Three Years with Hydrow

by Morgan Hoffman

I've been coaching Michael for a little over a year - when he initially started with me his 2022 goals were to go sub-10:00 for the first time at IRONMAN Italy and race at the XTERRA World Championships (also in Italy) just two weeks later. At the time he had already been using Hydrow for almost 2 years, primarily as a substitute for swimming due to challenges with pool access (though it also provided an element of general cross-training and bike development). 

Throughout 2022 he used the Hydrow 1-3 times a week, and swam open water once a week April-August - his swim stayed largely consistent throughout the season, with open water races averaging between 1:30-1:35/100y (depending on distance), which was on par with his peak swim ability in prior years. There were a variety of contributors to this consistency, including strength and conditioning, knowledge and execution of efficient swim form, as well as very intentional open water sessions, but I am confident that the consistent time with Hydrow played a role in maintaining the endurance needed for these swims to be successful.

I sat down with Michael following a strong season (9:50:39 at IRONMAN Italy with a 1:04:45 swim, followed by a challenging but ultimately successful day at the XTERRA World Championship) to learn more about his experience with Hydrow. It's significant to me that even though the primary purpose Hydrow has served for Michael is supporting the swim, he found the most value in the mental/emotional benefits of the platform.

Michael, thanks for taking time to chat with me today. How long have you been using Hydrow? 

When the pandemic shut everything down, including the gyms, is about the time I started using Hydrow. Can you believe that has been almost three years?! 

I know, it feels like forever and simultaneously like it just happened yesterday. So, was that initially what led you to start using Hydrow?

It showed up on my doorstep.  I had actually never heard of it before.  My spouse ordered it without consulting me.  It was in the house during lockdown and I got curious so tried it out.   

On average, how many times a week do you use Hydrow when you are training?

Approximately 2-3 times a week.  

You've been very consistent with your Hydrow sessions throughout this season, and I've largely let you self-select the intensity and focus - in general, how long are your sessions, and what type of intensity are you doing?

It all depends on my mood.  Sometimes I want to get in the zone and cruise along with Nick listening to his wacky stories; and other times I want to sweat it out to some 80’s pop for an intense short session.  

How do you feel Hydrow benefits your triathlon training?

Mentally. Hydrow provides an alternative to the typical workout routine.  And a strong back!  Core training is typically a chore and without a strong core everything else falls apart.  Using the Hydrow reinforces the importance of a strong core for not only rowing, but the other aspects of triathlon as well.  

Agree, core strength is crucial! Have you found any other benefits of using Hydrow?

I feel better emotionally when using Hydrow. The camaraderie between the film crew and athletes is transferred to the workout and it feels like I am part of the team when I [use] Hydrow.  

Any challenges using it?


Were there any muscle groups it worked that surprised you at first?

Hydrow is flexible and can be a great recovery workout, low impact and full body, to sooth sore muscles. However, Hydrow can also be an intense strength and aerobic workout. 

Michael, thanks for sharing your experience with us, and congrats on a great season. 

Morgan Hoffman is a USAT Level 2 Short Course + Youth/Junior Certified Coach, and the Head Coach of PLAYTRI. She is based out of Dallas, TX where she manages the PLAYTRI High Performance Team, as well as coaching individual athletes, and overseeing performance testing and bike fitting for PLAYTRI. She can be reached at

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