Indoor Rowing: A Gateway to Activity

The introduction of indoor rowing at Gairloch High School has been dramatically successful, engaging many who have avoided physical activity in the past. It meshes well with a Curriculum for Excellence. What has been achieved so far has been with a single ageing machine in the fitness room and three rowers borrowed from members of staff.


Indoor rowing machines provide a combined cardiovascular and muscular endurance workout. They are used in many Olympic sports during athlete selection. As well as the elite, this low impact activity is a favourite for people developing their personal fitness, those recovering from injury, and people on a weight loss programme.

It is possible to:

  • Race wirelessly against competitors on other machines in the same room.
  • Connect machines together and hold a virtual regatta, with the progress of the race displayed in real time via a laptop to a data projector.
  • Race over a broadband connection with anyone, anywhere in the world.

Indoor Rowing at Gairloch High School

Gairloch High School has access to a single, old model Concept 2 rower in the fitness room. Since August, this has been the focus of a web-based competition against other schools countrywide, whereby teams row set distances each month and post their times on line. We have four teams of eight entered – two girls’ teams from S4 and S6, a senior boys’ team and a very dedicated team of female staff. Checking our results on the Concept 2 website shows we are holding up very well, and in some cases are leading the field.

As part of Healthy Highland 2007 Week, 15th – 19th January 2007, we wanted to build on the popularity of the schools’ league and organised an inter-house virtual regatta. Two rowers were borrowed from members of staff and a third from the Highland Institute of Sport. Pupils were trained on the rowers in PE lessons during the week and the event was held on the Friday. As well as the inter-house team competition, many took a personal challenge, to see how fast they could row 500m. From 9am until 3pm house teams organised by the pupils took part in events while the rest of the school cheered them on loudly. Teams were grouped into S1/2, S3/4 and S5/6 and some of the staff had a go as well. In terms of spirit, levels of participation and effort, the regatta was incredible!

We have found that indoor rowing:

  • Is an excellent gateway to regular and varied physical activity.
  • Has increased use of the fitness room by pupils since we started rowing.
  • Includes and engages many who usually avoid physical activity, especially girls.
  • Is an adjunct to academic subjects, such as Biology and Physics.
  • Has the potential to develop a broad spectrum of ICT skills.
  • Fits well with a Curriculum for Excellence.

Indoor Rowing and a Curriculum for Excellence

Our experience was that the indoor rowing and the inter house competition contributed to the capacities identified in the Curriculum for Excellence.

In relation to “Developing Confident Individuals” pupils:

  • were proud of themselves
  • felt physically, mentally and emotionally good about themselves
  • showed ambition

and were given the opportunity to:

  • relate to others and manage themselves
  • pursue a healthy and active lifestyle
  • achieve success in a different area of activity.

In relation to “Being Effective Contributors” pupils

  • were resilient
  • were self-reliant

and were given opportunities to:

  • work in partnership and in teams
  • take the initiative and lead
  • solve problems.


We hope in the near future to:

  • Expand participation in Concept 2 schools league and set up regular training slots across year groups.
  • Develop internet based racing against other schools (using rowpro software ) (Indoor rowing could be an excellent way for remote Highland schools to compete against each other– without having to make lengthy journeys).
  • Train and send a squad to the Scottish Indoor Rowing Championships, February 2008.
  • As rowers are portable, the primary Active Schools Coordinator can extend the activity to associated primary schools. (Children as young as six can safely use the machines).
  • Develop links with Inverness Rowing Club, to give pupils a taste of the activity on the water.

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