Training on the erg

Because the weather is turning bad, I’ve been turning to the erg to do most of my training on. I’ve been doing a lot of kayaking, trying to build up the distance I could go on it. When I first started using the erg, I was disappointed that I could only seem to go a very short distance on it before my muscles got tired, like 500 metres a few days after I’d managed 4 miles (6.5km) in a kayak. I think a lot of that is due to the fact that in the boat, the wing paddle “kicks out” on its own, assisting you in getting your rear arm up in the air ready for the next stroke, whereas with the erg you have to lift it up yourself. Also in the erg there is some resistance at the rear part of the stroke where in the boat your paddle is fully out of the water and just “following through” with no resistance. (Hey, here’s an idea – why not use an electromagnet instead of a fan for resistance, then you could trigger it to remove the resistance when your paddle stroke hits the part where you’d normally have no resistance?)

Anyway, Dan said not to be discouraged, and if I could only do 500 metres to do 500 metres. So that’s what I did – I did 500 metres the first day, the next day I did 500 metres, rested until my heart rate was down under 100 bpm and did another 200 metres, and so on until I was doing 5 reps of 500 metres. Then I stepped up to 600m, doing 3x600m the first day, 3×600 plus a bit the next, 4×600 the next, and so on.

Two nights ago I did 5x700m. Last night I did my 5x700m but when I hit the end of the last 700, I just hit reset on the computer and did another 700m without stopping. It felt good to do that.

It’s a definite trend that I don’t feel as sore and tired at the end of the third and subsequent reps as I do at the first two. I’m starting to experiment to see if I can do some stretches and the like so the first two don’t feel so bad. Another thing I might try is doing a couple of short reps to warm up, then doing longer ones.

One interesting thing about this is that I’m having more trouble with the shoulder that didn’t get operated on than the one that did. On Friday I’d had a really good work-out, thought that maybe next day I could really step it up (to 1000m at a time or something like that) but I woke up the next morning feeling like I’d torn my rotator cuff. I had to take two days off erging, icing and gulping down Aleve and Tylenol (and missing out on two days where it would have been nice to get out on the boat) but by Sunday night I was fine again. Again this morning, I’m a little sore in that shoulder – not as bad as last Saturday, but still enough to worry.

My goal is to be ready in spring to race again. That means this winter I want to be able to do some very long (over 16km) LSD (long slow distance) erg sessions, and also keep my speed up through interval work and fartlek, again on the erg. I’m starting to feel like this might be possible. I’m even working on improving my technique – I never had a forward lean, mostly because my big fat gut gets in the way, but I’m working on that. I’m also trying to stop splaying out my legs and keep them down the center of the boat, but I’m having some anatomical problems with that.