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The Pete Plan blog

The mental side of erging

Posted by thepeteplan on March 18, 2008

A steady distance day on the Pete Plan today, but as I have the heat trial again tomorrow it means that today has to just be a little bit easier, and therefore I keep the duration down just a little. Is this absolutely necessary, or is it an excuse because I find the easy distance sessions mentally more taxing than the hard intervals? I will discuss the mental side of erging in a little more detail after giving the details of my training today. 


8k = 29:50.1 / 1:51.8 / 24

2k splits = 1:52.3, 1:52.0, 1:52.0, 1:51.0 (all 24spm)


Benchpress = 60kg, 3 sets of 8

Reverse grip bench press = 40kg, 3 sets of 8

Clean and press = 40kg, 3 sets of 8

A nice comfortable 8k, and a small amount of weight training to fill in the remaining time. It will be interesting the effect the extra training has on my weight if I’m able to keep up my normal training load on top of the heat trial. This morning I weighed in at probably about my lightest ever erging weight, 194.5lbs. When I train in this sort of volume I’m hungry all the time as well, so eating at least as many extra calories as those I’m burning from the extra exercise.

Mental erging:

The psychological side of erg performance is vital if you want to achieve close to your potential. The trouble is, it isn’t a “one approach fits all” aspect. Most people fit into two categories – those who find it mentally tough to push themselves hard in the interval training, and those who find it mentally tough to do the long steady distance work. There are a few people who don’t find an issue with either aspect of training, and probably quite a sizeable group who are just plain lazy, and don’t like to do anything too tough. I definitely fit in the second category. I don’t mind pushing myself to the limit week after week in the interval training, or hard distance pieces, but when it comes to slower distance work I find it a mental grind from start to finish.

When giving coaching advice to people it’s important both to know which group they fit in, and to consider the overall psychological aspects of erg training to make sure they are mentally ready to race as well as physically. I believe this is a problem with training too scientifically on the erg that it stops you from pushing on further and harder when you feel you are at the limit. Without this doing this occasionally in training, you won’t know how to do it when it comes to racing. Two mental aspects that I incorporate into all of my training, and that of the people I advise, are never slowing down on distance pieces, and always doing the last rep of interval training faster than the preceeding reps. After a while it just becomes natural, and you can’t help speeding up when you get in sight of the line.

3 Responses to “The mental side of erging”

  1. Stefan said

    True about individual differencies and I would like to add one catagory. For me, it is like the following:

    Steady distance – Easy and I could happily do them every day
    Short intervals – Fun and I do not mind doing them
    Hard distance or long intervals – Tough to get mentaly prepared

  2. Neil said

    When I hit ‘the wall’ I always find it a real help to countdown the number of strokes it takes to complete 100m. I just keep on counting down my strokes, say from 10 down to 1, and then start all over again for the next 100m. Before you know it, 500m have flown by.

    I find that it focuses my mind, and I am able to concentrate more on keeping my split target time steady, rather than just floundering around, gasping for air, and praying for the end to come soon.

  3. jamiepfeffer said

    I find that a 2K piece (test or interval) is uniquely difficult. Perhaps because the distance spawns discomfort every time, a 2000-meter row affects me more than any other piece does. I would much rather do a 60-minute test than a 2K one. Indeed, my mental frailty over 2000 meters is my biggest obstacle to reaching my goals. That’s part of the reason that I find Pete invaluable.


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