Are You Training In The Correct Zone?

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Rowing Training Plan Available
Update: I have a twelve session workout plan that provides three workouts a week for four weeks and is based on the information in this post. If you would like to purchase that plan ($25 via Paypal payment), please email me at neil@coachbergenroth.com, and I can arrange to send you the program. It comes with a 30-day money back guarantee if you are not completely satisfied with the programming.

It is November already and that means that the Fall racing season is wrapping up and we are 2-3 months from indoor rowing competitions. Alternatively, there may be a few of you that might not be on the water rowers, but you use the rowing machine and compete in the indoor rowing/CrossFit circuit.

One of the most common questions that I am asked is: How do I prepare for this kind of competition?

There are some general training principles that are appropriate and the actual approach may depend on how many days a week you are going to train. I’m going to assume that you are able to dedicate five-six days on average to help train for your indoor rowing racing.

I’m going to simplify the training zones that you need to hit into one of three subdivisions. There may be further divisions to each of the three categories, however, I am going to give the general idea for each.

Steady State Training (3/4+ per week)

These workouts consist of longer periods of training and provide the base for your high-performance efforts. The ideal heart rate for these kinds of workouts falls in the 130-150 beats per minute range. I would recommend wearing a heart rate monitor to ensure that you are training in the correct zone. It is important that you hit these zones so that you don’t fall into the trap of overtraining. The actual target heart rate that you would need depends on your age. A formula you can use is below. There is a video included as well. However, research indicates that a maximum heart rate may vary from person to person depending on athletic experience.

220 – (Your Age In Years) = Max Heart Rate (note: if you are in good shape for your age, it is likely that your max heart rate is higher than 220 – your age. In my experience, this formula has limitations and is not accurate. For more information on figuring out your true max heart rate see this resource here.)

Working Heart Rate = Max Heart RateResting Heart Rate (heart rate in the morning)

Target Heart Rate = (Working Heart Rate x .%) + Resting Heart Rate

For example, let’s calculate a 75% heart rate for an athlete who is 30 years old and has a resting heart rate of 60.

Working Heart Rate = (220-30) – (60bpm) = 130 bpm

Target Heart Rate for 75% = (130bpm * 0.75) + 60 = 157 bpm

Therefore, 75% intensity for this athlete is 157 bpm +/-

When you are doing a steady state workout, you should get your heart rate into the 60% to 80% of max and stay in that zone for 30-80 minutes. For example, If you are rowing a 30-40 piece then your target heart rate would be 135-150 bpm range. For longer periods of time, you should try to be around 130 – 140 bpm. Long slow distance work can be tough to do completely on the ergometer. I would recommend that some work is done on the machine (at least one-two long rows per week). However, there are other options to complete this training. These could include the following:

  • Rowing In A Shell
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Cross-Country Skiing

Another good tip is to break this time up into segments. This strategy allows you to get off the rowing machine, stretch out and hydrate. I would keep the breaks to a 90-120 second interval. Therefore, instead of doing 1 x 60-minute piece with no breaks, break the work into 4 x 15 mins or 3 x 20 minutes. You could also do 6 x 10 minutes if you see fit. I wouldn’t recommend rowing for less than 10 minutes in a stretch in this training zone because you won’t get the same training effect. Additionally, I wouldn’t recommend doing all of this work on the ergometer. This is especially true if you don’t have slides and you have a stationary Concept2 ergometer. A strain on the back and chronic injuries of the spine can occur with too much distance on the ergometer. Listen to your body and mix up the mode of exercise from time to time. This approach helps with both the physical and psychological aspects of training for a competitive event.

Anaerobic Threshold Training Zone (AT) (1-2 Days A Week)

These workouts are tougher in some ways than the steady state workouts. You train at a high intensity in the 75%-85% heart rate zone. Your effort should be just below a point where if you went any harder you would begin to accumulate too much lactic acid and have to stop. These are important workouts because they really help with your oxygen transportation. These workouts consist of pieces in the 3-10 minute range. You would normally do a series of pieces with rest in between. For example, you might choose to do 3 x 1000m with 6 minutes rest between each piece. Work to rest time should be 1:1, 1:1.5 or 1:2. For example, 3 x 10 minutes with 10 minutes rest in between each piece works well for this type of training.

In a 5-6 day training cycle, you might do 1 to 2 of these workouts depending on what you had done the day before. For example, you could follow a steady state day with an AT day.

The Anaerobic Zone (1-2 days A Week)

These workouts are typically very short but very intense periods of work. It has been shown that performing these kinds of workouts helps you lift the top of your performance pyramid. These workouts should be done in the 90% to 100% heart rate/effort range. In addition, given that these are short pieces it’s important to try to maintain a work level that is equal for each piece.

For example, if you choose to do 10 x 1′ on 1′ off, all of your pieces should fall within a 10-15m range. It does you no good to do the first three pieces totally maxed out, then recover for the next three (much less distance compared to the first three) and then bring it back up again on the last two. Always try to maintain the same pace throughout.

Another important note is to budget time to warm up and cool down effectively before and after these workouts. The warm-up is important because it allows you a chance to bring your body temperature up, get your nervous system ready and prepare you for max effort. A cool down 10-20 minutes of light paddling, cycling is also important because it allows you to flush the lactic acid from the system and that will help long-term recovery for the next day of training.

In the next post, I will discuss how to put a training plan together to allow for the periodization of your training schedule based on these training zones.

Rowing Training Plan Available
Update: I have a twelve session workout plan that provides three workouts a week for four weeks and is based on the information in this post. If you would like to purchase that plan ($25 via Paypal payment), please email me at neil@coachbergenroth.com, and I can arrange to send you the program. It comes with a 30-day money back guarantee if you are not completely satisfied with the programming.

4 Comments

  1. Bablofil says:

    Thanks, great article.

  2. Susann Ezernack says:

    very good publish, i certainly love this web site, keep on it

    • Coach B says:

      Thank you very much for your feedback. I am working on more articles in this area. Is there anything that you would like to see on the site that would help you? Best, Neil.

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