Ergo Session – ‘Boiling Frog’ Build

It’s been some time since I have posted a favourite ergo session. This is one that I really like doing because to do it well requires great feel, sense of capacity and gradual change which can produce amazing result at times.

The number of times you can do the work load can be varied. I find 3 – 4 pieces is about right for me. The work load it self is tricky to explain as it is really subjective. As an outline it is 10min long and the start and end range can be explored quiet a lot.

My suggestion is this:First minute start out on rate 15 and focus on moving easily with out loading up to much in the drive phase. Roughly every minute you will raise the rating. I say roughly because what’s important is to feel for when you ready to make the step up. Each time you increase the rate do so by emphasising the pressure in the drive. Exaggerate the push for about the first 15sec. Almost as if you are doing power strokes. After about 15-20sec then settle into an easier stroke. Keep the rate on what ever it has come to, but now allow the movement roll along. It is training by a principle rather than by numbers. That’s why I suggest rough time frames as it is more important to feel for the level and effort of each step made. So the overall time will be 10min and you might find that you do 10 steps, but keep in mind that some days it can be more and others less.

The idea of how to perform the step is critical. Think of how to set up each step and what I look for is close to max pressure on the change and then settle into tapping it along. The score is not important, but I do obviously take some notice as a reference for improvement.

Example: If in my third step I strike a rate of 20 and in the initial phase with more pressure I see splits of 1.37 min then I know I am hitting the right sort of mark, but some days it comes easily and other I struggle. From there I find that when I transfer into maintaining the rate and letting it tick along the score often goes back out to say 1.43/43min. The reason I like this is that if we are to transfer what we do from the ergo to the boat it is important to understand the differences between the two activities. The ergo doesn’t have the benefit of momentum where as the boat does. So on the ergo when you go in to more of a maintaining phase the score will vary far more then the boat. In contrast I find that when rowing in the boat the ability to maintain the increase in speed requires less effort than an ergo. Because I am about practicing the principles of moving the boat I like to work like this on the ergo. The other thing that is noticeable is that the speed improvement during a step in a boat is less than an ergo. Emphasising with the extra force on the ergo can produce a huge step in speed, but the boat is less so for the same amount of effort I find. In short you put more effort in for less improvement, but you can maintain the change by doing less. The principle of effort and maintain is critical, but for the ergo the scores will seem to vary a great deal which is OK.

Back to an overall look at the work load. It is important to explore the number of step and using time is OK, but I like to feel and sense when to build. So some times I can be maintaining for 1 min and other time close to 2 min. Some days I find that towards too end of the ergo I feel great and really launch into full effort. The surprising thing is that when these days occur I take particular notice of how and why I felt that way. Also capturing some of the information about the output can be good too.

Example: One of my better session was three sets of 10min. The first I was pretty flat, but I didn’t force it and toward the end I was only on 24 stroke per minute and the initial step I was getting splits of 1.32 min and settled into 1.38 min. The total number of times I stepped was four and I began at 14spm. When I started the second workload I thought that maybe the session was going to be one of those session where it just doesn’t come easily. Then I was surprised, quietly surprised as I started out similarly to the first piece and after the second step I was already feeling freer, more relaxed and more purposeful. As I went through 6min I was on 24spm with similar scores to what I finished on before. With three minutes to go I stepped to 28spm and I hit 1.27 and it came back 1.32’s. I found that I let this run until the last 1min 40sec when I gave it everything as I was feeling ready to go. The rate initially hit 34spm and score was down to 1.23 and with a minute to go it came back to 1.28 and I must admit the rate continued to rise toward the end where I finished on about 36spm. Now I know I have just used a lot of numbers but only to illustrate the way the workload can unfold. At the time I was not trying to get particular scores. I was focused on the principle of how I think it is best to move the boat. What’s important to remember here is that the last piece was not in the same league as this one and I was fine with that as I was surprised by the output I produced. To put this into perspective for me I went back into the memory and took note of the last 3min and to my surprise and almost shock. The last 3min the distance I covered was 1022m which is 2.56min and I sat there somewhat stunned and excited. It was a good 1000m for me and straight away I thought how amazing it was after how I was initially feeling.

The reason I like this session is I work to an appropriate level for how I’m feeling. It applies well to moving a boat and some days I have stepped off the machine feeling and think that I have really been able to open up fully and go to maximum capacity.

It is interesting to think about what we can do when get in the groove. I assimilate it with the ‘boiling frog theory’ which has always intrigue me. My thinking is that it’s a great analogy for training and racing. The theory goes that if you put a frog in boiling water it will jump straight back out. If though you put the frog in cool water and heat it up, the frog will not jump out. As athlete we are similar I think and so session like this can be very beneficial.

What about racing? Well the difference here is that the environment is quiet hot already. If you consider the frog theory that it is important to understand that like the frog the athlete will want to jump out almost. Being prepared for the natural reactions that the environment will create is key and developing strategies is what’s needed. Take this a step further, if you take off at the start of a race of ergo test in a way that is like jumping into the boiling water. The natural reaction is to recoil and potentially to jump back out. It’s elastic and only a well prepared athletes can races this way. Training for this is another thing, so this session is great for feeling the difference between drive with full effort and maintaining. It’s great for building and increasing the intensity like the turning the temperature up to boiling point for the frog.

2 thoughts on “Ergo Session – ‘Boiling Frog’ Build

  1. What an awesome post – thanks so much for sharing it. I like this workout on so many levels, not least of which the sense of empowerment/responsibility it gives the athlete (i.e.rather than doing a strictly prescribed workout from a coach) as well as the emphasis on feel and being in the moment of the strokes (as opposed to just getting the workout coach assigned done.).Definitely going to try this myself and w/ my athletes. Thanks so much!

  2. Thanks C.Sheridan, I beleive the greatest ability we have is to self genergate and to do so we need to feel and sense what is happening to be able create focus and attention to will develop our best outcomes. Let me know how it goes for you and for your athletes. All the bestDrew

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