The Ergometer: An Inside Look at Winter Training


Rowing in the North Star state automatically imposes a dedicated relationship with a rower's favorite machine- the ergometer (erg), during the wintry months. 


This unique machine is engineered to mimic the basic components of the rowing stroke, aiming to build strength and cardiovascular endurance for the user; the double-threat that develops a competitive oarsman/oarswoman. Although the lack of minute technicalities create discrepancies between the seat of an erg and a seat in a racing shell, the Concept 2 erg keeps athletes in shape while the body of water is sealed with a layer a ice. 

The erg has evolved to become the gold standard for any rower who wishes to compete at the highest level of athletic standards, effectively forming a monopoly in any rower's workout regimen. Its popularity has climbed to a degree such that its metrics are used to measure a rower's candidacy for various calibers of rowing, and always coincide with National team and Olympic team time standards. These metrics include a couple different units of measurement: the most common, time per 500 meters distance (split), and watts (power output). Rowing organizations typically compare times from two standard distance tests: 2000 meters and 6000 meters.

Workout routines vary depending on athletic goals, coaching philosophies, and the race distance that the rower is preparing for. In general, workouts are characterized by distance and intensity with two general categories: anaerobic threshold and steady state. Steady state workouts are long by nature, and as the name suggests- are less intense than other workouts. They range from 10,000 meters to 20,000 meters, which last anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour and a half. Here is a basic outline of a typical week's training:

  • Monday: Steady State (SS)- 15 kilometers
  • Tuesday: High Intensity Interval Training (kettle bells, squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull ups, etc)
  • Wednesday: Anaerobic Threshold (AT)- 1:40 on, 20 off 2 by 9 rounds
  • Thursday: High Intensity Interval Training (kettle bells, squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull ups, etc)
  • Friday: Steady State (SS)- 15-17 kilometers
  • Saturday: Race Day- 5 by 5 minute sprint 

Although the vast majority of indoor training is dominated by the erg, the athletes include weights, running, and biking to strengthen the body, prevent injury, and diversify their cardiovascular palette. 

Many rowers dream of sunny, 72 degree mornings on the picture-perfect waters of the Mississippi River basin. Once the river emerges from its icy tomb in March, the athletes of Minnesota Crew will be reacquainted with their home.