Learn what competition masters swimmer Matthew Lewis did on NDM’s indoor rowing program, which not only led him to PB both his 5k and 2k ergo scores, but also get back in the pool after a lockdown and go faster in the water… and medal in national short course champs. Welcome to some insights into this 5-week 5k indoor rowing by Nick Moffatt.

PB your 5k ergo: Hit a personal best on your 5k indoor rowing machine – Try this program of 15 uniquely progressive sessions now:

5-week 5k race indoor rowing: Training by Nick Moffatt in TrainHeroic


Matthew Lewis is a lifelong competitive swimmer, mainly competing at masters swimming events now.

Main event/s: 100m Breaststroke and 50m Breaststroke.

Usual weekly training schedule: 2 x 1hr swims and 2 x 30-minute weightlifting sessions, often supplemented with a 5km parkrun or equivalent training run.

After purchasing a rowing machine in January 2021, Matthew approached NDM to provide a rowing plan targeted at improving his fitness during the lockdown.

The issue: Returning to swimming training after the first lockdown, Matthew’s level of cardiovascular fitness was noticeably lower (15 seconds slower when swimming 100m repetitions on 2 minutes). Why? A poor work/life balance during the pandemic and ineffective adaptation to training without access to a swimming pool.

Nick’s solution – NDM ergo training plan

My plan for Matthew focused on laying the foundation for his return to pool training and his long-term target of personal best times in 100m and 50m Breaststroke competition.

First step: Improve aerobic capacity, endurance and target a challenging 5km rowing time. The Initial plan fit Matthew’s diary best over 4½ weeks, as 5 sessions each fortnight. After that, focus turned to the 2km distance, which I knew was really his bigger goal – a sub 7min 2k, (was it possible around his busy work and family life and focus on swimming?! The opportunity ofcourse was that we were in lockdown and pools weren’t accessible).

I knew that whatever Matt developed on the erg he would be sure to gain some transfer, especially utilising plenty of sprint intervals, so that he would get back in the pool not just fitter than before but with the potential to swim faster! – Due not just to elevating his energy systems specifically to his event, but also having increased his aerobic capacity in the first block, which is important to support recovery during hard training as well as the component swimming, even sprint distances.

See background About Nick Moffatt coaching work in strength & conditioning for swimming and poolside here.

Matthew’s training notes – some sessions from 15 session 5-week to 5k erg PB program

25th Jan. 5000m row: 19 minutes 13 seconds.
This was challenging and set the standard for me to beat at the end of the training block. Enjoying the challenge of rowing at a rate of 28 and starting to think about putting more power into each pull.

Intervals 3 x 2000m row aiming for faster than my 5k pace (around 1:54/500m). Managed it for 2 of the 2km intervals (1:52 and 1:53 avg for 500m) but added 6 seconds avg/500m on the 3rd one. Lack of fitness showed here but again, really enjoyed this challenge and trying to keep the stroke rate down to 28 was again a good exercise for me.

6000m row, at 20spm (strokes per minute, also referred to in programs as @rX  The intent was just for RPE 6. (Rating of perceived exertion). A 25-minute row at a steadier pace is something I really wouldn’t have chosen myself but again I enjoyed keeping to a lower stroke rate and focusing on more power in each stroke without pushing too hard. Tongue pic
RPE graphic


Mid-distance Intervals (hard!)

Feb 4th. 5x1000m aiming for under 1:54 pace.
Accidentally started aiming for 1:44 pace (achieved 1:47) and then really paid for the mistake! Averaged high 1:53 for the remaining 4 1000m intervals giving an average of 1:52.6 with stroke rate of 27 (actually 28 average for all of the appropriately paced intervals).  Other pic with speedo clock in background.


By now in the plan the foundation for a better 5km was already feeling promising, and I enjoyed the variety in the sessions as well as how effective they had been in building my fitness.

At this point in the training, I was adding in weekly 5km runs if possible but wasn’t lifting any weights at all due to time constraints (work).


Feb 11th. 10x 350m with 90s rest

Nick was able to join live online for this which made me extra motivated. I managed 2 really fast reps for me at 1:38 and 1:39 but then hit a 1:47 average afterwards. It felt really tough especially after the 2 sprints at the start but I loved it. I really enjoyed the RPE being at 9/10. It was satisfying to start playing with and demonstrating more speed even though I couldn’t keep up the pace of the first 2 reps.


Feb 19th. 10 x 350m, 90s rest.
Really pleased with moving under 1:44 avg for each rep on this. A huge improvement on the previous attempt at this, partially due to aiming for consistent pace rather than going all out at the start.

Several more unique ergo sessions in the program in a tapered week and I felt prepared for the test…

18min 23s. PB for 5km row. About a minute off the January 25th time! Managed average of 1:50.2. Felt ok but a great PB! Motivated to do more so the next focus is the 2km distance…

More background – About NDM Sports & Personal Training

Next step: 2km: focus on sub 7min…

2000m fast 7m 9 seconds. A new PB off the back of the 5k program but need to drop 10 seconds to nip under 7 minutes.


5th March. 2000m 7m 7s. 1:46 avg/500m pace.

10 bespoke training sessions later in Nick’s next program and Matt PB’d his 2k…

April 29th 2021. 2000m PB and target achieved 6:59.9!


I thoroughly enjoyed following the plan for the 5km and 2km distances. The 5km plan took me on the journey from being unfit in the lockdown to feeling much fitter and stronger (without my usual weights regime which had fallen by the wayside due to work commitments).

The variety in the overall plan gave me what I needed, from the longer, slower-paced rows to the sprints, which I favoured. Nick’s help with mobility exercises meant I could really make the most out of each session and the whole programme. I benefited particularly from using a glute bridge to improve a niggle in my leg/buttock (a long-term issue which resurfaced during the training). The area certainly felt better activated for each rowing session and gave me the confidence that I wasn’t going to be limiting or missing sessions with injury.

Post 5k PB

By the time I’d achieved the 5km PB after the first part of the schedule, my fitness was clearly back. I then really enjoyed focusing mainly on the 500m and 350m interval sessions to target the 2km time, whilst still managing a couple of the longer distance rows. Now that I’d practiced and learnt some of the different sessions, I enjoyed the increased flexibility of the 2km plan which gave me more responsibility whilst still guiding and supporting me to achieve the end result.

I was really pleased and saw it as a great personal achievement to reach a sub 7-minute time for the 2km. I felt secure with Nick’s planning and advice and he allowed me to effectively and efficiently reach what for me was an ambitious target after the lockdown.

My return to swimming evidenced the great rowing work I’d done because when I returned to training I was faster in each 100m repetition by over 10 seconds on average in comparison to the swims (on 2 minutes) after my last return from a lockdown.

This programme from NDM was tailored exactly to my needs after the initial consultation so it was hugely satisfying to work through the different sessions and achieve my goals. Firstly, the 5km training schedule put me in the position to gain fitness quite rapidly, and soon achieve a significant personal best over the distance. Then, the 2km schedule started me working closer to my strengths in the pool, not only helping me achieve a pleasing 2km rowing time but pushing me towards a successful return to sprint swimming. I was pleased with my first competition back after months of relative inactivity prior to the rowing; the rowing sessions made it feel like I hadn’t really been away from racing in the pool.

I now feel better equipped to train effectively without access to a pool and I’m eager to make rowing a regular part of my training, probably in place of running or alternating with it each week. Rowing, particularly at speed, seems to support my Breaststroke races in particular, with the arm and leg actions being very similar.

NDM gave me the confidence and structure to create my own rowing plans in the future tailored to my needs, and I know the support will always be there if I need further guidance or fresh ideas. I’d recommend an NDM rowing programme to anyone from a beginner to a more experienced athlete in another sport because Nick can cater for your needs and support you to unlock the improvements you are looking for.

Thanks to NDM for giving me a love of rowing and a desire to keep beating my personal bests on the Erg!

PB your 5k ergo: Hit a personal best on your 5k indoor rowing machine – Try this program now:

5-week 5k race indoor rowing: Training by Nick Moffatt in TrainHeroic

Featuring 15 unique ergo sessions, weekly bespoke core workout, 3 sets of strength exercises for warm up, 3 sets of key stretches for indoor rowing, all progressive leading you to your best! Click the screenshot below to check it out.

Once you’ve signed up to Nick’s ergo program on the Train Heroic app, See one of Nick’s most popular blog posts, which gives the sports-science explanations on how/why we get fitter/stronger… Applying the principle of Super-compensation – NDM Coaching