Training Goals and Overall Plan

With the end of the OTW racing season, it’s time to take stock and decide where to go from here.

First, a quick assessment of how this season went.  Basically, it was a pretty up and down experience.  I did much better this year avoiding injury, but I still struggled balance work, life and training.  Here’s what that looks like from a training load perspective.

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 9.19.49 PM

A few key markers.  Went into July of 2017 in pretty good shape, then between travel and vacation, I lost fitness.  I jumped back in and hurt my back and struggled through the rest of the season, recovering just a little bit by late October, when I had my disappointing HOCR outing.

In November I did fitness testing to get a baseline and started working with Marlene Royle.  Over the next couple of months, things went well and I redid the 20′ and 75′ tests, gaining 15W on the 20′ test and 7W on the 75′ test.

After January 1st, I was plunged into a very heavy period at work and I struggled to train consistently.  This pattern continued all the way to the beginning of OTW season and although I was hoping to do focus on some sprint training and do a 1k event in early July.  But, my work kept me so busy that my training was still a mess.  I was so frustrated with the lack of training time that I cancelled out of the races.

I was so strung out that I contemplated quitting.  But I decided that rowing was something that was keeping me sane, and the competitive part of it was the most motivation thing for me.  But what was the right way to deal with balancing it all out.  I decided that I needed to set my goals on doing one head race.  I was hoping it would be the HOCR, but I’d be OK with any head race.  And I put together a short, simple training plan to work on middle distances.

Luckily, that also coincided with a period of a bit less travel at work, and I managed to get more consistency in my training volume.  I posted these ideas on August 14th.  And from there, things started clicking.  I formalized the plan into a weekly schedule by the end of August.  And from there, I did a pretty good job following the plan.  The following table shows the number of sessions planned of each type and what I actually did.  So over 8 weeks, I missed 2 short interval sessions, 1 long interval session, 1 steady state session (if you count cross training as steady state).  I had 4 extra “rest” days, but in actuality, many of the rest days were actually travel days, which don’t have any training value nor do they have any recovery value.

Plan Actual
SI 9 7
LI 8 7
TH 7 7
SS 24 19
XT 0 4
rest 7 11

The result was a steady improvement in fitness through September and October.

I was happy with my performance in the Snake Race, and then did a round of fitness tests.  These tests showed that I was in better shape than last year by a fair margin.

Compared to a year ago.

  • Peak power:  +21W
  • 1000m: +20W
  • 20′ test: +15W
  • 75′ test: +13W

So, a strong end to a pretty spotty season.

So, what’s next?

Step 1:  Decide on goals.

Planned testing and races

  • End of Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb: 20′ test
  • End of March:  Fitness Tests (Peak Power, 1K, 20′, 75′)
  • Early June:  Provincetown Coastal Regatta (8km, Head race)
  • Mid October: Quinsigamond Snake Race (4km, Head Race)
  • Late October: HOCR (5km, Head Race)

Additional Goal:  My weight is up to 209lbs.  I would like to weigh less than 195 when I get back on the water on April.  I will start tracking weight.

Step 2:  Rough Training blocks

  • November – January: General Prep
  • January – March: Optimize 10km erg performance
  • April – June: OTW, develop plan for optimal 40′ perf
  • July – October: Head Racing Prep

Step 3:  Plan out each block

I’m only going to plan out block 1 right now.  In this block I would like to reduce my erg volume and add in core and strength training.  The rough outline is:

  • Monday:  rest
  • Tuesday: Core, Strength, optional 30′ SS
  • Wednesday: Alternate Long and short intervals by week
  • Thursday: Core, Strength, optional 30′ SS
  • Friday: Core, 60′ steady state
  • Saturday: Hard Distance
  • Sunday:  80’+ Steady State

Any of the steady state sessions can be replaced with cross training.

More details on the strength plan coming soon.




Quick and Dirty Head Race Training Plan

Given my work and travel schedule, I have to be realistic about my training objectives.  I don’t think it is practical for me to do anything to fancy or time consuming.  What I need is a simple plan that puts me in the best position to row up to my capabilities.

So, what are my events?

  1.  Quinsigamond Snake Regatta, October 13.  This is a tune up event.  No taper.
  2. One of these two.
    1. Head of the Charles (if I get a doubles draw), October 20
    2. Merrimack Chase , November 3

The basic plan is 6 sessions per week, alternating high and low intensity.  Since it is a relatively short plan (~60 days), I will limit the session types so I can get a better idea of progress and zero in on achievable paces.

  • 3 Low Intensity sessions, HR range 137-155
    • 1 technique focused session (like drills on the fives)
    • 1 long and slow at least 90 minutes
    • 1 ~60 minutes upper end aerobic
  • 1 High intensity Long Interval Session at about head race pace
    • 4 x 2K / 4′
    • 5 x 1500 / 4′
  • 1 High Intensity short interval/short rest session at about head race pace
    • 15 x 3’/1′
    • 20 x 2’/1′
  • 1 Hard Distance Session
    • ~6K on water
    • ~10K on erg

The day by day details are shown on this google sheet

What are my goals? (Really?)

I’ll get the the deep thoughts.  But first, a quick rundown of the spotty training that I’ve been doing.

Saturday, July 28:  10K hard.

Well, it wasn’t supposed to be that hard.  I just wanted to do 10K at around a 2:00 pace.  2:00 turned into 1:59, and I broke around the 7500m mark.  I got it back together and finished at pace.

          Workout Summary - media/20180728-1350240o.csv
Workout Details

Sunday, July 29:  75km bike ride.  Cape cod rail trail.

I was with my friend Jon and it was a great ride.  Parts of it were reasonably fast, but overall it was low intensity.  It did take nearly 3 hours, so it was a fair amount of work.

Later in the day, I decided to go kayaking.  I was launching the kayak from the top of the seawall and i let it go a little too soon.  I slid down the rocks and launched itself.  It was heading out to sea without me in it.  I rushed after it, lost my footing and stumbled on the rocks, scraping my left ankle pretty badly.

After swimming to go get the kayak, I jumped in and looked at my ankle.  It was bleeding pretty freely, but there was no way I was going to be denied my voyage.  I paddled for a about 40 minutes or so.  Back at the house, I washed the scrape and put on a bandage.  As it turned out, I should have taken the wound a bit more seriously.

Monday, July 30: 3 x 20′ / 2′ on Slides

Down on the cape, in the basement.  A bit too windy for a real row.  Just bopping along.  My ankle was throbbing in pain after I finished from my sock rubbing on the scrape.

         Workout Summary - media/20180731-0125260o.csv
Workout Details

Tuesday, July 31:  No Training

I needed to drive from the Cape to work.  It took nearly 3 hours, from 5am to 8am.  Then I was in meetings all day and into the evening.

Wednesday, Aug 1: No Training

I had an 8am meeting, and I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight, so I blew off rowing in the morning, intending to row in the afternoon.  As it turned out I was at work until 8pm, so no rowing.

Thursday, Aug 2: 8km steady state OTW

Pressed for time, because of an early meeting, but I really wanted to do something!  First time in my Fluid since July 11th.  I was very rusty.  But it was very nice to be back rowing.  I really enjoy the feeling and the concentration it requires.

Friday, Aug 3:  No Training

My wife and I headed down to New York City.  We had tickets for the Saturday performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play on Broadway.

Saturday, Aug 4: No Training


Sunday, Aug 5: No Training

Came home from NYC.  Had a bunch of work stuff to do once we got back.  Starting to get very frustrated at not having time to workout.

Monday, Aug 6: No Training

Staying up late on Sunday, resulted in getting up late on Monday, resulted in not rowing.

Tuesday, Aug 7: 14km steady state OTW

In Newton.  focused on technique, at r18.

Wednesday, Aug 8: 14km steady state OTW

In Newton.  today I was working on rowing with a lighter touch at r20.

Thursday, Aug 9: 14km steady state OTW

In Newton, same as Wednesday.  Just trying to get back some form and basic aerobic fitness.  My ankle was not healing right.  It was swelling up, and was red and hot around the area.  It also felt tingly in the area.  I decided to get it looked at by a professional.  After a very long wait, the doctor pronounced it infected, gave me a tetanus shot, had the nurse clean and debride the wound (which hurt, a lot), bandaged it up, and sent me on my way with a prescription for an oral antibiotic and instructions to change the dressing twice a day.

Friday: Aug 10: 8km technique work OTW

In Newton. After so much spotty training, having 3 days in a row was pretty cool, but I was sore and tired on Friday morning.  I decided to focus on technique, especially balance by alternating 2 minutes of square blade rowing with 2 minutes of r20 steady state.

After the workout I had a jam packed day until around 2pm.  Then I left to go home and then head to the cape.

Saturday, Aug 11:  No Training

My wife’s sister, her husband and two teenagers arrived in the morning for a visit.  The day was a blur of swimming, eating, drinking and talking.

Sunday, Aug 12:  3 x 20’/2′ on slides

At the cape.  We had a nice day, we kayaked around the island.  Jumped off the bridge at high tide, went out for a giant feast of fried seafood, and then went minature golfing.  We got home around 8pm, and I had to make a choice.  Have a beer, or go workout.  I chose the latter.  I did an hour of steady state on slides.

The rules of this workout are:

  • r20
  • HR limits
    • 1st rep: 145
    • 2nd rep: 150
    • 3rd rep: 155

          Workout Summary - media/20180813-0140260o.csv
Workout Details

Monday, Aug 13: 3 x 20′ / 2′

On Saturday, I felt like my ankle was getting much better.  I decided to leave off the dressing to let it get some air and scab up.  Then on Sunday, I think water immersion was a bad thing.  It hurt a little in the evening and then in middle of the night, it hurt enough to wake me up and keep from getting back to sleep.  I finally gave up and redressed the wound.  The ointment and the pressure did the trick and the pain calmed down after a little while and I got back to sleep.  I decided to stay out of the water on Monday.

Monday afternoon my sister-in-law and her family went off for a nature walk.  My wife and I stayed home and that gave me a window for an erg session.  Same rules as the Sunday session.  I needed to slow down a bit more in the 2nd and third interval to respect the HR cap.

          Workout Summary - media/20180813-2135260o.csv
Workout Details

Tuesday, August 14:  No Training – Travel

This morning at 3:45am, I got up, showered and headed out for the airport from the cape.  It’s about a 2:15 drive and I had a 7:13am departure.

I got to the airport exactly an hour before my plane took off, and by the time I got to the gate, my flight was boarding.  I didn’t even have enough time to grab a coffee at the airport.  I guess I’m lucky I didn’t run into more traffic.

I’m heading out to San Jose today for a couple of customer meetings, and then tomorrow I head to Austin for more customer meetings on Wednesday night and Thursday.  I head home on Thursday night.  I’m hoping I can get fitness center sessions in on Wed and Thursday mornings.

Whew!  I’m glad I took the time to write this out.  It pretty clear that I have to re-evaluate my goals.  One of the most important training principles is consistency, and right now I am not succeeding at being consistent.  I am trying to do too many things to be able to sustain the same training load that I was carrying a couple of years ago.  All of these things are, arguably, more important than competitive rowing.

  • My job has gotten harder.  There a big organization that is relying on me for strategic leadership and we have some serious issues to confront and solve.  I worked thirty years to get to this job and I want to be successful.
  • My relationship with my wife and family.  Some people have spouses with a common interest in sports.  I do not.  Time that I take for rowing is time that I take away from being a good partner.  That’s fine, up to a point.  But, especially since we got the cape house, there is a lot of logistics that we need to work on together.  I love being there, but the travel time and visitors have reduced the amount of free time that I have to train.
  • My health.  I have learned that I perform better in my job and I am a better person to be around if I am getting at least an hour of exercise a day.  With my families history of heart disease, I think it is also critical to make sure I don’t drop dead at an early age.  So, it’s a big deal to maintain some sort of structured training plan.  But I have also lost the habit of doing my PT exercises and I’ve noticed that my hip is starting to hurt again.  I’m making some bad choices right now.

I tried numerous times in my adult life to lose weight, and never succeeded until I took up rowing.  I think the main difference was that the purpose of exercising changed from “getting exercise” to “getting faster”, and the online community for indoor rowing provided a way to measure my progress and hold myself accountable for my training.  I need to continue to train “publically” and try to be honest about how I’m doing.  I think the primary change has to be in the ambition of my goals and structure of my training.

So, here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Keep racing, just a little bit.  Maybe one or two small races in the fall.
  • 5 sessions a week, not 6.  If I have extra time, I can add a sixth.
  • Simple workout plan, basically a variation of the Pete Plan
    • 2 “hard” sessions a week.  Aiming at <=60 minute work plus rest in each.
    • 2 endurance sessions.  As much duration as have time for
    • 1 Technique session 60-80 min.
  • Regular testing.  This is the hardest one to do because I hate to see the results.  But I think I need to at least do one 6km test per month.
  • Daily PT exercises.  Instead of doing these at the start of a session, change to do them at night after dinner.



Fall 2017 Fitness Tests

Screen Shot 2017-11-03 at 12.40.07 PM

This is in a google sheet: here

A little explanation:

  • Power:  Is the average power for the test (or the peak power in the case of the peak power.
  • PR Power:  Is the best performance over the past 4 years for the closest thing to these tests
    • Peak Power:  Low Pull Test in 2014
    • 75 Minute Test: Half marathon in December, 2015 (79:55 minutes vs 75:00)
    • 1K test: 1K test in March of 2014
    • 20′ Test: 6K test in December of 2013 (21:32 vs 20:00)
  • % PR Std:  This is how far I am from my best ever performance for this set of tests
  • 500m: Avg or peak split
  • Meters: Distance rowed, significant for 20′ and 75′ rows
  • SPM:  Avg stroke rate for the piece
  • Ratios:
    • 75′ test: % of 1K test power
    • 1K test: % of peak power
    • 20′ test: % of 1K test power
  • Ideal:  This is the range define my RoyleRow as idealized target ranges to help focus training planning
  • PR Ratios:  This is the same ratios calculated from PR powers instead of current test results.

The purpose of this exercise is to provide insight about training.  So, what insights are there.

  1. It is cool to see how consistent the ratios are from my best performance to my current performance.  I think that a big part of this is physiology.  My VO2Max to peak power is higher than target range, and my anaerobic and aerobic thresholds are below the ideal ranges by similar amounts.  It will be interesting if Marlene will want to focus on trying to raise my threshold results relative to my VO2Max, or if she will want to just push the whole profile to the right
  2. My peak power is closer to my PR levels than my distance stuff.  I think that this makes a ton of sense.  My total training load, and especially my load of aerobic training was much lower over this past summer than in past seasons due to travel, boat problems and injury.
  3. I was disappointed with the anaerobic threshold results, but it sure explains why I didn’t do as well as I hoped in the HOCR.  It appears that this furthers from my best performance and furthest from the ideal ranges.  This is also related to problems with training this summer and fall.  I essentially had 21 total days from when I restarted “real” training after my back injury before until the HOCR.  That was not enough time to move my anaerobic threshold much.

I will find out soon what Marlene wants to do, but my thought is to work on aerobic fitness using lactate guided training power, and complement that with a few short sessions a week at higher intensity.  I would also like to devote more training time to fixing some core strength and imbalance issues.

Look back over the last 3 months

This season has been tough.  Lot’s of work travel, family vacations, high stakes business meetings, and most recently a back injury.  I’ve been doing my best to use Stravasix to examine training load.  Here’s the past 4 months


I reached my peak fitness close to the end of june, by the Stravastix scale my fitness was a 105.  After that, there was a couple of back to back trips and meetings at work that squeezed my time.  I also spent more than a week on a family vacation where my training opportunities were limited.  By July 29th, my fitness had declined to 79.

As I got into August, I was able to be a lot more consistent and my fitness started to recover, getting back to about 90 by the 22nd of August.  Then I went into another heavy week at work and my training suffered.  I came out of that week and got a few good sessions in, but then my back gave out.

Over then next few weeks, I did some walking, running and cross training, but nothing with the necessary intensity to maintain my sharpness, and nothing with enough duration to maintain my endurance.  My fitness suffered.  By the 17th of September, my fitness was down to 65.8.

The good news was that the rest, core exercise and back hygiene had worked and my back had recovered to the point where I could start rowing again.  Over the past couple of weeks, I have gotten in a lot of very solid sessions and my fitness has recovered to 81.

At this point, I have to start to be careful about over training.  My fatigue level is quite high.  The sort of good news is that I have a trip this week and will need to take at least one rest day because of that.

The thing I want to do is maximize the training stimulus during this week and next week and ramp back the following week, right before the HOCR.

After that, it will be time to take stock and figure out where I go from here.


Forced back indoors

Up at 5:15.  Felt pretty tired.  Ramping back up to normal training volumes is a bit of a shock to my system, I guess.

Downstairs and straight into the core workout.  I still hate it, but doing the 10 jumping jacks between each set of each exercise breaks it up and makes it a bit more tolerable.  It takes about 12 minutes, and I just start to break a sweat by the end.

Then I drove to the river.  On the way, there was a bit more drizzle than yesterday, but it seemed OK.  When I got there, I grabbed my broom to sweep the goose poop off the dock.  While I walked to the dock, I noticed 2 things.  First, it was raining harder.  It was still very fine mist, but at a higher volume.  Kinda like a shower in a cheap motel.  And the wind was pretty strong, around 10mph with gusts to 20.  There is a tropical storm about 150 miles offshore and the wind field is overspreading eastern Massachusetts.

Anyway, just the walk to the dock was enough to convince me slogging into a headwind with a soaking rain would not provide a magically rewarding fitness experience.  So I walked back to the car, drove to work and headed to the fitness center.

The Plan:

  • 15′ warmup – treadmill death march (15% grade, 3mph)
  • 3 x 15′ static erg
    • 20 spm
    • 2:08
    • HR limit: 155 (hopefully lower)
    • Work on knees together

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 10.28.16 AM



Workout Summary - media/20170920-1231170o.csv
Workout Details

So far, my back is holding up well.  I still feel a bit of pain first thing in the morning and I get some warning twinges if I take a bad stroke, but it is tolerating the increased volume without any more pain or stiffness.

It’s time to take stock of where I am and what to do now.  The first and most pressing decision is what to do about the HOCR, which is on the morning October 21st.  32 days from now.   Seeing where I am now, versus where I was last time I rowed the HOCR, I would certainly do a lot worse.  Back then, my 2.0 mmol power was around 185W on the erg.  Right now, I would bet that it’s around 165W.  So, my guess is that I would be about 5 sec/500 slower than last time.  So, tack another 50 seconds on my finish time.  So, I’d go from a 22:15 to a 23:15, dropping from 25th place to 37th place (out of 58).

I wouldn’t be delighted with that, but its better than DFL.  I sure love rowing in this race.  I think I want to do it, even though I would not be at my best.  The question is: What is the best way to prepare for it?  I’m obviously not going to improve my aerobic fitness much over 32 days.  I will get some of that fitness back quickly just by regaining some blood volume.  But the main focus has to be on head race pace rowing.  Actually the main focus has to be on injury prevention.  After that I can focus on head race prep.

So, the mini plan is.

2 UT2 sessions per week 60 to 80 minutes of work per session.  Interval based.  No longer than 15 minutes continuous on the erg with stretching

1 UT1 session per week 60 minutes of work hopefully on the water

1 head race simulation per week.  Starting at r24 and moving up in rate.

1 long interval session per week.  basically 4×2000 type stuff with nice long rests

1 short interval/short rest per week.  concentrate on technique at r26 and r28

Daily core exercises (ugh)

In all sessions work on keeping knees together, limiting layback, and keeping my spine straight.

Tomorrow:  Hopefully back on the water.  Long intervals.  4 x 2k.  Should be a disaster.


Fall 2017 Training Plan – Back to Basics

Here I sit in the ANA lounge in Narita Airport.  I’ll be taking off for Los Angeles in about an hour.  During this two week trip to Asia, I’ve been lucky enough to have access to an erg for 7 training sessions.  Tomorrow, I’ll be in San Diego and hopefully, I can sneak over to Cross Fit Del Mar for another session then.

During this trip, I’ve had plenty of time to think about training routines and rowing in general.  I was very disappointed about cancelling out of the Blackburn Challenge.  I was, and still am, looking forward to the adventure of such a long race under such unpredictable conditions.  I’ll have to try again next year.  But I won’t plan my training around it.  In fact, I’m going to violate the first rule of training planning.  I am not going to plan around my events at all.

I am hoping to do some head races this fall.  I want to do the Head of the Charles if I get an entry.  And I’m hoping I can do at least one or two other races.  But I don’t want to disappoint myself or other people because of my unpredictable schedule.

What I think I need to do is come up with a “chaos tolerant” training plan.  So, what does that mean?

Here are the principles

  • It needs to be simple.  I should never be at a loss for what to do in a session
  • It should be progressive, so I can hold my self accountable for making progress and see how much missed training impacts my fitness
  • It should be balanced, so that my performance across all distances improves

I’ve decided that using the Wolverine Plan is the best option for me right now.  Here are the salient points

  • 6 sessions per week
  • 3 L4 endurance sessions
  • 1 each L1, L2 and L3 session

I have set up a schedule for the core L1, L2 and L3 workouts that I will go through.

  • L1: 8 x 500 / 2’30”, 4 x 1000 / 5′, Pyramid (250/500/750/1000/750/500/250)
  • L2: 5 x 1500 / 5′, 4 x 2000 / 5′, Waterfall (3000/2500/2000)
  • L3: 10K, 30′, 15 x 3′ / 1′
  • L4:  The duration of the L4s will be dictated by the amount of time that I have.  When I have time, I will aim for 80′ sessions.  I will leave the format open and decide on the day.  In general, I will be trying to increase the stroke counts over the next 4 months.

As I have done before, I will substitute workouts in for L1/L2/L3 to keep myself from getting bored.  This will include ranking pieces, CTCs, and interesting OTW workouts.  I will sub them in in accordance with what type the pace and duration is closest to.

I will follow the same plan on the erg and on the water.  The only difference is that i will generally do the intervals in time based format instead of distance.  I will follow the plan whether I am on the erg, in my fluid or in my Maas Aero.

As an example, the August workout is a 200m sprint.  I think I would probably do that as the first piece of a pyramid in place of the 250 and take a bit of extra rest.

I’ve laid out a rough session plan to get me through the fall.

This link will take you to a google sheet.

As always, comments and feedback are very welcome.

Training for the Blackburn Challenge

There is a 20+ mile open water race in Massachusetts called  the Blackburn Challenge.  I would like to enter it and do reasonably well.

The time to complete the race is between 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 hours, and so it is roughly similar  to 50k on the erg.  I thought that the best way to prep for that was to use an existing Marathon training plan.

There are two that I know of.

I analyzed both of the plans and they both seemed reasonable.  There were some cool things in the indoor sports services plan, but the Eddie Fletcher plan came with some impressive personal endorsements, and it was considerably simpler.

It is basically a 12 week plan, but I will run through it twice in a row, hopefully resetting my targets between sets.

I did a detailed day by day spreadsheet to track progress.  I figure the easiest way to let people look at it is to make it public on Google Sheets.

Blackburn Training Plan

So far, so good.  But I’m about to lose a week, so who knows how much damage that will do.



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.


Strength Training Thoughts

I posted the following on the Rowing Illustrated forum.

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I got back a really great reply from a user SDSweep which I would like to share.

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So, my winter training plan will include:

  • 2 strength sessions a week.
  • These sessions will be tacked onto the end of a shortened endurance session (probably 40 minutes of endurance and 30 minutes of strength work)
  • The plan will be very simple including 4 exercises per session
    • A compound lift emphasizing the rowing muscle groups
      • squats
      • deadlifts,
      • power cleans
    • Something for upper body rowing muscles
      • Pull ups
      • Chin ups
      • Lat pull downs
    • Something for counter muscle groups
      • Push ups
      • Bench press
      • Standing press
      • Seated Press
    • Core
      • Ab roll outs
      • planks
      • leg lifts
  • In terms of reps and sets.  I will probably use some advice from some other folks to mix this up in blocks.  A couple weeks of lower reps, more sets.  Then a couple weeks of higher reps and less sets.  Generally, I will be going for 20 to 30 total reps.
  • Weight.  I will progressively increase weight, but follow the guideline that I will stop at least one rep before failure.