Increasingly long spring rows, after starting with short rows, to let the fingers and palms and wrists adjust to hold an oar handle and to feathering with each stroke.
If I am holding the handles of my sculls correctly, they should be mostly nestled in the finger joints, so I do not expect much palm damage or callusing. If I am holding them lightly and pulling with the oars in position rather than forcing it, there should be little strain on the skin. If I am minimizing movement while squaring and feathering, there should be less chance of carpal tunnel (or similar) strain.
Balance, symmetry and Timing:
You may enjoy Gordon Hamilton's Sculling in a Nutshell and William Irvine's With Two Oars. Interesting ideas about approaching the stroke and training for smooth, effective rowing from both of these rowing coaches.
Starting on the water again in the Spring is really like starting again. When I push off from the dock, I think about balance - not something that is too much on my mind while on the erg all winter. That leads to paying attention not only to my body position and movement, but to the symmetry of my blade work. Are the sculls balanced and even off the water? Am I catching and releasing at the same time? Is my pressure even (watch the stern wiggle!). Am I achieving full reach on both sides at the catch and using both legs evenly? In both of those slim but helpful books you will find loads of ideas to give you focus and direction when on the water.
Breathing deeper on the water: Now I am lifting my boat and my body along with each stroke, not just spinning a wheel. I can breathe in deeply at the catch - or try to, if my winter gut will let me; and then out deeply at the release.
Mantras for 10 strokes:
Think "Burn fat" and I can feel myself carrying that extra weight and wanting to row a bit longer and harder to burn it off to a manageable weight. "Build muscle" and l can focus on muscle groups and how I am using them and the goal of building up strength. [One of the most depressing articles that came out this winter said that older folks can build up strength of muscle cells but once we lose a cell it is gone as we make no more. Did I get that right? Is that one reason bed rest for the ill kills us?] And "Clear the lungs" and I can feel the deeper breaths doing me more good. That is especially true after a cold for the days or weeks when congestion remains. What a great feeling to have it gone completely!