How To Nail A 2km Ergo Test

by Cameron McKenzie-McHarg on April 18, 2014

“It wasn’t that bad, actually kind of fun!” words you’d never expect to hear about a 2km Ergo Test.

The 2km ergo test can strike fear into the most hardened rower, it’s the ultimate physical and mental test in a rower’s program; the opportunity to completely empty the tank and get a real and honest understanding of where you stand.

776BC athlete Josh Dunkley-Smith broke the Australian 2km Concept 2 ergo record this week, with an impressive time of 5mins 44.5 seconds. Josh is a seasoned professional rower who has rowed at Geelong College, Melbourne’s Mercantile Rowing Club and the Australian Institute of Sport. He has been a top competitor at the World Rowing Championships year after year and won silver in the Men’s Four at the 2012 Olympic Games.

If there’s anyone that knows what they’re doing, it’s Josh. We’ve asked him to give us an insight into his preparation, approach and execution of the Ergo test. “I actually didn’t think about the test too much beforehand, we had completed some warm up pieces a few days in advance and I was actually feeling a little rusty. I hadn’t completed a 2km test since mid to late last year and so wasn’t sure how I’d go. I like to get ergo tests done early, it seems like some rowers burn so much energy just thinking about them all day. A 10am test allows a good sleep in, I had a decent night sleep and made some eggs on toast and a couple coffees for breakfast and had time to sit in front of the TV for a bit to relax. I cycled in and didn’t really start thinking about the ergo until I was warming up. I don’t like doing a lot of warm up; just some paddling and a few 10-20 sec pieces at race pace. The main thing for me is just to be moving freely and alert. Some people have huge routines and rituals but that seems to burn more energy and if the warm up isn’t just right it becomes a problem. Having others testing at the same time helps but the motivation and plan has to come from inside, so I just relax and think about a light and consistent rhythm whether I’m alone or surrounded by people. I try to even split the ergo as acceleration (big pushes) costs more energy than a constant output. I make sure I breathe deeply but still to my own rhythm. I keep myself internal and honest, telling myself to do the work early and to stay on split. I don’t try and save energy for a sprint that nets one second improvement in the last hundred metres, when that effort could have been a half a second over each 500m; therefore two seconds overall. The last minute is just about keeping moving and holding what I can, one minute is nothing. After the ergo is almost more important than before, no matter how much it hurts I am still in control and I get up and move around. I’ve seen people flop off the ergo and roll on the floor, groaning. You aren’t going to die, but if you act like that your brain probably thinks it will and next time it will do everything it can to keep you alive, including bailing on you when you need it most. So a little discipline to get up and move around to flush my legs means after a few minutes I think about my performance and say it wasn’t that bad, actually kind of fun!”

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