. The scenic views of lakes, rivers, or even the vastness of the open ocean can be truly invigorating. However, when you opt for indoor rowing, you are confined to a fixed location, typically a gym or your home. The lack of changing scenery can become monotonous and repetitive over time. The absence of fresh air and the feeling of being connected to nature may be a downside for those who appreciate the outdoors while exercising.

Potential Boredom

Indoor rowing can sometimes become monotonous, leading to potential boredom. Unlike outdoor rowing, where you can explore different routes, encounter varying water conditions, and experience new challenges, indoor rowing can feel repetitive. Staring at the same walls or watching a screen displaying virtual scenery may not be as mentally stimulating as rowing in the great outdoors. Without the distractions and ever-changing surroundings, some individuals may find it difficult to stay motivated and engaged during their indoor rowing sessions.

In summary, while indoor rowing offers its own set of benefits, it is important to consider the cons as well. The lack of real water experience, limited scenery, and potential boredom are factors to keep in mind when deciding between indoor and outdoor rowing. Ultimately, the choice depends on personal preferences, fitness goals, and the overall experience one seeks from their rowing workouts.

Pros of Outdoor Rowing

Real Water Experience

Outdoor rowing provides a more authentic and immersive water experience compared to indoor rowing. Being out on the water allows rowers to feel the natural rhythm of the waves and currents, which adds a unique challenge to the sport. The sensation of gliding through the water and the sound of oars hitting the surface create a sense of connection with the surroundings that cannot be replicated indoors.

Scenic Surroundings

One of the major advantages of outdoor rowing is the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful and scenic surroundings. Whether rowing on a tranquil lake, a flowing river, or even in the open ocean, the natural landscapes offer a visually appealing backdrop. Rowers can revel in the stunning views, breathe in the fresh air, and appreciate the serenity of their surroundings, making the overall experience more enjoyable and rejuvenating.

Variety of Conditions

Outdoor rowing exposes athletes to a wide range of weather and water conditions, which can be both challenging and rewarding. Rowing in different weather conditions such as calm, windy, or rainy days allows rowers to adapt and develop their skills in diverse environments. This variety helps improve their ability to handle unpredictable situations and enhances their overall rowing proficiency. Furthermore, encountering changing water conditions like waves and currents provides an opportunity to learn how to navigate and maneuver the boat effectively, adding an element of excitement to the sport.

In summary, outdoor rowing offers numerous advantages including a genuine water experience, scenic surroundings, and exposure to a variety of conditions. These aspects contribute to the appeal and allure of outdoor rowing as a sport, attracting enthusiasts who seek a more dynamic and engaging rowing experience.

Cons of Outdoor Rowing

Weather Dependency

One of the major drawbacks of outdoor rowing is its dependency on weather conditions. Unlike indoor rowing, where you have complete control over the environment, outdoor rowing is greatly affected by factors such as wind, rain, and extreme temperatures. Inclement weather can disrupt your rowing routine and make it challenging to maintain consistency in your training. Moreover, rowing in adverse weather conditions can also pose risks to your safety and well-being.

Equipment Transport

Another disadvantage of outdoor rowing is the need for equipment transport. Unlike indoor rowing, where you have all the necessary equipment readily available at your disposal, outdoor rowing requires you to transport your rowing machine or boat to a suitable water body. This can be time-consuming and inconvenient, especially if you don’t have easy access to a nearby river or lake. Additionally, the transportation process may involve extra costs and potential damage to the equipment during transit.

Safety Concerns

Outdoor rowing presents certain safety concerns that are not as prevalent in indoor rowing. When rowing outdoors, you are exposed to various risks such as collisions with other boats, submerged obstacles, or unpredictable water conditions. These factors can increase the likelihood of accidents and injuries. Additionally, rowing in open water may also expose you to natural elements like strong currents, waves, and wildlife, which can further compromise your safety.

In conclusion, while outdoor rowing offers the advantage of experiencing nature and the thrill of rowing on open water, it also comes with its fair share of disadvantages. The dependency on weather conditions, the need for equipment transport, and the safety concerns associated with outdoor rowing make it a less convenient and potentially risky option compared to indoor rowing.

The decision between indoor rowing and outdoor rowing ultimately comes down to personal preference and specific fitness goals. Indoor rowing offers convenience, accessibility, and a controlled environment, making it a great option for those who prioritize convenience and want to track their progress easily. On the other hand, outdoor rowing provides a more immersive and dynamic experience, allowing individuals to enjoy the natural surroundings while challenging their physical endurance. Both forms of rowing offer numerous benefits for overall fitness and cardiovascular health. Whether you choose to row indoors or outdoors, the most important aspect is to find a form of exercise that you enjoy and that motivates you to stay consistent. So, whether you prefer the comfort of an indoor rowing machine or the exhilaration of rowing on open water, both options can provide an effective and enjoyable workout.