An 'erg', or ergometer, is a machine designed to mimic a sport's movement while tracking the performance of that movement. Indoor bikes, nordic tracks, and paddling machines are all types of ergometers, but probably the most heavily tracked, cited, and reviled is the rowing erg. Rowing ergs get a lot of press because rowing athletes spend a LOT of time on them, so much so that there are extensive sets of standards for juniors, masters, national team hopefuls, and para-athletes.
Since the machine gives you a read out of your split times, total distance, and race completion time, there is a lot of data to measure one's performance. Indoor rowing or 'erging' is therefore highly competitive, since you can compare your results to folks that did the same distance elsewhere in the country (at the same time or a different time), or even yourself over time. Ergs are readily available and pretty consistent/comparable, so comparisons are much easier than trying to figure out who had the better boat, tailwind, or current. Many universities and national team development squads use erg standards to select athletes, and coaches use them to track progress. The Canadian National Dragonboat Team has used rowing ergs for several years since they are so available and consistent across the country. Paddling machines have far more variability, and if you are just measuring brute fitness then a simple tool is better.
Instead of speed in kph, ergometers usually display the split time for 500/m. Since 2000m is the standard race distance for rowing, there are calculators to see what kind of split you need to hold in order to meet a goal time. For example, someone aiming for a 7:25 2000m would need to maintain and average split time of 1:51.2/500m.
Erging is not very technical, and it is not very pleasant. The main way to go faster is to work physically harder (no glide here!), and most of the race distances emphasize efforts above the lactate threshold. So to keep folks motivated and focused during the loooooong prairie months of winter training, there are indoor rowing competitions. Usually these events network the ergs together and project the race onto a screen so you can see your competitors relative to yourself - easily the most fun way to erg.
Check out this link to a newscast of to the Canadian Indoor Rowing Championships.
Saskatoon will have an indoor rowing event in January 2016 (check http://saskatoonrowingclub.com/ for details), and anyone can sign up to compete. Concept2, the most common erg manufacturer, has lots of online training tips and workouts. There are also several other indoor rowing events in Canada:
Happy winter training!
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