Thursday, 7 April 2011

Your ErgMeister Speaks

James T appointed me "Lord High Tsar of the Erg Table" but I'd rather be an ErgMeister so I'm grabbing my own title. We need some way of recording training, praising the valorous, shaming the wicked, encouraging the timid, and so on. And perhaps this blog is it. Lets try, anyway. Hopefully, every week I'll get a good crop of scores in, and will produce an updated post so we know who is hot and who is not.

I think I only have ultimate erg-authority over M1, but I don't see why M2 and M3 shouldn't share the pain join in the fun too, in the spirit of healthy competion. Hot women are also welcome to join.

This post is long and rambling because (a) I'm bad at organising things, (b) this will hopefully be a useful reference for the future and (c) I don't have any scores yet to talk about (OK, I do have two scores, Tom and me, but I want a few more than that).

Quite a few of us record our training on HeiaHeia ( on a daily basis - its a sort of Facebook for exercise. Go get a free account if you haven't already, friend people, and join the Chesterton Rowing Club group (although now I think about it, it says it is a closed group, so you might need an invite).

What we're looking for is for people to do ergs, and tell me (email is fine, wmconnolley(at) and I'll make up cute graphs and tables and stuff. We're going to pay attention to both "raw" and "weight-adjusted" scores, and I think this is a convenient place to tell you about them, so see the section below.

And one last word of intro: please don't be shy. The last thing we need is for everyone to not want to put up their scores because they aren't quite good enough to hang out in public.

Weight-adjusted scores

erg-adjustments All else being equal, a bigger person can pull a better erg. But, a bigger person will also weight a boat down more, increasing the drag. Therefore, some kind of weight adjustment is fair. The one we're going to use is from the Concept2 website, and is basically a 2/9 power law.

However, talk of a simple thing like a 2/9 power law makes the Arts Side folks heads explode, so I've drawn a pretty picture instead. Click to enlarge as usual. It is all very simple: all the curves are normalised to what I've asserted is a typical weight of 85 kg. So, suppose you weigh 80 kg and are aiming for a 7500m weight-adjusted score. Then you look at the deep-red dots at the 80 kg point, and see you need to do about 7400 m. Conversely, if you weighted 90 kg you'd need to pull ~7600m.

If even the picture makes your head explode, then don't worry: just get on the erg and do your best. Tell me your distance and your weight, and I'll work out the conversion.

Or just use the Concept2 weight adjustment calculator yourself.

Distances and settings

For now, do 30 minutes pieces. As the great James T said:

As we come closer to Bumps, I would like us to move onto 2ks and sprint work, but for now, the erg is a way of assessing and improving what your body can do. And you'll even see me on one of the torture machines at some point in the near future.

30 minutes is good for long-term fitness - there is still time to improve this in the next few months.

Settings: all settings give you the same amount of distance for your effort, so use whatever setting you like, but some will fill more comfortable than others. Wanging it up to 10 will make it heavy. Down at 1 you'll struggle to rate high enough to pull a decent distance because it will be too light. Most people use a setting around 3 or 4, or if you want to get fancy a drag factor of about 125. I use 4, if you care.

If you're not in the habit of doing ergs, or possibly have never done a 30-minute one before, then fear not. Just turn up to one of the <ahem> regular sessions (wednesdays at 7pm is looking good) and we'll introduce you.

Ergs and sessions

All ergs are the same, so feel free to use a home / gym one if you have it. The club ones are in Queens and hang near the back on the right. There are 4 of them, and (although there is a booking system somewhere if you're feeling bureaucratic) generally available.

Erg sessions will probably move around to avoid conflicts with outings etc etc, but 7 pm on wednesdays is looking good so far, on a sample of one out of one.

Information required

I need:

* your raw score
* your weight
* date done
* witness

The weight is necessary for calculating the weight-adjusted score (duh) if you want that done. The adjustment is moderately sensitive to the weight (see graph) so please make sure the weight is accurate and not deliberately flattering. "I'm sure I weighted only 75kg a month back" isn't really good enough. There is a set of scales at Queens which I believe are fairly accurate.

If you're going to do a mind-boggling oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-he-did-that sort of erg, then it would be prudent to have a reliable witness, not because we don't trust you (obviously) but just for that comforting feeling of security. On the other hand, for run-of-the-mill everyday about-the-same-as-last-week sort of times, you don't need a witness.

Weight-adjusted scores - the small print

Tom did some looking up scores on the web, and found that, considering world-record times, the lightweight record was (weight-adjusted) almost exactly the same as the heavyweight record. Which tells you that the adjustment is pretty well exact ignoring boat and cox weigt. So in the real world which features boats and coxes who both have non-zero weights, you'd expect the heavier rowers to have an advantage. And, as Tom also observed, if you look at world records on water, heavier crews go faster. Also, Andy observes that short pieces favouring heavier rowers (short term power => muscle size => cube of size) but not so much in longer pieces (long term power => lung surface area => square of size). He thinks. So maybe the Big Boys can pull things back when we drop down to 2k later on.

The point is, in the end, that neither a raw score nor a weight-adjusted score is a perfect measure of strength. Which is why we'll use both, as well as a healthy dose of prejudice.

Season's best scores

In adjusted-to-85kg-weight order.

Who Raw weight Adjusted Witness Notes
Tom 8350 81 8441 William Week1
William 7933 71 8255 Tom Week1
Sipper 8023 83 8073 Ext Week4
Chris W 7906 79 8037 - Week4
Ollie 7850 81 7936 William Week2
Andy S 7896 85 7896 Photo Week3
Andi R 7623 76.5 7800[*] Wife Week6
Simon 7324 65 7771 - Week3
Dave R 7412 68 7710 - Week3
Lorraine 6550 60 7072 Ev Week1
James T 6530 65 6928 W+O Week2

[*] Approximate adjustment

Week 1 scores

I guess I may as well update this post with this weeks scores as I get them. So far we have (in weight-adjusted-to-85kg order):

Who Raw weight Adjusted Witness
Tom 8350 81 8441 William
William 7933 71 8255 Tom
Simon 7306 65 7752
Lorraine 6550 60 7072 Ev

Week 2 scores

Note: my table can only cope with integral weights, so all recorded weights are adjusted to the nearest kg. This shouldn't matter too much.

Who Raw weight Adjusted Witness Notes
William 7938 72 8233 Ollie
Ollie 7850 81 7936 William
James T 6530 65 6928 W+O
Chris W 7561 79 7686 -


Week 3 scores

Good to see people taking a creative approach to proving their erg scores in the absence of witnesses. A slightly thinner crop of scores this week, with the Easter break eating into availability, including mine.

We'll be back to full nagging mode next week.

Who Raw weight Adjusted Witness Notes
Sipper 8013 83 8063 M1 and W1 of Anglia Ruskin
Andy S 7896 85 7896 Photo!
Chris W 7645 79 7770 -
Dave R 7412 68 7710 - Approx adjustment

Rumours exist that James H has been erging but is "not happy with his weight".

Week 4 scores

Just recording some incoming, not a full list yet. Please send in yours:

Who Raw weight Adjusted Witness Notes
Sipper 8023 83 ? Tom
Tom 8153 81 ? Sipper Casual
Chris W 7906 79 ? - Phoned in
Simon 7324 65 ? -

Rumours exist that James H has been erging but is "not happy with his weight".

Week 5 scores

No 30 mins so far (are we getting bored?) but I did a half marathon in 1:27:37. It made a change. My bum hurts.

Week 6

Or is it 7? I lose track. Andi R puts up 7623 on Sunday (followed by 7621 on Wednesday) and is 76.5 kg. I went running :-). Chris Wood offers "10m + (5x500m r3 @ 1.44 32 spm) +10m" (r3 = rest for 3 minutes).


  1. Why does no-one ever post a comment :-(

    Kate said:

    I'd like to just helpfully (or not) say that a) 60mins is the min needed to improved fitness adequately at low rate and b) we use drag 130 for the girls at notts, you should be aiming 135 at least for lightweight men, 140 for heavyweights.

    Good luck with the training, its exciting to read about your enthusiasm!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. If you mean drag setting on the rowing machine, the ones we have are adjustable between 1 and 10. I usually use a setting of between 4 and 5 for a feeling that is comparable to pulling in the 8+. I guess I should also admit (for the benefit of others or not) that I managed to only last 15min on the ergo this evening completing 3612m. If I double that it would put me right around my usual 72xx but that would be cheating. . . I could have pushed myself on-ward for the next 15 min. but I just lost my enthusiasm for it.

  4. The Chesterton group is closed because I thought people might feel happier if their training could only be seen by people in the club. If you attempt to join I get an e-mail and have to accept you as a member. I will endeavour to do so promptly but give me a prod if I forget.

  5. @WD: the "drag setting" is a special way of doing the adjustment that is a bit more precise and self-adjusting than the 1-10 scale. You need to press some mystic sequence on a PM2 headset to get it; on a PM3 it is easier to find.