The Resident Plan : An erg training plan for people with very little time

My daughter is in med school at a major urban hospital.  This means long and irregular hours and lots of stress.  I wanted to figure a reasonably well balanced plan to improve fitness for the 2k distance within a tight time constraint.

The plan is mainly based on the Pete Plan.  This is a cyclical plan with 3 “hard” sessions a week, and 3 “steady” sessions a week.  In the 3 hard sessions are a short interval session, a long interval session and a hard distance session.  The steady sessions are basically 8K done at a moderate pace.  The creator of the plan, Pete Marston, is an accomplished indoor rower.  He wanted a plan that would fit into his lunch hour.  It has some similarity to the Wolverine Plan, but dispenses with the parts of that plan that Pete found annoying.

So this, then, is a grandson of the Wolverine Plan.  The constraints of the plan are this.

  • Employ sound training principles
  • Actual rowing time is limited to 30 minutes per session
  • 3 to 7 sessions per week
  • Cyclical, progressive format (like the Pete Plan)

So, here, without further ado, is the Resident Plan.

The Resident Plan:

The plan is based on a three week cycle. There are no rest days, because life will provide those for you in the form of on-call hours and other interruptions.  In each week there are 4 hard days and 3 easy days.

The hard days are intended to provide a weekly balance of power, threshold work, and enough lighter work to facilitate recovery and maintain aerobic endurance.

Start off with a 2K test just to get yourself calibrated. (record your average split)

Since life is all about choices, the workout types are provided in priority order.  Try to get the three highest priority workouts done each week.  If possible try to get a recovery day between these workouts, but that is not mandatory.

Note about  how to row the intervals:  One of the key pieces of advice from the Pete Plan is to set your pace conservatively and stick to it for the all but the last interval, and then make the last one the fast one.  Then you can take the average pace of all your intervals and use that as the target for all but the last interval of the same session, the next time around.

Important Safety Tip:  In order to fit a useful amount of hard rowing into a brief workout window, I have reduced the amount of warmup and cool down in the sessions way more than I would normally like.  If you have extra time for a session, especially the short and long intervals, taking a few extra minutes in warmup is a very good idea.  If you don’t have time for more warmup, starting with a bit slower pace target in the first rep is a good idea. I also think that cooldowns are a good idea, although the research is not as conclusive as it is about the value of a warmup.  But a bit of stretching after a hard session is probably a good idea.

Session Types

Priority #1 – Short Intervals
The objective of these workouts is to improve your 2K performance.  They should be rowed at roughly the same rate (SPM) as your 2K.  The pacing should be about the same as your 2K for the 2′ intervals, and a little slower for the 3′ and 4′ intervals.  If you are not shaking after you do these sessions, you need to try harder.

  • Week #1: 7 x 2′ / 2′ rest ( 2′ warmup / 14′ work / 12′ rest / 2′ cooldown = 30′)
  • Week #2: 5 x 3′ / 3′ rest ( 2′ warmup / 15′ work / 12′ rest / 1′ cooldown = 30′)
  • Week #3: 4 x 4′ / 4′ rest ( 2′ warmup / 16′ work / 12′ rest / no cooldown = 30′)

The two minute warmup up:  Row nice and slow for 30 seconds.  Then do 5 hard strokes. Then 30 seconds easy. Then hard strokes for the rest of the 2 minutes.  For the hard strokes, aim for the target pace and rate that you will be rowing in the intervals.

Priority #2 – Long Intervals
The objective of these workouts is to improve your efficiency and economy and they can really help to improve your middle distance rowing.  They also teach you about dealing with discomfort.  The pacing should be about 6 second slower than your 2K split to start, but it’s going to vary from person to person.  Stroke rate should be a couple beats lower than the short interval sessions.

  • Week #1: 4 x 6′ / 2′ rest ( no warmup / 24′ work / 6′ rest / no cool down)
  • Week #2: 3 x 8′ / 3′ rest ( no warmup / 24′ work / 6′ rest / no cool down)
  • Week #3: The water fall 9′ + 8′ + 7′ / 3′ rest ( no warmup / 24′ work / 6′ rest / no cool down)

Priority #3 – Hard Distance Day
The objective of this workout is to work on lactate tolerance and efficiency.  Pace is going to be about 10 second slower than your 2K test to start (for the free rate piece).  Stroke rate will probably be about 4 beats lower than your 2k.

  • Week #1 : 30r20.  This is a classic power workout.  You row as hard as you can for 30 minutes but the catch is that you row at exactly 20 spm for the whole piece.
  • Week #2: The 30 minute push.  This one is tricky to explain.  The 30 minutes is divided into 5 chunks, each 6′ long.  Row the first chunk at a reasonably easy pace.  Maybe 20 splits slower than your 2k time.  Then, at the end of the first 6 minutes, speed up by 2 splits.  So, for example, if you start rowing at a 2:10 pace, then you would accelerate to a 2:08 pace after 6 minutes.  Then after 12 minutes, accelerate again (now to 2:06).  Then after 18 minutes, do it again (to 2:04).  After 24 minutes again.  Do this one slow the first time, and then start a second or two faster the next time it comes up in the sequence.
  • Week #3:  Free Rate Day.  Choose one of the Concept2 middle distance ranking distances, and go for it.  Your primary choices are 30′, 6K, 5K.  No rate restrictions.  If you are doing the 5K or 6K, do a short warmup before hand.

Priority #4 – Power Day
The objective is to increase your anaerobic power and neuromuscular coordination to row at high rates.  The workout is loosely based on Peak Power Training from Ed McNeely.  This is the same session in all 3 weeks of the cycle.  Here are a few tips from the that article about how to do this session.

On a CII set the drag factor to 200. The high drag factor is necessary to provide adequate resistance so that you can hit a true peak power. Lower drag factors do not provide enough resistance and you will get lower peak power numbers. Warm up by paddling easy for 5-10 minutes. At the end of your warm up come to a full stop and let the fly wheel stop. Set your monitor so that you can see the watts for each stroke. From a stop row as hard and as fast as possible for 10 seconds, recording the highest power you see on any stroke. There is no rate cap but you must row as close to full slide as possible right from the first stroke, do not use a racing start.

  • 8′ warmup
  • 3 x ( 5 x 10″ hard / 50″ paddle) / 2′ rest (2:30 of really hard work, 12:30 of paddling, 4′ rest)
  • 3′ cooldown

Priority #5 – Easy Days
Although these are the lowest priority, they are the key to long term improvement.  These sessions are also the most boring.  You get on the rowing machine and you row for 30 minutes.  Your pace target should be about 2K plus 20 or so.  If you use a heart rate monitor, you should aim at having your heart rate below 80% of your max at the end of the session.  The purpose of these sessions is provide active recovery from the hard sessions, to build aerobic endurance and to improve the ability to use fat as an energy source for exercise.  These sessions can be replaced by a bike ride, run, or other aerobic activity.

The cycle

The whole point of the structure of this plan is so that you go through all the workout over a 3 week cycle, and then you come back and do them again.  You can measure improvement from cycle to cycle and you get better at the workouts.

Example 3 Week Cycle

Week Day Workout Type Session Target Pace
1 Sunday 2K Time Trial 2K
Monday 30′ Easy 2K +20
Tuesday Short Intervals 7 x 2′ / 2′ rest 2K
Wednesday 30′ Easy
Thursday Long Intervals 4 x 6′ / 2′ rest 2K + 5
Friday 30′ Easy 2K + 20
Saturday Power 3 x ( 5 x 10″ / 50″ ) / 2′ rest 2K – ?
2 Sunday Hard Distance 30 R 20 2K + 14
Monday 30′ Easy
Tuesday Short Intervals 5 x 3′ / 3′ 2K + 1
Wednesday 30′ Easy
Thursday Long Intervals 3 x 8′ / 4′ 2K + 6
Friday 30′ Easy
Saturday Power 3 x ( 5 x 10″ / 50″ ) / 2′ rest
3 Sunday Hard Distance 30′ Push 2K + 20 to start
Monday 30′ Easy
Tuesday Short Intervals 4 x 4′ / 4′ 2K + 2
Wednesday 30′ Easy
Thursday Long Intervals 9′ / 8′ / 7′ (3′ rest) 2K + 6
Friday 30′ Easy
Saturday Power 3 x ( 5 x 10″ / 50″ ) / 2′ rest
4 Sunday Hard Distance 30′ Time Trial (Free Rate) 2K + 10

What if you are on call and can’t do a session?  If you have a couple minutes, here and there, I suggest that you try to do some very quick body weight exercises.  Do 50 body weight squats.  Do a set of 20 push ups.

There are two options about what to do with the planned sessions when you need to miss multiple days in a row.  One option is to try to cram all the high intensity stuff into the days that you have.  The other is to just pick up with the normally scheduled session for the day when you return.  I have found that the second way is a lot easier to manage when my routine is disrupted by travel or other business commitments.  But you might be different.  In any case, after a lay off of 3 days or so, your splits will suffer a little, so don’t get all stressed about your times.


Wednesday:2 x 30′ spin

I feel like I’m falling apart.  Maybe it’s psychosomatic.  My knee is clicking away, over the past few weeks I’ve been bothered by some kind of a pinched nerve in my neck that hurts when I try to twist my head around (like to back up a car), and when I sleep.  My most recent complaint is my lower back.  I must have tweaked it when I did my “bumps” workout.  It was a little sore yesterday morning and I ignored it and rowed anyway.  Big mistake.  The rest of the day, I had a constant lower back ache, and if I twisted or leaned wrong, I’d get a sharper jolt of pain.

Anyway, it hurt enough that I had trouble sleeping.  Rolling over was pretty painful.  And I have a lot on my mind. So, I felt pretty lousy at 5:15 this morning when I got up.

I decided that rowing was a bad idea.  So, it would be the tedium of the stationary bike this morning.

The plan:

  • 2 x 30′
  • a couple minutes of stretching between
  • easy pace: UT2 / UT1

The first 30 minutes, I just set the machine to manual and pedaled at level 14.  The second 30 minutes, I did “rolling hills”, which was less scenic than the name implied.

Mission accomplished.

Tomorrow:  Knee Surgery.  Guess we’ll call that a rest day.

10K L4

Slept badly,  my back hurts, a lot on my mind.  Rowing to specific power targets seems a lot simpler to me right now, but my HRs were off the chart on the high side today.

The plan:

  • 10K
  • L4 format, but with distance instead of time
  • 4 x 2500m segments
    • 1000m/750m/500m/250m
    • r18 / r19 / r20 / r21
    • 180W/190W/200W/210W
  • No HR cap.


Distribution of strokes by power


Stroke power versus stroke rate


One of the things that L4 workouts are supposed to do is maintain a constant work per stroke (SPI :-O)


Another way to see if you are maintaining a similar stroke technique as you increase stroke rate is to look at avg to peak power versus stroke rate.


Or the just the peak power.


Both of these show a slight increase as stroke rate increases.

Tomorrow:  I think I will do another bumps workout, but this time doing the slow bits at 2:05.


2 x 5K with bumps

I am doing my best to try to keep exercising as parts of my life go a bit out of control.  I decided on a very simple idea of just doing 10k a day.  Depending on the day, it might be hard or easy, but 10K takes around 40 minutes and I can get in and out of the gym in just about an hour.

I’ve done hard 10Ks, push 10Ks, L4 10Ks.  Today, I thought I would do a bumps workout.  I remember in the good old days of the concept2 UK site, that all of the 10SMPS folks would do these 8Ks with bumps.  They looked like misery.  Basically you row at about your steady state pace, and then every so many meters, you increase the pace to something faster (like 2K pace) for 100m (or 200m, or 250m, or whatever), then return to the steady state pace afterwards.

I thought it would be an way to get some faster rowing into the 10K format.  SO here was my plan for today.

  • 10K
  • 20 x ( 400m @ 2:00, 100m @ 1:45)
  • Free rate
  • Strapped in
  • No HR cap

Since this was a first attempt, I had no idea if this would be too hard or too easy.  It turned out to be too hard.  It didn’t help that I over-achieved on the sprinty bits.

I made halfway through, and I knew that I was in trouble.  I had decided that I would slow down the steady state, or drop out some of the fast bits.  That’s when the PM5 decided that it had gone just about far enough on this set of batteries and threw a persistent error.

The good news is that Painsled behaved perfectly!  When I looked later, the whole thing was safely on my iphone and it even handled the ignominious finish without any troubles.

I went to my gym bag, found a couple batteries (always prepared!) and changed them out in the PM5.  Then, with trepidation, I set up another 5K for more bumps action.

I only made it a couple of bumps into this one when I found that I couldn’t hold the 2:00 pace anymore.  My HR was sky high and wasn’t dropping much at all between bumps.  I skipped one bump and then rowed the steady state slower, between 2:05 and 2:10 generally, but slower right after the bump.

First 5K


Workout Summary - media/20161219-175842-sled_2016-12-19T11-48-29ZEST.strokes.csv
Workout Details

Second 5K


Workout Summary - media/20161219-2055100o.csv
Workout Details

So, next time I do this workout, I think keeping the slow bits at 2:05 might be a better idea.

Sunday: 10K L4 and some force curves

Plan:  10K L4.

Rushing around trying to get up to see my Dad, so just a quick 10K.  I’ve been pushing the intensity lately, so a bit easier to today.

  • 2500 m sequences
  • 1000m/750m/500m/250m
  • stroke rates 18/19/20/21
  • power: 180/190/200/210
  • No HR cap


Workout Summary - media/20161218-234402-sled_2016-12-18T11-47-55ZEST.strokes.csv
Workout Details

After I did the workout, I decided to do a little more rowing to try to take some pictures of force curves.  I’m trying to figure out what causes changes to the forceratio metric.

So, I set up a Just Row and setup the PM to show the force curve.  I rowed a bit at 18 until I got a reasonably representative force curve, then I’d take a picture.  Then at 20, then 22, then 24.  All of this was unstrapped.  I tried to get the power close to the 10Wx stroke rate target, but I was a bit enthusiastic, so all of them are high.  The stroke rates are a bit off too.  I think this would be a good enhancement to painsled, a mode where it would log the force curve, not just display it.

Tomorrow:  Not sure if I will have time to workout.  I have pre-op appointments in the morning and I will be scooting off to see my dad after work.

My Dad

I got home on Thursday afternoon.  My wife called while I was waiting in customs.  I called her back as soon as I emerged and she told me that my father was in the hospital and that I should probably head up to see him.

A little back story.  My father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June.  They determined it was inoperable and he has been on a palliative chemo treatment regime since then.  He had a few good months, but has been getting weaker since the beginning of November.  We all went out for dinner together the Saturday after Thanksgiving and was in good spirits through the whole meal.

He took a turn for the worse on Wednesday.  His wife had trouble waking him up and he was unable to walk unaided.  He was also confused about his surroundings.  She called the doctor, who told her to call an ambulance, and they took him in to the hospital.

I got up there Thursday and he was in rough shape. He was lucid at times, but he seemed unaware of the world on his right hand side.  Other times, he would lose track of what was going on and start talking about a project at work that he was leading more than 30 years ago.  The difference from Thanksgiving to now was striking.  But for short periods of time we were able to converse quite normally.    He dropped off to sleep after I was there for about an hour and I went home.  The performed an MRI on him later that night and found that the cancer had spread to his brain.

After a pretty lousy day at work on Friday, I headed up to see my Dad in the hospital.  He was lightly sedated, and asleep while I was there.  He is developing pneumonia which is likely to be what actually kills him.  He would come close to waking up, try to clear his lungs and then drop back to sleep.  During the day, they decided to move him to hospice, and around 7:30, a couple of EMTs showed up and got him all bundled up for the move.  After I saw him off, I came home.

Now I am trapped in the house by snow.  I’m hoping it clears soon so I can head up to see him.  I don’t really know what I am hoping to see when I get there.  All I know is I really want to be there.

Saturday: 2 x 5K Pushes

I love push workouts.  Almost always, I will do a 10K push, start at a 2:00 pace and then speed up a second every 1000m.  Today, I wanted to do it a bit differently, so I did 2 5K pushes.

  • 2 x 5K push workout
    • First 5K
      • start at 2:00 pace
      • drop the  pace by 2 splits every 1000m
    • 2 min rest (paddle and drink)
    • second 5K
      • start at 2:00 pace
      • drop the pace by one split every 500m
    • No rate restrictions
    • No HR caps

So, I stuck to the pace targets except for the last 1000m of the first rep and the last 500m of the second rep.


It was a good threshold workout. with some good variety of intensity.

It’s fun to look at the metrics for this workout because it is free rate and I just try to find the most efficient rate for each target pace.  It still comes out very close to the kind of increment I see in L4 workouts, about 2 splits per SPM.


On this workout you can see in increase in work per stroke as the stroke rate goes up.  In an L4 workout, this would be nearly constant.


I saw Sander included the avg/pk force ratio in his workout.  I wanted to compare.  Here’s mine.


So, my force ratio was 0.67, versus a 0.56 for Sander.  This is a much larger difference than I was expecting to see.  Here are the two parameters that go into the ratio.

bokeh_plot (96).png

To complete the set.  Here’s drive length.  You can see that I am back to full slide, with no significant knee issues.


This intrigued me, so I looked at drive length versus power and drive length versus SPM.  Nearly constant for both.  I think that’s a good thing.

Sunday: another brief 10K workout.  Probably just an easy L4.

Friday: 10K L4

I wrote some stuff about my Dad, but moved it over to a different post.  I decided it doesn’t have much to do with training.


I had a tough day at work on Friday.  There are multiple projects going on and one of them in particular is in that critical stage, that it seems all projects go through, where it looks like the world is ending.  I was supposed to review progress at 3, but they waved me off because they were in the middle of a test run, so I had a hole in my schedule.

I thought a quick workout would help me keep my head clear and thinking straight, so I headed to the gym.  I decided to do a 10K L4.  Since I am training so little right now, overtraining is NOT going to be a factor, so I dialed up the intensity.  Instead of trying to keep my HR below a cap, I just rowed to power, and I included a fair amount of work at 22spm and 24 spm.

Of course, since I was on a tight schedule, today had to be the day that Painsled decided to not work.  I am not sure whether it was because of changes in PainSled, or because my phone was in a funny state, but it would not stay linked to the PM.  It would get the first HR and then not update after that.  I tried a couple of things and couldn’t get it working, so I bailed on painsled and went to ergdata.  Say what you want about ergdata, it seems very reliable.  It always links, the syncing to the logbook is fast and easy.  The support in the logbook is getting better all the time.

Heres what the workout detail page looks like now, if you row with ergdata.


Pretty good huh?  It has all the basics including heart rate.  If it recorded the stroke metric esoteric that painsled does, I’d be really happy.

Of course you can’t do the stuff you can do on rowsandall.  Let’s use this workout for a quick comparison.

Workout summary:

  • rowsandall provides the ability to do summaries using distance or time.  concept2 is time only.
  • rowsandall provides a plot of power in addition to pace.  Since I row to power, that’s handy.
  • Splits:  concept2 provides the same splits that were defined in the PM.  rowsandall does the same as default, but provides a way to redefine splits, which I used to look at each segment.
  • Drag Factor:  concept2 has this on the summary page, for rowsandall, it is on the summary plot.
  • Accuracy:  Because rowsandall is reconstructing the row from stroke data, there is some error in the distances recorded, generally much less than the distance in a stroke.  This can cause significant changes in avg pace for very short intervals.
  • Concept2 log integration:  ergdata to concept2 log is incredibly easy.  so is export from rowsandall to concept2.  However, watch out for rankable pieces.  Because of the interpolation on rowsandall, if you export a HM you might end up with a 21094m which you can’t rank.  In general, for ranking pieces, I log them manually to make sure they match the PM exactly.  On ergdata/concept2 syncing, they seem to match exactly every time.  (I wonder if they are using features that they are not publishing in the API?)

Of course there is stuff that you can’t do on the concept2 log page.  Here are a few examples:

Time in Zone HR chart and Time in Zone Power chart

And of course flex charts:  Here is pace versus SPM.  Which I’ve defined as one of my favorites in the tool.

bokeh_plot (89).png

You can also easily generate a power histogram for the workout.

bokeh_plot (90).png

Or generate it for a range of dates, so you can see how well you are managing intensity for a polarized workout plan.  Here are all the erg strokes I’ve taken since November 8th.

bokeh_plot (91).png

You can see that I am in a low intensity, endurance maintenance mode right now, with very little work being done above 200W.

With regard to the workout, it was a useful diversion.  I enjoyed it so much that in the last 2500m, I decided to push it harder.  I did 500m each at 18/20/22/24 and 26.  I was rowing strapless so the 24 and 26 was a bit of a challenge.  I was in a much better place when I finished than when I started.

Here’s the summary

Workout Summary - media/20161217-143940-concept2-result-28153486o.csv
Workout Details

Not sure if I will row today.  It might be a good idea to keep myself busy until the snow clears.



Wednesday: 60′ of fitness center purgatory

I really shouldn’t complain…but I will anyway.

I finished up my last meeting today around 4 and was dropped off at the Movenpick hotel at the Stuttgart airport.  I thought it would be a great thing to go work out.  I had noticed when I checked in that the fitness center had a Model D rower, and I was itching to do some long slow meters.

So, I suit myself up, put on some nice podcasts, sit down on the rower, adjust the foot height, and pull on the chain.  It was bad.  Really bad.  The clutch was going on the erg, so it would lurch and grind on the pull.  I thought it might calm down over a few pulls, but no, it was entirely unusable.

If there had been no erg, I would have contentedly toddle over to the bike and just gotten going, but my shuffle to the bike after failing on the erg was quite depressing.  I hopped on the bike and watched the minutes pass glacially toward 30.  At 30 minutes, I had had more than enough pedalling, so I moved over to the treadmill.  Here I cranked up  the incline all the way to 15% and walked briskly (at 5km/h) for another 30 minutes.

By this point, I was tired, sweaty and bored, so I decided to call it a day.

Tomorrow morning I have a 7:10am flight out of Stuttgart through London back home to Boston.  It will be good to get back to a working erg!

Monday: Quick 10K in Munich

I arrived at 5:00AM on the red eye from Boston to Heathrow, and connected to Munich, finally getting there at about 10am.  I had found my train and gotten to my hotel by 11:15.  There was nothing on my calendar until 1:00, so I decided to bolt over to the “Fitness First” next door to the hotel and band out a quick 10K.  I had no real plan, and pretty low expectations since I was working on basically no sleep.

The club has two meticulously maintained model Es with Pm4s.

As you can see from the HR charts, I started a bit slow, then tried to hold at a HR cap around 160.  Then with 2K left to go, I tried to speed up and hold about 210W the rest of the way.  This was hard work.


I’m glad I did it, but it was pretty ugly at the end.