Sarah Gibbs is an indoor rowing champion and record holder
The 2km sprint build-up what it means to a competitive at-home indoor rower.
The 2 km sprint puts the fear of dread in both OTW rowers and indoor rowers alike. Both these sports use the 2 km as a competition distance but also as a measure of fitness and a distance over which to learn about pacing structure.
A full tank of self-belief is needed to get through the distance. You are sprinting the whole way which is a pretty horrible thought and you can see why your lungs want to burst out of your chest at the end! At indoor rowing competitions, competitiors regularly have to be helped off the Concept 2 rowers as they have put so much of themselves into the race. There have been many occasions after a 2 km where I have felt like physically throwing-up, I haven’t done it but the feeling is dreadful as you have pushed yourself to the limit.
If you tell anyone interested in indoor rowing that you row on the concept 2 the first thing they will ask you is “what’s your 2k time?” the aim for most women is sub 8 mins and for men is sub 7 or even sub 6. These times are amazing feats for both genders and take a lot of training and mental strength and planning. With a 2km it’s mostly about the pacing, how you do it is up to you but there are a few options.
The first is to just go for it. You will most definitely have to take this option if it’s your first 2km as you will use this as a marker for improvement for your next 2km so really there is no pacing involved. The experience of your first 2 km might be a good one but most probably it will be pretty unforgiving and make you realise that these indoor rowers are hard as nails – or mad. If you’re anything like me it will make you want to go faster and challenge yourself more.
The second one is for rowers who have a 2km already under their belt, they have an average 500m split pace and they will work out how they pace their 2km with that. For example I go out -1sec quicker than my present 2km pace for the first 500m, then the next 1000m I get into a comfortable groove of 1-2 secs above my 2km pace and then give it all I have the last 500m. Everyone is different but I have learnt over the years that this works for me. Other options could be that you set a pace in the 1st 500m and try and be consistent with that pace all the way through, I have never been brave enough to do this but maybe one day I will!
So this is what I think indoor rowing is all about – the individual. It’s a lonely sport in and I’ve heard people say, “its you against the machine” and in a way they are right. The PM5 (performance monitor) never lies – well only sometimes by 0.01 secs but that’s a whole different subject! When you compete it’s all about you and the rower. I don’t row at the gym with people around as I am lucky enough to have my own machine at home in a little room which is my rowing sanctuary. I go there to de-stress from the rigours of family life and I think a lot of indoor rowers do the same.
Indoor rowing in a way keeps us sane and the 2km gives us focus and purpose. So we put ourselves through the mental anguish of the 2km build-up, worry that we aren’t sufficiently hydrated, that we haven’t got our pacings worked out correctly, that we will fall at the last hurdle and HD (handle down, a term that most indoor rowers know and hate. It’s seen as mental weakness because it’s mostly your brain that says it can’t carry on not your physical being!). We worry that our training hasn’t been hard enough, that we won’t pb which will mean all our training was for nothing – gosh there are an awful lot of negatives that can rear their ugly head when self-doubt creeps in!
So you really do have to keep a clear head and realize that for every 2km you complete your mental strength will creep up and your confidence and self-belief will grow.
There are plenty of sessions you can do to increase your endurance and mental strength, I have grown to quite enjoy my 2km endurance sessions, I get to row 4 x 2km and by doing this you realise that it’s a distance you can get through. Obviously I am not sprinting them but I am going at a pace that is pushing me and ultimately at the end it hurts a little, but for every session I complete my mental strength and endurance has increased ready for my next all-important 2km test.
So there you have it, that’s what the 2km build-up means to me, a competitive indoor rower and someone who trains on their own at home. Next I will talk about how the 2km feels during and after, the good and the bad!
Sarah Gibbs is an indoor rowing age-group champions and record holder. She runs her own indoor rowing and fitness business training people both in-person and remotely. https://www.sgfitnessandindoorrowing.co.uk/