Hi there! I just wanna start off by saying I really enjoy your blog! I started rowing in June, and was in an eight this fall. The season is now over and I really wanna continue in the spring, but the coach I was with said I should erg and train in the winter for the spring. I have been on the erg once, and my split wasn’t very good. Around 2:19.0/500m. I was wondering what I should do to improve and how often I should erg? Thanks!
Your coach is right – to be prepared for the spring season, winter training is a necessity. Strength training and core exercises are two things that you definitely want to make a part of your routine. If you have the time and access to the appropriate equipment/facilities, adding in some kind of cross training will help your endurance and get you in (better) shape. Running, biking, or swimming are all great options. You can get your cardio in as part of your warmup on the days you’re not cross training. Those are the days when you can do some erging.
Strength training and doing core exercises consistently will help build muscle, which in turn will help you generate more power when you erg, leading to lower splits. When you erg, you shouldn’t be going for any kind of PRs…you just want to focus on getting the technique right and building up your endurance. As you get stronger, the splits will fall. Don’t force anything.
If you have trouble deciding what to do when you erg, check out Concept 2’s website. They have three different workouts posted daily depending on how long you want your erg session to be. You can also sign up for their daily emails to get the workouts sent to you in the mornings. When you’re just warming up on the erg, keep it short – no longer than 15 minutes or so. A good warmup to do that also works on your technique is the pick drill (arms, arms + bodies, 1/2 slide, full slide). Do each for 20 strokes, then switch. Take your time with this and don’t rush through it. Focus on really nailing each part of the stroke and then connecting all of it when you get to full slide. Once you’ve done that, row at a steady pressure for the last 10 minutes or so at around 18-20 strokes per minute. Work on slide control and keeping the recovery controlled while at the same time getting a good strong press with the feet on the drive. Aim for a split and try and maintain that. Every week or so, shoot for a lower split (by 2-3 seconds) than the one you went for the previous week. Every week or two, test yourself. Do a 2k and record your times and splits. See what the difference are between the times. You’ll start to notice consistent changes as you progress through your training.
Here’s an example of what a winter schedule might look like:
Monday: Erg warmup + strength training (3 sets of high weight, low rep exercises)
Tuesday: Cross training + core (3-5 sets of 10-12 exercises with at least 15 reps each)
Wednesday: Medium – long erg session (45-70 minutes)
Thursday: Erg warmup + strength training
Friday: Cross training + core
Saturday: Long run/bike/swim (80 minutes)
Some things to remember:
1. Give yourself time to rest. When you exercise, you produce small micro-tears in the muscle. In order for you to get stronger, the muscles need time to adapt to the stress and repair. If they don’t have that time, you’re risking serious injury.
2. STRETCH. After your erg warmups or a quick lap around the track spend at least five to seven minutes stretching. Your muscles are more flexible when they’re warm vs. when they’re cold, so stretching is key. Not stretching can also lead to injuries such as pulled or torn muscles/tendons/ligaments. ALWAYS STRETCH BEFORE AND AFTER YOUR WORKOUT. If you have a foam roller, use that at the end of your workouts.
3. Maintain a proper diet. Your body needs proper and adequate fuel in order to give you the necessary energy you’ll need to train effectively. Make sure you’re eating well balanced meals and not skipping any of them. Have a small snack before you workout and another one after.
4. Get some sleep. When you sleep is when your body repairs itself…if you’re pulling all nighters or just not sleeping for as many hours as you should be, your training will suffer because you’ll be lacking in energy.
5. Find a time that works for you to go to the gym and make that a daily part of your routine. Don’t blow it off. Manage your time properly around school, work, family, friends, etc. so that you can spend at least an hour every day training. Remember your goals and why you’re doing this. Making training a non-negotiable part of your routine will not only show your coaches how dedicated you are but it’ll also subtly reinforce in your own mind how and why this is important to you.