Confession time: I had a period when I really struggled with erg tests. I would go out for every test shooting for a PR [personal record best time], and if I realized it wasn’t going to happen, it was mentally very challenging to keep pushing myself to the end. What was the point of the test if it wouldn’t show that I had worked harder and gotten fitter?
As an older and more realistic athlete, I now understand that while ideally every erg test is a PR, you can and should still have a good test no matter what your training and preparation have been leading up to the test. Sometimes an erg test will happen when you’re training for a race later in the year, or when you’ve had to spend some time recovering from an injury or focusing on school or your job. Being prepared for an erg test is first and foremost about doing the things that work for you, but I thought I’d share some of what I like to do to be ready for an erg test!
Prepare for a big race
It boils down to being prepared, and I like to break it down into three parts: the week before, the two days before, and test day. Confidence comes from knowing you’ve prepared. If you can check off those boxes leading up to the ergo, you’ll feel mentally and physically prepared, and that’s a huge step towards having a great test.
THE WEEK BEFORE: Test plan, playlist, logistics.
Having a plan for your 2K is extremely helpful. Your coach can give you suggestions for a race plan—usually what works is something similar to an on-the-water race you’ve had that went well. A few times in the week leading up to the test, make time to sit on the erg for 2000 meters and visualize your race plan while holding steady state splits.
Practice transitions—when you want to increase the rate or drop your split—and rehearse in your mind encouraging yourself through a good test.
If you can listen to music for your test, make a playlist several days before. A 2K is only two or three songs long, so pick ones that you know will inspire and encourage you. I’ll be putting up a playlist this weekend that you might find some good ones on! Check back Monday for my February blog playlist! You can also look through my teammate Megan Kalmoe’s playlist that includes one song from each of the women training here in San Diego.
If your erg test is somewhere besides your normal boathouse, figure out logistics ahead of time.
Make sure that you know how to get there and plan backwards so that you can arrive with plenty of time. Figure out what options are available for warming up and cooling down, and plan to bring a book if you’re going to be there well ahead of your race. The first year I planned to race CRASH-B’s, I showed up at the event site ready to register and come back later to take my test—only to learn that I was supposed to pre-register, and I only had 30 minutes to test in the “Bullpen” before it closed! Planning ahead will make race day that much easier.
TWO DAYS BEFORE: Sleep, nutrition, hydration, final preparation.
As you probably already know, a good night’s sleep the night before the night before your race, as well as the night before your race, are very helpful towards performing your best. Try to get the things that might normally keep you from that—such as schoolwork, work, errands, etc.—done earlier in the week so that you can be relaxed, get to sleep early, and log some good ZZZ’s.
Eating well and staying hydrated will also ensure you have a good performance. For the two days before your race, stick to foods you’ve eaten before and that you know sit well. Drink lots of water and other fluids, and if you’re not trying to make weight, consider adding a little salt to your meals to increase hydration.
The day before your test, if you are able to, do one last erg walkthrough. See yourself hitting your goals for each 250- or 500-meter portion of the test. The night before, pack your bag with water, snacks, your sweats, your mp3 player, and whatever else you want to bring to the test, so that you know you won’t forget anything for the big day!
RACE DAY: Stay calm, focus in, trust yourself.
After so much preparation, your race day will hopefully be without too many hitches. You’re physically and mentally ready—all you have to do is your erg test! Don’t worry if you’re still nervous about your ergo. As my dad says, “Everyone walks to the boathouse a little slower on test day”. But also be excited for the opportunity to test the work you’ve done and knowing that you’ve prepared for a personal best.
This article from High Performance Rowing has specific nutrition and warm-up recommendations for 2K testers—it’s definitely worth checking out! One thing that was especially helpful for me: you can fuel up with a solid meal 3-4 hours before your test, but stick to gels or electrolyte beverages within 2 hours of your test, so that ideally you’re racing on an empty stomach.
My PTC teammate Ali Cox also put together a great post for Concept2 last year about the specifics of race-day readiness for C.R.A.S.H.-B.’s, which you can find here.
This is a long post, but if you take anything away from it, I hope that it’s that with a bit of preparation, you can put yourself in a good position for having a personal best on your 2K! And also that you will probably look better than this when you’re in your last 250.
Good luck with your 2K preparations, and check back on Monday for the February playlist!
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