Somewhere along the way in pretty much every rower’s career, the time comes to take on that most iconic of racing distances, the 2000-meter row.
In fact, competitive on-water rowers often live or die by their ability to cover that distance as quickly as possible on the rowing machine. And for high-school rowers, a good 2K erg time can mean the difference between a free ride to college and going it alone.
If you’ve ever done one, you know that the 2K has the potential to be way more punishing than its short distance would suggest. Those 7, 8, or 10+ minutes can feel more like three or four times that.
That’s especially true if you go out too hard in the beginning and have to try to make it across the finish line on fumes. That’s known as flying and dying, and it’s as miserable as it sounds.
We’re here to help you keep that from happening!
The nice thing about a 2K race is it’s short (even though it may not feel like it at the time). It won’t take you 3-4 hours to complete like a marathon would and you don’t have to spend months training for it, unless you want to.
If you’re fortunate enough to have some time to work up to doing the piece though, it’s super helpful to get a sense beforehand of what a good target time might be for you. And what mental and physical tricks you’ll want to keep you going.
The Concept2 pace calculator is a great starting point. Enter your 500m time and it will do the math to tell you how fast you could do 2000 meters at that same pace. If you want to know what’s possible in your age group check Concept2’s list of world and American records.
Even more fun and useful, though, is to do some practice rows in advance and see what YOU can do.
Master Instructor Heather Alschuler uses these workouts to predict a possible 2K time:
8 rounds of 500m with equal rest
4 rounds of 1000m with equal rest
This means that on the first workout you would row 8, 500-meter pieces and then row easy for another 500 meters. On the second workout, you would do the same, but with 4 rounds of 1000 meters hard and easy.
Of course, if you’re just getting started with rowing you can and should reduce the number of rounds if this feels like too much.
But if your goal is to row 2000 meters hard, you’ll want to work up to being able to do either of the workouts as written, AT WHATEVER PACING WORKS FOR YOU.
Either way. the idea here is to get faster as you go, and it shouldn’t feel easy to do so.
Part of getting good at rowing a 2K is getting good at being uncomfortable. That gets easier with time and practice, but it never gets straight-up easy, so don’t make that your goal.
Now. About your race-day plan:
The best race plans are SIMPLE.
As Phil Marshall, senior women’s rowing coach for Rowing Canada says, “A complicated plan will bring a complicated result.”
When you’re depriving yourself of oxygen, he notes, you have to keep things simple.
Here’s one plan that Master Instructor Cassi Niemann likes, including a 10- 12-minute warmup that should be enough to get you ready to go hard out of the gate, without wasting too much energy.
4 minutes 22-24 strokes per minute
3 minutes at 24-26
2 minutes at 26-28
1 minute at 28-30
Then do a few racing starts to get that dialed in, but also practice settling down into your regular racing pace quickly. That’s one of the keys to preventing the fly and die.
If you’ve had the chance to practice you should have a good sense for what’s realistic. And you’ll probably also know what works for you and what doesn’t in terms of keeping the flywheel moving and your head in the game.
First 500: If you can get a good start, row a few power strokes and then settle into your first 500 you’re off on the right foot. Remember you don’t want this to be the fastest part of your race. It’s all about controlling your adrenaline and staying in the moment.
Second 500: Crank it up a bit more, try to shave a bit of time off your split, and maybe aim to do 10 hard strokes at 1000 meters to pick up the flywheel and shake things up.
Third 500: This is the hardest part of the race, you’ll want to have a good plan for getting through this section. It may be as simple as counting strokes (“10 strokes focusing on the legs,” “10 focusing on the swing,”), or you may want to test alternating different stroke rates every 30 seconds.
This might also be where it helps to remember why or who you’re doing this for. Do whatever it takes to get you through, just remember to keep it SIMPLE.
Fourth 500: You’re almost there!! Here it’s really all about gutting it out and running out the monitor. Hopefully you’ve saved enough to put the hammer down and empty the tank in the last 250 to 100 meters.
Resist the temptation to row short strokes in this section. You’ll get done faster if you save that for the very very end.
Most important, row your own race. Never mind what you’ve seen or heard elsewhere, this is about you and your monitor.
Music, yay or nay?
Whether to listen to music for your 2K is a very individual decision, as is what kind of music, of course. So is whether that music should have lyrics, which can sometimes be distracting.
If you ask us, good tunes are an essential part of any good 2K rowing strategy. We wouldn’t be caught dead without them!
Here are some of our favorite high-energy instrumentals. Your perfect PR tune might be here!
One note: We HIGHLY recommend testing your playlist in advance, too. There’s nothing worse than a song you love rocking out to in your kitchen that ends up going right up your spine when you’re gasping for air on the erg.
When you’re done
Don’t forget the cooldown!! You’ll probably need a minute to recover/gasp for breath when you’re done, but then it’s important to take at least a few minutes to help your heart rate ease back to a range where you can talk normally.
Give yourself a HUGE pat on the back for a job well done, too!!
For further reading: