Video of the Week: The rowing race explained

If you’re new to the sport, this video gives a good overview of what each 500 of a 2k is like. This is good for coxswains to watch too so you can get an idea of how the athletes are feeling throughout the race and plan/strategize your calls and moves accordingly.


Question of the Day

If I am 5’4 and 148 lbs what should my 2k be at? My new 2k is 7:40 (I know it’s awful). Had to take a little break because I had an injury to my one knee. Is this good? What should I bring it down to? My goal is 7:20 before spring season comes around. What would be a good 2k plan? I have 2k sprints coming up and I want to do really well. Thank you! I really love your website so much! I always read it on my free time! 🙂

I’m assuming you’re a girl and in high school, in which case 7:40 is most definitely not an awful 2k time. I can’t tell you what your 2k should be because it depends on a lot of things so if you want specific advice in that area, talk to your coach and see what they say. Dropping 20 seconds in a month and a half seems pretty ambitious unless you’re a novice and still in that honeymoon period where you’re dropping 30 seconds on every test or if this is the first test you’ve done since last spring (in which dropping a chunk of time wouldn’t be too unreasonable but 20 seconds still seems a bit out there). If 7:40 is your most recent one then I’d probably shoot for something like 7:35-7:37, depending on how you feel.

As far as a race plan goes, check out this post as well as this Instagram I posted last year of one of our freshman’s race plans. Obviously the splits would be different but it’s another example of how you could lay out your race. Also check out this post on how to prep for a 2k in the days leading up to the piece.

College Recruiting: Technique + Erg Scores

Previously: Intro || The recruiting timeline + what to consider || What do coaches look at? || Contacting coaches, pt. 1 ||  Contacting coaches, pt. 2 || Contacting coaches, pt. 3 || Contacting coaches, pt. 4 || Highlight videos + the worst recruiting emails || Official/unofficial visits + recruiting rules recap || When scholarships aren’t an option || Managing your time as a student-athlete + narrowing down your list of schools || Interest from coaches + coming from a small program || How much weight do coaches have with admissions + what to do if there are no spots left || Being recruited as a coxswain, pt. 1 || Being recruited as a coxswain, pt. 2

This was an interesting question that came up at NRC – does your on-the-water technique matter during recruiting or is it all about your 2k? The answers from the coaches were split with some saying yes, others saying no, and some saying yes and no. A lot of recruits will send video clips for coaches to evaluate (the importance of having a few good quality ones on hand can’t be emphasized enough) but the coaches can/will also get in touch with your high school coaches to ask how your technique is, amongst other things. They might also go out and watch practice to see for themselves how you look. In that sense technique matters because it’s not something you can hide and get away with not having.

On the other hand, what most coaches are looking for is if you know how to row in general. They’re assuming that you fit the basic parameters (i.e. you’re physiologically suited for the team and academically suited for the university), know the basics of the sport, and have a fundamental understanding of the stroke. At the end of the day though, your adaptability and coachability matter far more than your technique. Each program you’re looking at likely has a certain style or definition of technique that they try to bring their athletes around – think of Harvard and Washington’s “finish pause that isn’t really a pause” as an example. Your ability  – not even that really, more like your willingness – to be coached and make technical changes will be a highly valued trait so if you haven’t been rowing long and/or aren’t the most technically proficient rower, don’t think that you’re automatically out of the running to be recruited.

Pro tip though, don’t ever, ever say to a coach “that’s not how we did it in high school” or “in high school we did it this way…” when they’re trying to coach you on something technical. If you want to get on a coach’s bad side, this is the best and fastest way to do it. Coxswains, this absolutely applies to you too. One of our coxswains did this so many times last year and my eyes still hurt from rolling them every time she did it.

Moving on to the holy grail of recruiting – your erg score. They’re not the only thing coaches look at, obviously, but they are one of (if not the) most important. First and foremost, do your research before asking coaches where you should be or at the very least, reference your research if you want specifics with regards to times. Your best resource will be the times from CRASH Bs, especially if you’re a lightweight guy since the league has been getting markedly faster over the last few years. You can also search the rowing sub on Reddit. This question has been asked numerous times so it’s not hard to find info if you just spend a few minutes searching and reading the threads.

Similarly to each person’s rowing background, every erg score has a narrative. An eight-season rower with a 7:43 2k vs. a multi-sport athlete with four seasons of rowing and a 7:43 are two different narratives. On paper the latter is going to look more favorable so that’s something to keep in mind – if you’ve been rowing for 6-8 seasons, makes sure you’ve got the erg scores to show for it.

Related: College recruiting: Interest from coaches + coming from a small program

Many of the top programs won’t offer official visits to kids until they’re under a certain benchmark (for example, you have to be <7:20 during your junior year to be offered an official from the Wisco women) so if it’s not obvious already, simply “loving” the sport and having done it for several seasons isn’t enough. You also cannot hide behind the whole “my technique is better than my erg score” logic. It doesn’t fly with college coaches and as Kerber from Cornell said, hope is not a strategy. That goes back to the earlier discussion of how important is technique – it’s important and you need to be decent but erg scores are the most objective form of evaluation coaches have so if it’s not up to par, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Also, never say you don’t know your 2k. It’s ridiculous that you’re even entering into this process without knowing what it is so before you start filling out questionnaires, emailing coaches, etc. get on an erg and do one so you have an idea of where you’re at right now. You basically need to know two times – your PR and your most recent time. They may or may not be from the same test, it doens’t really matter. If you haven’t 2k’ed in awhile, do some training on your own and test before practice. Make sure you have a coach or your coxswain (but preferably your coach) there to verify it too. 4x500m at your goal splits with 2min rest between the pieces was one of the workouts suggested by a couple of the coaches so that would be a good starting point if you’re planning to test soon.

Next week: (More) Questions to ask college coaches


How to Prepare for a 2k Test

Now that almost everyone is in full on spring-season mode I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about the best way to prepare for a 2k and how to do well on it. One of the more popular posts on the blog (#2 or #3 currently) is this post I wrote on 2k strategy  (linked below) back in 2012. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out.

Related: How to survive winter training: 2k strategy

Below are three more tips on how to prep for a 2k in the days before your test. Coxswains, pay particular attention to the last one.


Seriously, get plenty of sleep. For at least the 2-3 days leading up to your test try to make sure you’re getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. If you have to wake up at 7am for school, commit to going to bed by 10:30pm or so. I always end up laying in bed scrolling through Instagram for about 30 minutes (or more) before I actually fall asleep so whenever I know I need to be in bed by a certain time I always factor in a 20-30min buffer, that way I’m actually falling asleep roughly around when I’d initially planned to go to bed. Your body needs time to recover and a lot of that recovery happens when you’re sleeping so if you’re not getting enough, especially before a 2k, then you’re kinda putting a ceiling on your performance.

Fuel properly

Same as the sleep thing, for at least 2-3 days before your test make sure you’re drinking a lot of water. I’ve started carrying around a 32oz Nalgene and trying to drink one of those every day. Obviously while you’re training you’ll need a bit more than that (I think most of our guys probably try to drink at least two full Nalgenes each day if I had to guess) so I would carry a water bottle around with you and drink it throughout the day so you can ensure you’re properly hydrated.

More than anything, staying hydrated will help keep your heart rate from skyrocketing during your test, which is important. When you’re dehydrated your blood is thicker which means your heart has to work harder to pump it throughout your body to your muscles, which in turn increases your heart rate. When you’re working hard like you are during a 2k you don’t want your heart rate to be spiking like that because it just makes you feel heavy and fatigued and uncomfortable a lot sooner than you otherwise would.

Related: So this might sound funny but why am I always hungry?I I’m a high school girl and I began rowing about a year ago so while I have my general bearings, I’m still learning something new about the sport everyday and I was just curious. Ever since I’ve started rowing I’ve noticed that I have a much bigger appetite than when I participated in other sports. Is it just cause I’m a growing teenager or is this every rower?

In addition to drinking water, make sure you’re eating good foods. If you don’t typically have a healthy diet try to start making small changes and replacing the food that’s not doing anything for you nutritionally with healthier options. Definitely make sure you’re eating breakfast, even if it’s just some toast or a banana, and try to eat several small meals throughout the day instead only two or three big meals. This will help keep you fuller for longer and avoid any mindless snacking.

Eating healthy while you’re training is a good habit to get into in general but it’s also important leading up to a test or race. It’s like fueling your Maserati with regular gas vs. premium. It’ll still run on regular but it’s not going to run as efficiently as it would with premium and it might end up hurting the engine in the long run. Same thing applies with the food you eat.

Have a plan

I posted this picture on Instagram a couple weeks ago after our guys did their second 2k test of the season. Something we’ve started doing with them this year is having them write out on a note card how they’re envisioning their race plan and taping it either on the side of their screen or down near the handle rest. It’s honestly more for them than it is for us but it’s also been a great tool for the coxswains as well because they can see what your goals are in terms of splits and overall time and use that to cox them.

Some of the guys have also written down specific things they want the coxswains to say (including if they want a specific coxswain to cox them, which you can see on that picture) which is also really helpful for us and them. If you don’t want to be coxed this is also a great place to write that down (large enough that it’s visible) so the coxswains/coaches know not to bother you.

Related: Words

When it comes to having and writing out your plan, it doesn’t need to be super detailed. All these guys are engineers so they’re super methodical about pretty much everything but there are a few guys who keep things simple and just write down the splits they want to hold for each 500m. Others write down little reminders to themselves, like “breathe” or a technical focus that they’ve been working on recently. There’s really no right or wrong way to do this, just write down what works for you.

Ultimately what it does it break down the race into smaller, more manageable components and gives you targets/mini-goals to go after … that way once you’ve passed them it’s a kind of like a little mental victory which can be a huge motivating factor as you get closer to the end. We’ve gotten pretty positive feedback from the guys (and the coxswains) so it’s definitely something I’d recommend trying at least once.

Video of the Week: 2000 meters, 5:48…

Thought you guys might like some motivation before your next 2k test. His time of 5:48 is about 12 seconds off the world record (5:36.6 by Rob Waddell of New Zealand), his split is a 1:27 average, and he’s pulling an average of 530 watts. His reaction at the end (and the fact that it takes three guys to sit him up) is one of the best parts of the video.

Question of the Day

What are some good erg workouts that you find particularly helpful to lower 2k times?

Steady state! Longer pieces (45-70min total) help to increase your aerobic capacity which in turn allows you to go harder for longer. The key is to do them at a consistent, manageable pace so that your heart rate is consistently in the 140-170bpm range, give or take a little depending on your individual fitness. If you’re going out and doing long pieces but at a high percentage of your max heart rate, you’re most likely going above your anaerobic threshold which is counter-intuitive.

You also want to keep the stroke rates fairly low – somewhere in the 18-22ish range is usually good. If you know your 2k split you want your steady state split to be 16-18ish seconds above that. If you’re going off your 6k split it should be about 10-12 seconds above that.

Some examples of workouts include 7×10′ (2′ off between pieces), 10k at 18-20spm, 3 x 20′, etc. There’s tons of good examples on the /r/rowing sub on Reddit – just search “steady state” and you’ll easily be able to see what other people are doing.

Don’t forget to include interval stuff as well – 8x500m, 4x1k, 1:40 on/0:20 off, etc. In order to row well you’ve got to have a good balance of aerobic and anaerobic fitness so that you can go hard and fast when you need to and then be able to settle into a solid pace for an extended period of time.

Question of the Day

Hey so following that junior girl, I’m going into junior year as well, I’m 5’9″ and on the lower side of lightweight. I pull an 8:00 2k, and I know that’s not low enough but do you think I may have a chance at recruitment? There’s only so many lightweight options and I’m not at that level, so I need a compromise. Tips for really getting that time down in the next year?

D1 programs tend to look for 2ks around 7:40-7:45ish as a starting point. As a junior, you’ve definitely got time to shave some seconds off your current 2k, it’s just going to be a matter of putting in the meters to get it done – basically it comes down to steady state, steady state, and more steady state. Build up your strength and endurance too – try to incorporate some lifting into your routine over the summer, as well as some cardio (running, biking, or swimming are great options).

I’m not sure if this is a misconception or just something that people don’t know but you don’t have to be recruited to row on the team in college. You could just email the coach up and say “hey, I was accepted into the Class of 2017, I rowed for four years in high school, and I’m interested in walking on to the team.” If you’re not sure your times are good enough to be recruited or after talking to coaches you don’t get any offers, you should consider this route.

To be honest, if you’re on the low side of lightweight (I’m assuming around 115-120lbs?) you’ll probably get more requests to cox rather than row, even though you’re tall. Height isn’t as much a big deal for coxswains as weight is, so even though the majority of us are vertically challenged there have been known to be a few tall coxswains. Your height is great for a rower but being 20+ pounds lighter than the other openweights can make it hard for you to actually be competitive with them, which is probably what coaches will point out.