Should I match the Athlete stroke-for-stroke, or just row on my own at the suggested S/M number?
We suggest trying to match the Athlete movements. This helps connect your body in a natural way to the rhythm and simulates the feeling of rowing together as a team.
Here's a little from Hydrow Athlete Mike Dostal on this topic:
As he says, For Athletes much taller or shorter than you it may be hard to match their body movements exactly. The most important sync point is at the Finish of the stroke (the point farthest away from your screen). As long as you match up there, you will be rowing effectively together at the same rhythm.
Note: Sometimes the Athlete may call a suggested S/M rhythm number and then not match it perfectly for the duration of the piece. This type of variation is normal, as they're managing a lot of factors out on the water. (it's harder than it looks!) But as long as you're rowing along with them, you're doing fine!
Being effective at low Rhythm Numbers
Rowing at very slow Rhythms can feel more difficult and than going at a medium or fast pace. It is still very much possible to maintain effort and a low split here, though it may require more conscious effort. During these segments, try to focus on maintaining consistent form without rowing faster than the Athlete.
Here's a fun anecdote from Mike with a way to think about low-rhythm rowing:
How to stay on top of faster Rhythm Numbers
Maintaining form as the pace picks up is also vital. It can be easy to get lost in the intensity of a high-speed drive and let your technique get sloppy.
Here's another segment from Mike talking about maintaining flow at a high Rhythm:
What changes happen as I gradually climb the rhythm ladder?
This is something you'll learn intuitively and gain muscle memory for as you practice. However, or a great visual reference you can watch Hydrow Athlete James Dietz as he climbs through the rhythm numbers most commonly used for Rowing. Watch for the ways his form adjusts slightly from a slow place to a fast one.