Sunday, March 03, 2013

How to: Pull a 2k test

UPDATE: I'm going to "bump" this post from last winter, as there seems to be a bit of "action" on it. I won't change anything I wrote at the time, because I still feel the same way. So, instead of searching for this post, here it is again at the top of the stack.

, here we are after the turn of the year, when most crews start testing over 2000m in preparation for sprint season a few short months away.

The 2k test became a staple in the rowing world in 1996, when the Charles River All Star Has Beens changed the format of their little event from 2500m to 2k. Everyone can blame these clowns for the invention of the dreaded erg test in 1980. They thought it would be "fun." Thus the erg, never very popular before, became synonymous with pain.

You see, there is a big difference in discomfort between a 6000m and 2000m test. As I've written before, the 6k is a test of endurance and mental toughness. The 2k emphasizes endurance, power delivery, mental toughness, and pain tolerance. The 2k hurts you, if you do it right. It hurts you a lot, and being mentally prepared for that pain is far better than not knowing what you're walking into. So, off we go.

I loved only one thing about 2ks, and that was the feeling of the first 350m. All the nervous energy would burn off, and most people get to their target split without too much trouble. (Always have a goal or target for a 2k. Always.) After that first 350 is the beginning of the "fun," because the rower starts to hurt.

Not a lot at first, but enough to be noticeable. Lactic acid was produced in that first 200m burn, and it ends up in the muscles where it was born, so the legs start a little complaining. The best route here is to find that goal split and concentrate on "building the piece" of as many of those splits in a row as possible. If 1:40 is the goal split, make sure every stroke is there at 1:40. An early indication of a piece in trouble is the inability to hold that goal, with the splits jumping around with every stroke.

At 1500m to go, I'd like to take a little power 10. Nothing serious, just 10 strokes to push the splits down 1 or 2 and get ready for the worst 500m of my life. Because the 2k is going to fail or succeed right in that second 500m, and the mental toughness of the athlete will decide it. Right there, I would usually think, "I can't hold this pace. I need to back off," because here it really starts to hurt and you are not even halfway done yet!!! But know this:


Why? Simple: The difference in power output into the machine from a 1:40 to a 1:42 is mere percentages. The athlete will still hurt just as much producing the energy for a 1:42 as a 1:40. But the mental drain that comes from "stepping off" just a little opens the door to "stepping off" a lot. Suddenly, an athlete whose goal was 1:40 and was capable of holding that split is pulling 1:44 or 1:45, gasping for breath and wondering why they still hurt so much.

The lesson, as always: RACES ARE WON IN THE MIDDLE.

Tough it out through that second 500m. The time from 1300m to go to 1100m to go will be the longest 42 seconds of any one's life. Gut it out.

At the 1000m to go mark, it's time to take a power 20. Why? To prove you're still alive and attacking this test. Always attack. Suffering along is waiting for another boat to come and get you, so train the 2k test like you plan to row in the spring.

I always felt a sense of liberation as the clock dropped below 900m to go. The worst was over, it was more than halfway done and I had "held the line" of goal splits. A good piece will find the athlete still holding the goal split for a majority of strokes from 1000m to 700m to go.

Here's where my process differs from what I'm teaching the CC novices. I would always "step" at 700m to go, dropping the split down one and holding it there. At that point, a one second difference will move the average split number after 6 strokes or so, and it feels good to be going faster than the average split number. I imagined each 1/10th of a second on that average was one seat of an opposing boat, and I needed to "walk up" that boat, taking seats. I would prefer the novices to hold their goal splits through here, saving mental energy for.....

....the last 500m. As a coach, when I'm selecting a boat, I want to know two things about an athlete's erg test. Did they hold steady through the second 500? Did they go faster in the final 500? Yes, taking a power 20 at the 500 to go mark is great. But a power 20 that is only 1 second faster that what was being held, followed by dropping a second slower isn't what I'm looking for in my first boat. As you can see, races are getting closer as time goes on, and that last little inch just might bring a National Championship. Is the athlete capable of being on the winning side of a race like this one?

So, that final 500m tells me a lot and told me a lot when I would suffer through this. Lift once at 500 to go, keeping whatever rating I was at, then lifting the rating and leaving whatever energy was left in the final 200m.

The key to the sprint is to stay long with the legs and not shorten the stroke, and to sit tall with the body. The athlete's legs are in cramping, burning agony at this point, and the easy way out is to start rowing half slide and asking more of the back and body. This might work fine on the erg for a few strokes, but the back muscles aren't big enough to produce as much output as the legs, and the splits will fall off. Plus you don't sprint at half slide on the water.

Remember, after all, we're doing this to go fast in real boats on real water. Ergs don't float.


Paul Luther said...

Good post. But it brings back painful memories... This Wednesday is going to be interesting. (first 2k test of the year)

Anonymous said...

that was hell, simple and true

Anonymous said...

thats a good discription of the erg test. it will help me alot. as a young rower (16) 2km tests have alot of pressure surrounding them. Whats a good erg score for a women LWT rower my age? im currently pulling just under 8min

brother x said...

Thanks for the post Jay. My first 2k test of my collegiate career is next saturday. I hope to go 6:54ish. I think this approach will work best.

to the above anon.
You are fast. Going sub 8 for girls is similar to going sub 7 for guys.

Anonymous said...

Sub 7 for guys is no longer fast

I weigh 142 pounds and have pulled a 6:55 (j16) Now as a junior i have to do that rate capped at 24, in 2 weeks if i want to go to trials. great...

Anonymous said...

6.30 at rate 24. I've just turned 16

Anonymous said...

point proven

Coach Jay said...


In my experience, those who spend lots of time bragging on their erg scores usually have some other sort of issue that needs to be addressed. Either technical, or mental.

My point, young man, is that nobody wants a braggart in their boat. That's not what rowing is about. I've rowed with and seen plenty of your type before. When the coach mentions a technical problem, you smirk to yourself and think, I'm fine, I'll just pull harder. After practice, you talk with one or two other people, complaining that somebody doesn't belong in the boat and they're not pulling hard enough.

Frankly, BOY, you haven't won s***, you're too young to know s*** and your arrogance displayed here reveals a character flaw that leads me to predict your rowing career won't last much beyond some mediocre time spent in a second or third boat. Oh, I'm sure that some coach at a high-level institution will see your great erg score and get fooled into thinking you're something special. That is, if you have the grades to get in, which I doubt. However, you will get beaten in seat races by men who are quiet, row well, match up with the crew and are 20 seconds slower than you on the almighty erg. Your coach will shake his head, try to put you in the varsity, and give up after losing a few races.

This blog is a forum to talk about rowing, coaching and exchange ideas. Not anonymous spray-painting on the walls. But here's the part where you prove what kind of person you are: You'll do one of three things.

1) Slink off, thinking "what a loser, I don't need to prove anything to him." When we're all thinking the same thing about you.

2) Post some sort of childish retort, complete with the phantom races that you've won, but keeping your school/name out of it. Kind of like how you DO have a girlfriend, but she just goes to another school. And you don't want to tell anybody her name.

3) Grow up, say I'm sorry about coming off like as ass. Go talk to your coach and honestly ask him how you can make your *team* better. Realize that there will ALWAYS be somebody with a faster erg score and you'd better figure out how to make the boat move and move with your teammates. Somehow, I doubt this will be the end result.

Don't come in here bragging about being a big dog, son. The only bragging that goes on here is about somebody's TEAM. If you want everything to be all about you, then you're in the wrong sport.

Besides, it's my blog, so by definition, I'm the BIGGEST DOG THERE IS.

Anonymous said...

jay you fat ugly overweight middle aged man waht gives you the right ot talk to someone like that?What have you done that makes you so special.I sincerly hope you die of brain cancer in the future.

Coach Jay said...


I see you chose number 2. Congratulations, you're a coward.

You obviously don't know me personally, or you wouldn't question my experience in rowing. Or, if you do know me personally, obviously you didn't listen all that well, because you're still scared to put your name to your comment.

Anyone who has read this blog can figure out my accomplishments without me giving some self-serving, arrogant list. I don't need to do that, nor do I want to.

Your further mental vomit merely continues to prove my point. You're young, think you know something about rowing after two or possibly three years in the sport and have a worse temper and less self control that I do. (That's saying a lot!) You probably shout a lot at your coxswain, find ways to blame him/her for lost races and are generally a disruptive influence on your team. They are all thinking the same thing: Go row a single.

Last chance, little boy. Either shut up or grow up. Another rude anonymous post from you and your IP address will be blocked. True, that won't stop you from posting from somewhere else, but it will bring me some satisfaction of being proven right, again: You won't have the guts to but your name on your words.


Anonymous said...

6:12 @ rate 28 just turned 17

Anonymous said...

Jay- (different boy)I agree with what your saying, but after doing 2k tests I know what its like to want to share your score. However i refrain for that very reasons you listed; basically a modest rower is a good rower. This kid shouldnt be boasting though. He obviously has not seen some of the "machines" (as my coach calls them) he will be competing against. I have a 2k test tomorrow and I hope to get something around his score, but I know I have a long way to go, where as this kid obviously thinks he is the man. I am 16 and have been rowing for one year and have already gotten sucked into it. I know where you are coming from. By the way that picture of nationals is my team coming in second. I didn't row at the time, but our new team is hoping to someday fill their shoes (soon if we work hard enough). Thanks for the advice on the 2k. I have found that another good strategy is to go faster than your goal pace for the first 500m, your goal pace for the second 500m, a little slower for the third 500m , and then go crazy and give what ever is left.

Anonymous said...

Great Advice! I just took a 2K and the strategy worked well (even though i felt my legs would burn off in that last 500m). Thanks so much.

But what rate would you do a 2K at? I was at a 28 but i felt that that was too slow.

Coach Jay said...

To answer the rating question, I've always left that up to the individual rower, withing some parameters: At least 26, no higher than 31 on the "base" part of the piece. Much higher than 30 at the high school level and the oarsman is wasting too much energy going up and down the slide, in my opinion.

The last 500m, all rating caps go out the window, along with sanity, consciousness and reason. Sometimes lunch follows. :)

For the "different boy:" Wow, that was an incredible race. I was there, calling the races on the water and those two boats were in a dogfight all the way down the course. I find your strategy interesting, because it really requires a lot of mental strength to "hold on" where you want to be in that third 500. If you can pull off that system, I'm a little impressed. Make sure you don't drop too far in that third 500 though, and good luck in the future.

Speaking about that race, I thought there should have been a re-row. That's basically a dead heat, and I'm more than willing to bet the aligner wasn't that close when he put up the white flag at the start. You've given me an idea for another post.

And here we are again, Mr. 6:12. Yay. Call us when you've won something that matters. We'll be waiting, a long time.

theoarsman said...

Jeez Coach, just reading this post made my stomach start to turn. Way to bring the agony home.

Anonymous said...

I recenty pulled a PB and my stroke rate never dropped below 35 for the whole piece, do you think I would have gotten a better time if I had rated around 32? I feel comfortable at high rates, although I did die a bit in the final 500, from what you are saying, Jay, it seems that I may have wasted energy sliding instead of using it for pulling, what do you think?

Coach Jay said...


Yeah, I do think that's just a little high. Unless you're pulling the piece at damper setting 1 or 2, I think that you're rowing a little too high.

While the erg is the closest thing to the water that we can achieve on land, remember what it's designed to mimic: an erg is supposed to resemble a single scull. Singles move much slower through the water, and also the "power" portion of the stroke is slower. Singles usually race at lower ratings than 8s.

I guess my question to you, mr suicide high rating, is how do your legs feel afterwards? Do the quads ache, or do the thighs under your legs hurt? If the underside of your legs hurt, then you're burning too much energy going up and down the slide.

What does your coach say?

Anonymous said...

Hey Jay,
Starting off my second years' 2k's have been pretty unfun. I developed a habit of going really hard in the begining of all my erg work and than taking it easy through the rest of the piece until the very very last portion where i would sprint. Periodically i would check your site for any juicy material that you would put up and i came across this wonderful entry, and as i read it i realised i had strayed away from the correct strategy of erging. So as my next 2k came along i stuck to the old ways and i managed to PR 4 spm lower, sprinting at 150 to go, and i still had energy to do 50x50 fairly easily after. So thanks to your blog i see how very unproductive i really was, and now that i'm back on track i think i'm really going to be able to lay it down hard. Right now i'm 7:06(about 22 sec better than my last year PR), and i hope by the end of the month i'll be able to breack 7 min.. I'll keep you posted...
Hope All's well,

Coach Jay said...


Great to see. Sometimes you just have to change up how you approach the erg to make a difference. Keep getting faster, I'm hearing good things about you.


Anonymous said...

That was probably some of the best advice I've gotten for pulling a 2k. I'm a collegiate novice, and my first 2k test is coming up in exactly one week, so as you can imagine I'm somewhat nervous. Obviously it's going to hurt a ton, but your post helped take some of the anxiety off. Thanks again,


Stonal said...

Great post, I'm going to follow that advice when rowing at the Crash B's for the first time this Sunday (damn I'm nervous). My best time last year was a 7:01 and I'm about 165 pounds, but my technique is good (its taken years to get it that way). So a few questions: my coach doesn't like us listening to music during timed 2k's at school because he wants us to get the closest experience to being in the boat during a race, I've got a two song playlist of really heavy medal to bring a few adrenaline rushes on during the piece at the Crash B's. Do you think this is wise? Should I just skip the iPod alltogether to better my focus? And finally, do you coach a school going to the Crash B's?

Anonymous said...

i am very consistent and good on 6k tests, but i just cannot do a full 2k. i always wimp out. HELP ME

Coach Jay said...


I've only been to the BIG Crash-Bs in Boston once, when my lunatic mother decided to compete. Sorry, but I won't be there this year. Good luck though! If you're used to not getting tunes during your 2ks at home, then I might not introduce something new in Boston. I LOVE my iPod and don't erg without one, but if you've not been using one, it might become a distraction to you. Wires running everywhere, when to hit the "play" button when the starter is counting down, etc. Will you have someone in your ear when you're racing? Coach, friend, etc?

Coach Jay said...


First, a few questions. If you're "wimping out" on a 2k, but are consistent on the 6k, what do you feel is the difference between them? What has your coach told you?

One possibility is a slight lack of "crazy" on your part. Is the pain you experience going through the middle thousand what is causing your difficulty? If so, then some "pain tolerance" training is what you need. Try some 6x500m work, with 2min rest between each.

Sometimes it also helps having some coxing in your ear for a 2k, just to keep you on race plan. A coach, cox or even another rower might help.

Do you think any of this would help, or do you have some other issue? If the final 500m is your personal demon, you might be a little too aggressive on the pace that you're setting. Or, as some in this thread have also written, you might be rowing too high a rating, spending too much energy on the rating.

Anonymous said...

i feel that the 2 tests are very different. a 2k is A LOT more painful and takes A LOT more mental toughness. rather than a 6k where you are not AS painful. but i guess you are right, i take it at a really high rating, which i smost definately effecting my... everything. and thanks for the pain tolerance tip. AND thanks for replying so quickly. im coming in here more often to talk to you. haha.


Anonymous said...

oh and am i crazy for not wanting anyone yell at me during erg tests?!


Coach Jay said...

Well, rating many times is a factor of how physically large you are, and the setting of the erg that you're rowing. The lower the setting, the higher the rating usually.

Understand, I'm writing from a "heavyweight man" perspective. Most 2ks, I usually found a nice rhythm at about 27spm, raising to 29 for the final 500 and 30+ when I couldn't see in the final 250.

Part of the 2k is finding that sustainable (sort of) rhythm that brings the split that you desire. It should be hard enough that you honestly don't think you're going to finish when you've got 1200m left, but you should be struggling to get through the first 500m.

Look for consistency of SPLIT. You need to be able to hold the same number, stroke after stroke after stroke. If the split and rating are jumping all over the place, then you haven't found that rhythm. Again, 500m pieces are a great way to find this.

And no, you're not crazy for not wanting people to yell at you. But, unless you're racing in a coxless boat, you need to get used to it. Coxswains do sometimes say very silly things, and you can't let one comment throw you off your concentration, either on the erg or on the water.

Coach Jay said...

Check that. You should NOT be struggling through the first 500m. Blame William for distracting me while I was typing.

Anonymous said...

hey jay,
At the NA erg race i broke 7 min!! officially its 6:59.9 .... just thought i'd share the good news...

Anonymous said...

Dear Jay,
I randomly came across this post while I was searching for some advice on how to survive a 2k test and I have to say that this is the best thing I have read on it so far.
The only thing is, it really seems to be aimed at men....young ones too.
I row at Cambridge University (UK) and have gotten completely sucked into it within the course of just one term. I'm on my second term barely left my novicing days behind me. I really want to be the best rower I can be and help my crew to do well in the all important "May Bumps". The thing is, I'm a 30 year old woman (yep, I discovered the light late in life) and I wonder whether my strategy should reflect that. The times people state here....I don't think that is ever going to happen for me. But what can/should I aim for. I think it would help to have a goal.
So if you or anyone here has some advice for "senior citizen" rower...I would very much appreciate it.

Greetings from the old world,

Coach Jay said...


The difference between coaching style for young athletes and "masters" (27 and older here in the Colonies) athletes has been something that I've thought about before. My mother is a fanatic, coming to the sport much later than you! She has asked me to cox her through 2k's on the erg before, and specified that I approach it the same way.

While I've never suggested that there is only ONE WAY to approach anything, I do that that you can use what I've suggested here; that "dead zone" between 1500m to go and 1000m to go is just about the same for everyone. Just because your scores aren't near the times being discussed here, you can still attack the piece in the same way.

Don't be afraid to have an "aggressive" mindset. As an athlete in a power-endurance sport like rowing, aggression that you bring to your racing will help, no matter the level of your racing. Don't just "survive the piece," attack it!

Great luck! I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jay, your advice is much appreciated! I think you spotted a bit of an attitude problem here. You are right, I shouldn't just aim to survive. I think there is an element of fear involved...many of us who recently noviced still have to get used to "beasting it" and really giving it everything. Pain usually means "stop what you're doing right now", whereas in rowing it means "great, let's have more of the same". So I will work on reconditioning myself (mentally) and attack! Once again, thanks for your input.

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

Coach Jay,

Maybe this is an unanswerable question, but I am on a girls' high school team at pre-season about to row our first 2K of the year and we were wondering what might be a good goal split for sixteen-year-old girls. Our school doesn't erg much so we don't know what times to shoot for and it sounds like that's not something to be figuring out during the test. Do you have any advice?

Coach Jay said...

Ouch. For sure a goal isn't something to try and figure out in the middle of the 2k.

Assuming that you're not getting a lot of erg time, but I hope that you can get a few sessions on the machine before you're looking at that dreaded "2000" on the screen. Here's a suggestion:

Set up a machine for 500m. Pull the fastest time that you possibly can. (Be aggressive, but expect this to hurt.) Get plenty of rest, 10-12mins, then repeat. Don't forget to warm up.

Get the average of those two scores, add 8 to 10 seconds to that split, and there's a goal. I hope that your team has been doing some sort of endurance work before just jumping onto the erg for a 2k, though. Some athletes that have been doing other sports, such as swimming or cross-country running will have better scores than those who haven't.

Erg scores are unique as each person, because of differences in size, strength, fitness, pain tolerance and mental toughness. Add in technique, and you've got what makes boats go fast. Simple, right? :)

Thom said...

Great post. I enjoy reading your perspective on rowing and coaching.

I rowed in college for two years and fell in love with the sport. After being away from it for a couple years, I joined a masters club last fall. Last weekend was my first race with them and it is great to be back in it. I'm also starting to coach through learn-to-row classes that my club offers to the public. I will keep checking in with your blog. Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Coach Jay,
Although I've only taken two 2k tests, i can really relate with your analysis of it. I think that will REALLY help me on my next test. I have a question on my potential, normally i would ask my brilliant coach but I'm not sure how he'd react :).
I'm 16 and i've been rowing for 5 months. I've taken two 6ks and two 2ks. My PR splits for 6k was 2:14 a few months ago, and a 2:00 for 2k. I weigh 133 pounds and I am 5'8''.
I know this is a lot of information, all which I am not trying to brag about. I'm tell you all of this and asking you this question because I have fallen in love with rowing and aspire to row at an impressive university in a few years. What is your estimation on where I stand to meeting that goal in two years when I'm a senior?
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
P.S. Does Georgetown have a good rowing team?

Anonymous said...

6:20 and I'm a junior in high school
Can't row for shit in a real boat, though.

Anonymous said...

Hey coach,

I've been rowing for close to two years now (sophomore in college, 162 lb. 5- 11) and i've been fighting to break 6 50 all year, with a PR of 6: 54. I had an erg test coming up today and I took a look at this post a few hours before. So today i went down and thought about your approach all through the piece and pulled a 6 45. I just wanted to thank you for this very influential post, because it helped me greatly to stay mentally tough throughout the piece. I'm currently not in the boat i want to be in, and I'm hoping that this PR will send a message to my coach. Thanks again!


Coach Jay said...


You're just starting out, and you're making great progress already! These first few months of training will really help you drop your times and give you the ideas of how to approach your sport. I don't know about G-Town's women's crew, but most colleges have some sort of club or even a varsity crew, so surf around and even contact the coach. If you are close, take a tour and specify that you'd like to see the boathouse and speak with a coach.

Remember that NCAA rules specify that coaches can't call you back, unless you're a senior, so send an email or keep calling to catch one in the office. Also, your height will make you an interesting oarswomen as your career goes forward.

Coach Jay said...

Anon with technical problems:

What you're describing isn't a new problem. Pushing a 6:20 is something that took you awhile to get to, but you're frustrated that your technical shortcomings are keeping you back, and they are.

Somebody as powerful as you are at your age can actually slow down a boat if you're unable to "mesh in" with the rest of your teammates. I would imagine that you're frustrated at your coach a bit as well.

The best advice I can give you is a session this summer at Craftsbury rowing and sculling center, or some other rowing camp that has high-end coaching. Getting input and concentrated attention from somebody different can really help. After all, coaches can only use words to teach most of the time, and another person might have a better way of explaining things to you.

One of my oarsmen with a rather slow catch came back from just a weekend at Craftsbury vastly improved. Take a look at something like this if you'd like to get better in the technical arena.

Coach Jay said...


At 162lbs, are you rowing lightweight? Great results on your recent test; you have an idea of how "mental" this sport really is. You've been in the sport for two years now, so improvements are going to come a little slower than those first few months. For your next time out (hopefully you're on the water now and your next 2k isn't for 8 months or so), look to press the "base" pace just a bit, then carve off a few more seconds in that last 500m.

Go fast!

Anonymous said...

hi coach,

I'm most of the way through my first novice year rowing at graduate school. Most of the guys I row with are either just starting around 18 or have been rowing for ages, and though I have (relatively) solid technique and clarity of vision on the water, my land performance is a bit in shambles. I've just recently done my first 2k test and botched it horribly by burning through a power 20 right off the start at a ridiculously high rating of 42... the difference between my average split at 350m and 2000m was a solid 20 seconds. To be fair, I've been particularly exhausted over the past week and let my fitness slip a bit over spring break.

I plan on using your guide for my next test in a few weeks, but I was wondering if you could elaborate on how one should approach those first 350m, particularly the start and transition to target split. I haven't really done any regular, intensive, cardiovascular athletics before this year and I don't yet have the best feel for choosing and locking down on a sustainable rating. I hope that will come, but for now I want to work on mentally 'locking in' once I sit down on the erg, without overcooking it. Any advice?

Many Thanks,

Anonymous said...

Dear Jay,

I asked you for some advice a while ago and you gave me some really helpful things to think about for my 2k. I just wanted to let you know that I worked on it (using your race plan and all) and managed to knock 21 seconds off my PB in my boat club's official 2k test yesterday. I can't tell you how good it feels. Many thanks!!!

Greetings from Cambridge,

Coach Jay said...


When starting a 2k, I usually advise to approach it differently than you would on the water. I've always taught my kids to use our racing start, take 4-6 more "high" strokes, then settle immediately. Remember, unlike racing on the water, here you're racing nothing but that cursed erg and its miserable digital numbers. I think that you're burning up too much energy by going that high all the way through 350m. That only makes the "suffering" around the 1k mark worse, and leaves little energy for the sprint. I would suggest that you do whatever your club uses for it's racing start, take 3-5 more full power "high" strokes, then settle to a good pace for the rest of the piece.

Coach Jay said...


Great to hear! Remember that there will be good days and bad days on the erg, but if your 2ks can be the better days, you're doing very well.

On a side note, I guess the continued interest in this 2k discussion will bring me to "bump" it again to the top of the blog. I'm kind of surprised at this; I thought my "seat racing" suggestions would have garnered as much interest, but I guess the erg is still the dark cave of the sport of rowing, where all dread to tread.

Coach Jay said...

E (again):

By "racing start" I mean the first 3-5 strokes your club uses when starting from a dead stop, as in a sprint race. Thus, your "erg start" shouldn't be more than 10 strokes total. You're looking for a rhythm that you can (sort of) sustain for the body of the 2k, holding the same split all the way to 750m to go. Just wanted to clarify that.

Gerard said...

hi Coach, for our testing here in Ireland we do 5k's instead of 6, would you have some advice on how to approach the 5k?

Coach Jay said...

Wow. 5000s? You're taking me back, Gerard. Check out my other "How to" post on the 6k:

That would be my suggestion of how to attack a 5k. The slightly shorter distance only makes that critical area in the middle quicker. Consistency is the key on the longer tests.

Gerard said...

thanks coach Jay,
your post on the 6k definatly made a lot of sense to me, will be putting your advice to practice for my next tests.

Anonymous said...

I have a 2K in about 1 hour....That helped me plan my test.


Anonymous said...

Hey Jaymy erg times have seemed to have reached a plateau. I am only 20 but I can't break the PB I set at the start of last year even though I am training hard. I have been making technical improvements in the boat, and I believe that I am helping the boat (university 8) move fast, but I am frustrated that I can't impove on the 6:11 I pulled last year. Any idea how I can break the curse?

Coach Jay said...

UGH. The dreaded "plateau." I hated that situation.

Let's face it: the plateau happens and the reasons rarely make sense. Once you've been in the sport for more than 3 or so years, 2k PBs become margins of seconds, or tenths. The athlete is forever chasing tiny little improvements, while slogging along through a difficult, high-level training program. Here are some common hints to throw at the "plateau," but I can't really say which will be effective for any one rower:

Change your rating, or even your damper setting. If you have the aerobic ability to deal with a higher rating, perhaps settling somewhat higher or lower might help you out. Change things up. The result might be spectacular failure, or success. You never know.

At the higher levels of training, the rest you get before major testing becomes more important. How are you sleeping, not just the night before, but the few days before as well.

Fatigue from the training plan might also be holding you back. It's hard to improve a 2k test score if you pounded out "supermax leg lifting" or a all-out effort 6x500m the day before.

How are you eating? Nutrition and energy available for your systems to burn also comes into consideration at a high level. Especially alcohol. See this month's issue of Rowing News, where they examine the effects. But even if you're not crawling the pubs, splitting a large vat of fish and chips the night before a 2k test isn't conducive to max performance.

Finally, if all else fails, get nuts. Turn the monitor up so you can't see the splits and have a cox in your ear the whole piece. Race next to somebody you're in competition with. Wear a different hat, or start wearing one.

Plateaus suck, but try to mix up your approach a bit; once you're through that previous PB, then the seconds might start melting off a bit easier.

Anonymous said...

thanks a lot for the advice. a lot of the things you say are the exact phrases my coach uses- be mentally strong, attack the piece. I guess you could say that toughness is the most important factor in rowing.

reading this blog just gets me excited for crew season to start again! i'm sure i'll be looking at your seat-racing guide again come spring

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Anonymous said...

hi jay

-matt c

Anonymous said...

Was wondering if you have some killer advice for warming up to a 2k? I either feel like I don't warm up enough and my legs crash bad about 700 meters in or (if possible) I warm up to much and my legs shake during second half and I can't seem to get a tough end sprint out of them. Maybe I am just mental but I feel like my warm up is totally random and is the weakest part of my 2k race.
Any advice would be very valuable to me!

Coach Jay said...

Hmmm..... Warmups are all different, many times different for different people. All I can tell you is this: you need to find a warmup routine that fits you and stick to it, using that same routine every time, either on the water or erg, that you're going to do some hard work.

So, with that in mind, here's the warmup that I usually install with my crews:

--5 min minimum of hard steady state rowing. You should actually break a sweat with this. I'd prefer about 7 mins here, but sometimes the river setup just doesn't allow that.

--4 power 10s, separated by about 45 seconds or so. Ratings should increase from low to above race cadence, with the third being @ race pace.

--2 or 3 starts. The first should just be the first 5 strokes or so, the second and third having more volume, like the first 5 followed by the high ten.

Feel free to get off the erg between the 10s and the starts, to stretch, get some water and get the yips out a bit. But do something like this every time you're about to do heavy work and eventually your body will recognize the pattern and get ready for heavy stress.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

I'm a 6'1 girl entering my soph year of college and started rowing about 6 months ago...

my 2k PR is 7:38, but that was only the second one and I've been rowing every day for about 4 months since then...

I only did one erg piece this summer with my team and for about 12 minutes of work had a 1:56 split...

what do you suggest I shoot for when it comes to the fall testing, whcih is mostly composed of 5ks (did once in the first week of practice, the split I got on that is now slower than my steady state haha), as well as 10ks (which I've never done before)


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Anonymous said...

I am 18 and I am pulling 6:07 these days...

Anonymous said...

Coach Jay

I am not sure which ANON post set you off - but I hope it wasn't the simple one where someone posted their 2k time and age.

Frankly, the tone of your response was arrogant and rude - and not how my coaches at various levels ever spoke to me. We were all hotshots once, and acted as such, but the older folks needed to set the examples and not chastise like this with "BOY" etc.

Incidentally, you are considerably younger than I am, but I still scull every day and compete.

So let everyone be kinder to each other, especially as you don't know the level of talent that exists.

Despite rowing for decades, I am still learning and still have lots to learn.

Though it is fun to beat up a bit on the college scullers - strength doesn't equal speed. But if they put in the miles and the drills, it will be their time for sure.

All the best,

Coach Jay said...


The things that set me off are those who believe, like many here in the US, that their erg scores somehow make them the best, chest-pounding athletes out there. The kid who put "point proven" after taking about how others aren't fast for example. Those sort of comments aren't what I'd like to see, and yes, I do drop some rude comments on them.

I don't row that much anymore, that's true. Did a bit last summer, but that's not something that I've got time for in my life right now. And you're right, we've all got plenty to learn, always, in rowing. Those I drop verbal smackdowns on are those who decide to use this blog as an opportunity to grandstand.

Mainly, I write these posts for the crews that I coach, and there seems to be enough interest around the net for others to drop by and ask questions, which I'm glad to give advise on. There are other reasons that I haven't posted anything recently. Hope this answers some of your concerns.

Anonymous said...

OK I think we can put it to bed.

I didn't even like the tone of my post when I re read it.

(btw, I think the "point proven" was in response to sub - 7 not being fast anymore)

And I imagine in your defense, being around these guys at their age does have some influence to relate to them on their level.

Me, I am just around the old guys, but hey, our times at the HOCR aren't too shabby anymore! No one is yielding much it seems.

And there will come a time when you will return to rowing more. Sculling is peaceful and so elusive.

All the best,

Anonymous said...

Coach Jay,

Reading your descriptions really help me have an idea of what crew will be like and how mental it is. I get scared from all the descriptions of how painful rowing is, then I remember that backpacking and biking really really suck at some points but I love them. I didn't know anything about crew three weeks ago, other than it was very exhausting and I wanted to try it in college. I was just curious, does it take those first few months to figure out how to row and use energy over a distance? We had our first 6k test 2 weeks in and I had a 2:17 split which seems really sluggish compared to other times but the varsity members said that was pretty good for a woman just starting. Do most novices start really slow and see a big improvement in the first few months?
Also, please tell me real rowing is better than erging??? I've only been on the river once and I was so confused from all the new commands (we kept getting knocked around by power-boat wakes and getting in traffic jams) and only the bow 4 rowed for most of the time. I sure was good at catching crabs. No clue when I'll be able to get on the river again, hopefully next week! hehehe, those other girls don't have their physicals and I do! i love the st. mary's river.

Anonymous said...

Thanks i have found this very helpful. my first 2k erg test ever is tomorrow morning!
(i am a novice)

Anonymous said...

This helped me a lot, I went from 7:24 to 7:07 mainly by not going under my goal in the first 500 like you said and also keeping my split consistent from the 500m mark to the 1000m mark, these helped me a lot.