Why do rowers fear the Erg?

What can I do to help those who are?

This week we have 2km ergo tests for all the Senior athletes. A very usual scenario in any rowing club with any pretentions to high performance. I expect the usual mix of Personal Bests, ok scores and a few bad ones. All business as usual. What has been concerning me is that I have several athletes for whom a 2km ergo test is a real difficulty.

Now, grizzled, and grizzly, old rowing coaches like me frequently say things like ‘You’re not scared of races, why are you scared of the erg? Answers such as `It is easier in a race.’ Or ‘Ergs are harder than rowing.’ tend to elicit unsympathetic answers along the lines of ‘Then you don’t race hard enough on the water.’

Today I may just have learn’t something. One of my athletes told me he was worried by the erg test and told me why. He has high goals and high expectations of himself and he said that when he is on the erg and falls below his expected performance the machine immediately tells him and this is extremely hard to deal with. This fits with what I have observed where it is relatively common to see an athlete who is going well in an ergo test suddenly stop at about the 1000m mark and walk away for no apparent reason.

These guys don’t often stop!

It is easy to say that such an athlete simply needs to get hard, to ‘Take a spoon full of cement and harden up’. Whether this really helps I doubt. So what should I do? What can I suggest?

I don’t really have any great wisdom to share except general thoughts about how we all have to accept our current limitations and that greatness lies in strivng to overcome our weaknesses but I don’t think these will be of much use.

So what I am going to try is covering over the monitor on the ergo. I will use tape to cover all but the time and rating rubriks. The top two numbers shown below.

So instead of the full board shown above things will be simplified to ‘How long have I rowed?’ and ‘What is my rating?’. My instruction to the rower will be very simple ‘Do an 8minute piece at 28’. I hope, and believe, the result will be a good 2km score.

I’ll let you know how we get on.

Duncan Holland

4 thoughts on “Why do rowers fear the Erg?

  1. Farrell. says:

    I would like to know how you did get on. Personally I think it would have worked for me, but people are different.
    I ike to know how I’m doing as I progress so that I can take the relevant action. This is why I prefer side by side racing to Head racing and the modern ergos that give instant split data ( and other useful info) as opposed to the old Orange guessings that provided nothing more than a readout with the coach having to use the stopwatch and say at the end of each minute what your score is. If oarsmen are stopping due to mental difficulties ( basically a loss of. confidence) my own experience to overcome this is to do a few at a comfortable pace and then start to gradually tweak the score up in certain areas to get closer and closer to the target score. and train the mind to believe it is possible.

  2. Farrell. says:

    Sorry see corrected comment below
    I would like to know how you did get on. Personally I don’t think it would have worked for me, but people are different.
    I ike to know how I’m doing as I progress so that I can take the relevant action. This is why I prefer side by side racing to Head racing and the modern ergos that give instant split data ( and other useful info) as opposed to the old Orange guessings that provided nothing more than a readout with the coach having to use the stopwatch and say at the end of each minute what your score is. If oarsmen are stopping due to mental difficulties ( basically a loss of. confidence) my own experience to overcome this is to do a few at a comfortable pace and then start to gradually tweak the score up in certain areas to get closer and closer to the target score. and train the mind to believe it is possible.

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