Concept2 Monitor 15k for erg half marathon

Are you crazy?

That’s the most common question I get when people find out I’ve trained for – and competed in – erg half marathons.

Wether you’re crazy, competitive, motivated, or crazy competitively motivated, and looking for a challenge beyond the standard 2k, a growing number of indoor rowing events are including the erg half marathon (21,097m) and full marathon (42,195m) distances on their schedules.

Depending on your rowing experience, current fitness level, and mental stamina to slog through hours on the erg, the preparation for a half will vary. I’d suggest a minimum of nine weeks of training, but I’ve heard stories of folks deciding as little as four weeks out to give it a go.

Training & Race Day Considerations

5k and 10k pieces in training weeks #1 and #2 (see 9-week training plan below) give you splits to work towards throughout the training cycle. If you’ve never done a half marathon before, it is completely legitimate for your goal simply to be to finish. Work on hitting your average split and don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the pace for a few strokes. Unlike a 2k, you have a lot of opportunity to make up for it. Pull 3-5 power strokes every two minutes to help nudge your average splits down without wearing you out.

There are a variety of strategies for working through long training pieces, and you’ll determine what works best for you. A couple of suggestions for a sample 15-20k piece:

  • Aim for negative splits. Row the first 2k easy, then drop your splits by a couple of seconds every 2k.
  • Take mini breaks. Row 2.5 minutes at 10k pace, paddle 30 seconds.
  • Alternate ratings. Row 2 minutes at half marathon pace, followed by 2 minutes at 10k pace.

As you build to longer 15k and 20k workouts you’ll need energy, provided by carbohydrates (60%), protein (17%), and fats (23%). Before each training session, eat a small amount of low (apples, butter/navy/kidney beans, lentils) to moderate (white pasta, oatmeal, peas) glycemic food to provide energy at the right time.

Consider using a nutrition product like GU Energy Gel packs which provide energy-dense calories. Ingest one 15 minutes before an endurance workout – along with water – for a quick shot of carbohydrates and amino acids. Some of their flavors also include a kick of caffeine. Take another every 30-40 minutes depending on the length of your workout and your metabolism.

To avoid dehydration, get used to drinking a few ounces every 10-15 minutes. Practice your drink strategy for the half marathon so you’re ready to handle hydration on race day. Have at least one full bottle of plain water, and another with sport drink, or homemade energy mix.

Immediately after a long training session, replenish with a small amount of high (oranges, white rice, potatoes) glycemic food, and within two hours you should eat a moderate glycemic food meal.*

Most likely the race venue will be a large gymnasium which will be drier than a smaller, more humid gym or workout facility you’ve been training in. Be prepared for the possibility that you might have to change up your hydration strategy on the fly.

The longer the workout, the more likely you are to zone out and stop thinking about technique. Check in with yourself on a regular basis to make sure everything is happening in the right order (legs, body, arms … arms, body, legs); that your posture is controlled coming into the catch (no diving); and that you take the catch with your legs (don’t break the arms and attempt to yank). Keep your shoulders, hands, and face relaxed, too.

The three session per week plan outlined below allows for rest days between erg workouts. For plenty of recovery time, your schedule could look something like this:

workout #1 – Sunday
workout #2 – Tuesday
workout #3 – Thursday

Athletes often feel compelled to work out every day. Remember, as your training rows become longer, the stress can lead to overuse injuries, such as stress fractures, muscle strains, and joint pain. Give yourself rest days to allow your muscles, nerves, bones, and connective tissue time to rebuild. Rest plays an equal roll in the total process required to build strength, endurance, and muscle.

At the end of a long and taxing workout, it’s easy to get off the erg and walk right out of the gym. To help aid recovery, pad in at least 10 minutes for stretching and foam rolling. Focus on lats, glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, lower lumbar region, and quads. Work some neck rotation and stretches to counteract the tension of the repetitive erg stroke, and simple finger extensions and curls to loosen up your hands.

9-Week Training Plan

 Workout #1Workout #2Workout #3
Week 15k for time30 min. @ 5k pace w/5 stroke power burst +4 spm every 2 min30 min. @ 5k pace w/5 stroke power burst +4 spm every 2 min
Week 230 min. @ 5k pace + 6" on your split, w/5 stroke power burst +4spm every 2 min10k for time10k @ pace w/3 stroke power burst +2-4spm every 2 min.
Week 33 x 15 min. as:
6 min. @ 10k > 9 min. @ HMP
Rest: 5 min. between
10k @ pace w/3 stroke power burst +2-4spm every 2 min4 x 15 min. as:
6 min. @ 10k > 9 min. @ HMP
Rest: 5 min. between between
Week 42 x (6 x 1 min.) Intervals
On: 28-30spm

Off: Paddle
Rest: 6 min. between sets
60 min.
2.5 min. @ 5k pace >
30 sec. paddle
4 x 15 min. as:
6 min. @ 10k > 9 min. @ HMP
Rest: 5 min. between
Week 53 x 10 min. @ 5k
Rest: 4' between
2 x (6 x 1 min.) Intervals
On: 28-30spm

Off: Paddle
Rest: 6 min. between sets
60 min. @ 10k pace w/3 stroke power burst +2-4spm every 2 min.
Week 640 min.
2 min. @ HMP > 2 min. @ 5k pace
30 min. max meters15k @ 10k pace +2 sec. w/3 stroke power burst every 2 min.
Week 712k as 2x:
2k @ HMP
2k @ 10k pace
1k @ HMP
1k @ 10k pace
39 min. as:
3 x (5 min. @5k > 8 min. @ HMP)
20k @ 10k pace +3 sec. w/3 stroke power burst every 2 min.
Week 830 min. max meters30 min. max meters12k @ HMP
Week 95k10 min. warm up
3 x 500m
10 min. cool down
Race Day

*Dietary suggestions via Eddie Fletcher /