The erg, ergo, ergometer or rowing machine, as it is most commonly known, is a complex beast. For rowers it is a necessary evil, in a Concept2 form. It is perhaps one of the best land-based workouts a person can have if done properly. Although we have all, of course, been witness to the horror of ‘the gym rower’; with the arched back, hands being bashed in to the knees and the continual collision of the seat with front of the slide, it is as painful to watch as their backs probably are afterwards. However, back to the world of rowers, a typical rower will spend time on the erg on a more than weekly basis. With that time comes a love/hate relationship – an inner battle between man (or woman) and machine.
Apart from those truly bitter winter mornings, even during a bad outing, a rower can find some kind of enjoyment or peace out on the water. Even if it’s just a few seconds of that beautiful noise which means there is run on the boat, it is what reminds you why you row. The erg does not do that. But, despite it’s evils, much of the resentment we feel towards the erg is of our own doing. The reason, in my view, is because in every single session you get a clear and precise set of figures to denote how well you did; more often than not, you also publicly share these with your squad. On the water, every rower will have to do timed pieces or be seat raced, but it is not usual for every single outing (of a standard club squad) to be timed and dissected. If you have a bad session, you learn from it and move on. Sadly with the erg, many of us don’t allow ourselves that right and we allow those little numbers to consume us.
The source of much of my pain.
What do I mean by this you might ask?! Well, every week I endeavour to do a 30min rate 20 erg. The purpose: to build power and endurance. When I first started them last season, I got better every week, but then I started to level off and that improvement got harder to achieve. Then, one day when I was not on top form, my split was shockingly bad. Following the standard erg rule ‘never stop’, I saw it through, but I found myself ashamed to put my distance on to our training log. But, 12 months on, I want to go back in time and ask myself “Why?!”. We are all human and as a result, sometimes we are not at our peak and will deliver a less than optimum result. But, you should never judge yourself on the occasional bad erg, or listen to anyone who judges you. What is important is that, on a day where you could have chosen not to train or stopped mid-session, you persevered and finished the damn thing. Every metre laid-down on an erg is a metre closer to helping you win – not only because of the fitness but the mental determination. Also, we got a PB every time, what would be the point in trying?!