Concept2 training tips
June 11, 2012 2:10 PM   Subscribe

I have a Concept2, a ton of motivation, and some clear cut goals. But lots of questions as well...

So after years of living a more sedentary lifestyle, I've decided to erg my way into better shape. I've spent the last few weeks playing with my Concept2 (Model D, PM4 with HR monitor), just getting form down, a better feel for the damper, and working on a bit of an aerobic base again.

I have learned that I am out of shape by my standards. At this point, my resting heart rate is in the neighborhood of 80, my max rate is 202, and my 2k VO2max is estimated at around 38-40 mL/min/kg. I'm male, mid-30's, and currently about 22% body fat. Note that about a decade or so ago when I was into track, I was running 50 second 400's, and a 5:10 mile.

Here are my initial goals: I'd like to get my resting heart rate close to 60, and my VO2max up to near 50. I plan to mix some long slow aerobic work with heart rate monitoring, higher intensity interval training and some cross-training on top. I will likely drop the fat along the way, but that tends to be fairly natural result for me when I'm exercising regularly.


--Are these goals realistic in my 30's?
--What kind of time table would be reasonable for these goals, knowing that I'm willing to workout 30-60 minutes a day, 5-7 days per week?
--Short of just "experimenting" is there a more efficient and methodical way to optimize my damper setting and stroke frequency particularly for 2k?
--Is the notion of building an aerobic base out of favor these days with interval training being the craze? I'm used to transitioning from base training to interval training over a season, but with a relatively open time-table and a goal of general health, I'm not sure how to design my workout plan in terms of aerobic vs. threshold interval training.
--Any other C2 tips would be appreciated.

And yes, I'm lurking to C2 forums for input as well.
posted by drpynchon to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Here's one take on the interval vs. continuous training debate.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:35 PM on June 11, 2012

I'm an ex-rower and occasional erg user; my knowledge on the subject is dated, so take all this with a grain of salt.

I don't know about the VO2max goal, but your RHR goal is a very modest one. I've known much older guys than you with RHR figures into the 40's or even upper 30's.

Damper settings... I would err on the light side at first to protect disused and aging joints from overuse injury. IANAEP (exercise physiologist) but I suspect lighter settings favor aerobic targeting, and heavier settings favor muscular targeting. Also, keep in mind that the erg is built to accomodate both the octogenarians and the Olympians, so the damper gives a really wide range. I usually just set it at 5, personally, and I'm rowing ~ 20:45 for a 5000. If you're faster, go for a heavier setting, if you're slower, go lighter.

Stroke rate? I tend to be all over the place. I row mostly 5000's. When I'm in control, rate is 25-27spm, but by the time I get in extremis in the final third of the piece, I'm topping 35. You might find it helpful to focus not just on rate but on ratio: stroke -vs- recovery. On the water, we used to shoot for a 1:2 ratio, IIRC. Ratio falls towards 1:1 as I get tired; I use it as a sign of how I'm doing. (Ratio is also one of the few things the erg doesn't calculate for you.)

Regarding training fashion, I don't think anything has changed to make LSD a bad thing, has it? Intervals are great, but again, high-intensity stuff leads to joint injuries if you don't have a base. You want to mix it up, exactly as you describe. So sayeth the old guy who no longer keeps up with this stuff.

General advice....
If you have old now-untouchable PR's in your head, the erg is a harsh mistress. Maybe change the display settings so you're not constantly faced with evidence of your decay?
I think 2000 may be too short and intense for your long work. That's what, an 8 or 9 minute piece? They say 15-20 min is a better lower limit for aerobic work, don't they? That's why I row 5000's.
I find that my erg performance is closely tied to my weight. If I drop a few pounds, I can row paces that just aren't attainable with any amount of practice at a higher body fat.

Good luck in your goals!
posted by richyoung at 3:04 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am not a rower, but have a Concept 2 and use it for conditioning for other things (triathlons, trail running, mountain biking, that sort of thing). A couple of comments in response to your questions:

1. I'm very goal oriented myself, but I think that goals based on things like resting heart rate and VO2max are going to be too dependent on your physiology. I have a pretty low RHR, but when I was bike racing, one of the guys on our team had the highest RHR of anyone on the team, but also the highest max heart rate and was the fastest guy overall. His heart beat like a hummingbird, just the way he was built. I would suggest using rowing benchmarks of 500m, 2000m, and 5000m instead. If you are on the Concept 2 site already, go ahead and register for the training log and start tracking your times so you can compare them to everyone else in the world doing this.

2. Damper settings. There are a bunch of videos on youtube describing how to tune this and the correlation with drag. Bottom line: you are going to have to experiment. Think of it as the same as gearing on a bike: a higher gear doesn't make you faster, rather there is an optimal gear for how fast you turn over the pedals. There is an optimal damper setting for your stroke cadence.

3. Yes, people still build a base. Here is the thing: if you are going to row 5 to 7 days a week, you'll need intervals just to keep your sanity. There are a bunch of specific programs out there that mix up intervals and endurance work. I'll mention two here to get you started. These are pitched at experienced/fit rowers, so you may have to make some adjustments. First, the Wolverine Plan, from the University of Michigan rowing program:

Wolverine Plan

Second, the Pete Plan, as in Pete Marston's plan:

Pete Plan

There are other plans, but my point here is that rather than trying to invent a training plan, you could do a lot worse than just following a tested plan like one of these.
posted by kovacs at 6:44 PM on June 11, 2012

In answer to your "other C2 tips" question: you might want to check out the Cross Team Challenge, which sets up a monthly challenge workout that for a time I found quite motivating. You have to join a team through the C2 website to virtually participate in the competitions, but most teams are welcoming and happy to have new members. Connecting with a team this way can also be a way of interacting with some pretty experienced ergers. Is that a word?
posted by gubenuj at 7:30 PM on June 11, 2012

The Interactive 2K Plan on the Concept2 UK site is actually pretty good and provides a "personalised" plan based on your cuirrent fitness levels and availability to train. Although explicitly designed to get your 2k times down, even if that's not your goal it's going to get you fit and provides a good balance of aerobic fitness and interval pieces.

Other than that: general tips would be
  • make sure your technique is good
  • log all your training (either online or just on a spreadsheet/pen & paper
  • mix in some cross-training for variety; it doesn't have to be weights or gym sessions, even jogging or swimming once a week helps to keep things fresh
  • try and keep doing some sessions, even if it's just once a week. I find it easy to go from working out 4 times a week to doing nothing for a month. It's much better to try and keep some continuity, even if it's just a gentle 10 minutes a day or even just one session a week, no matter how busy/run down/sick of exercise you feel
  • if you are short for time, my favourite session is 3x10 minutes; doing this is a pretty good week of getting fit as a butcher's dog and also a good way of benchamrking your progress.

posted by Apemantus at 1:21 AM on June 18, 2012

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