The Power of the Mind: How to Mentally Prepare for a 2k Row

The Power of the Mind: How to Mentally Prepare for a 2k Row

2k row mental preparation

If you’re a rower, you know that the 2k row is a significant challenge. Whether you’re a competitive athlete or just looking to improve your fitness, the 2k row requires not only physical strength and endurance but also mental toughness. Mental preparation can make all the difference when it comes to achieving your best performance in a 2k row. In this article, we’ll explore some of the key mental strategies you can use to prepare yourself for the 2k row and perform at your peak. Whether you’re a seasoned rower or just starting out, these tips can help you build the mental resilience you need to tackle this demanding challenge with confidence.

Before I get into the body of this article, I do want to make the following point very clear. No amount of mindset work or sport psychology is going to be helpful if your physiology is not optimized with a well-thought out training plan. Training programs need to be carefully considered with the correct amount of volume and intensity. Mileage needs to be meaningful and rest is also considered training in my book.

Reframing Thoughts In Your Approach To Your 2K Row

First, understand and accept that your brain often lies to you. There’s that voice of doubt trying to creep in. It’s really about your relationship with that voice. So, you must get out of your head and into your body. You must correctly reframe your thoughts. Allow me to explain. There is a difference between actually not rowing a personal best piece (this is real) and having a thought like “I think I am not going to beat my personal best…” (just a thought and not real). Therefore, understanding, reframing, detaching from your thoughts, and looking at them as context (not based in reality) is the key mind hack here. This principle applies to anything in life. I use it daily.

Harness Your Nervous Energy

There are bound to be some nerves before your 2k row or erg test. This is normal, and I would be concerned if you were not nervous. There is a benefit to having adrenaline before a major effort. The trick, again, is to reframe this energy. Kelly McGonigal says it best in her TED Talk. This energy is necessary to help you achieve your best on your erg tests. 

McGonigal looks at the physiological responses related to how people perceive stress. She examines the perspective that stress is bad and scary and all the negative outcomes of feeling stressed and what that means in terms of longevity. She compared this perspective to those who reframed their thinking about stress in terms of a positive challenge or a signal to be excited about a challenge. When these subjects felt signs of stress in their bodies, they would reframe that feeling mentally by labeling it as their body getting ready for the next thing, being prepared and excited about what’s to come.

Another cause of a mental block could be that you are focusing on the result rather than the process. Understand what you can control as a part of that process and what you cannot.

Next, plan how to manage yourself the 72 hours before the test. This worksheet can help you plan what you want to feel like for the test.

Download Worksheet

Race Strategy For Your 2K Row

Here is a video on my YT channel to explain the usual way I plan a 2K.

In this video, I discuss my approach to planning and executing a 2K row race strategy. I emphasize the importance of setting a realistic and achievable goal time based on past performance, and breaking the race into manageable segments. I also discuss the importance of maintaining a consistent stroke rate and technique throughout the race, and avoiding the temptation to increase intensity too early. Finally, I offer tips for maintaining mental focus and staying motivated during the race. Overall, my approach emphasizes strategic planning and mental discipline to achieve a successful 2K row race performance.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

I have also succeeded in my career with using alternate nostril breathing. It usually helps me get to a calmer place and quiets the nervous noise before a race piece.

Alternate nostril breathing is a breathing technique that involves inhaling and exhaling through one nostril while closing the other nostril. This technique is believed to help calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and improve overall well-being. By alternating between nostrils, it is said to balance the two hemispheres of the brain and improve the flow of prana, or life force energy, in the body. The technique involves using the thumb and fingers to block and release the nostrils and can be done anywhere, at any time. It is often practiced in yoga and meditation, but can also be used as a standalone relaxation technique.

If you accompany this breathing with a solid stretching routine, you will find your mind quieter and be in a better place before the piece.

coach bergenroth rowing warm up routine

Beginning the Row and Getting into Rhythm

Here are my thoughts on the stride stroke. You want to ensure you are lengthening out and getting into a good long rhythm early in the piece so that you are not just spinning your wheels.


Projecting Into The Future Is A Trap

When you row the body of the 2k, the trouble starts when you mentally project forward in time. For example, “How will I feel 500m from now? Am I able to bear this pain until the end?” 

It’s a trap that a lot of rowers fall into. 

The issue is this-  You get into the “pain cave” early on during a 2K. It doesn’t usually get much worse. However, when projection happens (such as I mentioned above), then the trouble starts. The trick is to just focus on the one stroke in front of you at a time and trust your body (knowing that your brain will lie to you – and we are back to the first paragraph).


In conclusion, mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation for a 2K row. By understanding and reframing negative thoughts, managing nerves and stress, and focusing on one stroke at a time, rowers can perform at their best. Additionally, incorporating techniques such as alternate nostril breathing and a stretching routine can help calm the mind and body before a row. By implementing these strategies and trusting in the body’s capabilities, rowers can achieve success in their 2K rows and beyond. Remember to practice these techniques regularly to build mental resilience and improve performance.

I specialize in writing individualized training programs and providing support that achieves results for my clients.

If you are not making progress, you need the support and experience of a seasoned coach.

I would happily discuss how you can improve with a free consult. Feel free to contact me, and I look forward to meeting you.


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