Training Update (New Challenge and Learning Experience)

Posted on by Ben Bruno

As my friends and training partners know, I’m a creature of habit and my own training tends to be pretty consistent and predictable. If you’ve trained with me at all in the past 6-7 years then you pretty much know how I train because it doesn’t change too much. I’ve found a style of training that works well for me and that I enjoy, and I’ve found exercises that work best for my body that allow me to train hard and get stronger without pissing off my injuries.

Whereas some people like to do a bunch of different exercises in a given workout, I usually do 2-3 exercises in a given workout and find that works better for me. I also tend to stick to moderate rep ranges (8-12 on upper body and 10-15 on lower body) whereas a lot of people like to go heavier in the 3-5 rep range. Different strokes for different folks, but training in moderate rep ranges allows me to get stronger without beating up my joints. I also don’t do much dedicated cardio, or conditioning, or whatever you want to call it except for a few high intensity intervals here and there to test myself, but never anything structured.

Starting two weeks ago though, I decided to try a new challenge which I must admit is way outside my comfort zone and my usual style of training.

I’ve become friends with a trainer named Peter Park who trains a lot of high level endurance athletes and is also a high level endurance athlete himself. He’s very smart on that front, and for the next 10 weeks he is going to help me improve my 2,000 meter row on the Concept 2 ergometer. For endurance type people I’m sure a 2,000 row doesn’t seem like an endurance event, but for me, it most certainly is. I’m still going to be doing my usual lifting, but I’m going to be doing three conditioning workouts a week geared towards helping my improve my performance. I’m wearing a heart rate monitor for all my workouts, and he’s teaching me about the different workout protcols. In exchange, I’m doing to help him try to increase his deadlift. We check in regularly and help each other alter the training as needed.

Truth be told, I’m not doing this to improve my conditioning or lose weight or anything like that. I’m doing it as a learning experience. I’m not afraid to admit my weaknesses and I feel that as a trainer it’s very important to always be learning and pursing more knowledge. I’ve learned a lot already, and while the training itself is well outside my comfort zone, it will make me a better, more well-rounded trainer.

The first step was establishing a baseline for the 2,000 row, which I must admit was one of the most horrible things I’ve done in the gym. I did it once with absolutely no idea of how to pace it and got 7:06, then after that I got a little better idea of how to pace myself and did it in 6:57, which was brutal. My time doesn’t hold a candle to competitive rowers, but you gotta start somewhere.

One of my best friends in college was on the crew team, so I sent him a video clip of my form and asked him for advice, and I have some work to do on that front as well.

From here I’ll be doing three workouts a week as directed. I’ve done three already, and as much as I thought I’d hate it, I’m actually enjoying it. Part of me enjoys the actual rowing, but more of me enjoys the idea of learning something new, so I’m just approaching with an open mind and I’m excited to learn some new stuff.

Here’s a video of me doing a tabata on the rower (20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for eight rounds), which was definitely tough.

I look forward to the process of trying to improve my 2,000m time and learning a lot of good info along the way. Any time you have a chance to learn something new from someone who really knows that area well, you only stand to get better and I think you should jump at it. So, I’m jumping at it.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

  • Keith

    Any side effects from the rowing? Know you have a history of knee and back injuries (like me). Lingering effects the next day after a workout?

    • Ben Bruno

      My right hip gets cranky if I do too much or don’t give myself enough time in between rowing workouts. I’m still doing my usual lifting too, so it’s a learning experience figuring out how to modify my lower body training to account for the increased rowing.

  • King Hoover

    Ben- thanks for sharing, with your educational and professional experience, I know your training approach wasn’t arbitrary. I have access to C2s at both gyms and look forward to taking ‘another page’ from your book. We met at Tyler English’s facility for an IYCA event.

    • Ben Bruno

      Cool! Best of luck and hope we cross paths again sometime.

  • Roy Reichle

    Ben–Thanks as always for sharing. I do my regular lifts like you and even use the same rep ranges to keep my joints happy since I’m in my mid-fifties. I really get off on high intensity tabata work though, and one of the first things I did when my gym purchased a C2 rower was to get on there and knock out a tabata sequence or two. What a burn! The rower is up there on my favorite tools for cardio since, like battle ropes, it provides a great upper-body workout as well. Keep up the great work, Ben and I look forward to your next post.

    • Ben Bruno

      Thanks, and best of luck with your training!

  • Travis Pollen

    Good stuff, Ben! The erg and I definitely have a love-hate relationship, as well. What’s your goal for your 2000 m at the end of the 10 weeks?

    • Ben Bruno

      I’m really not sure what’s realistic so I’m just focusing on the process and wherever I end up will be cool with me. Finishing under 6:40 sounds good.

  • Hilary

    I love this! I strength coach for the high school rowing team that I used to be on, it’s gotten me considering another attempt at a 2k. I haven’t forgotten how miserable those few minutes are though, so we’ll see! Good luck!

    • Ben Bruno

      Thanks! The 2k is brutal!

  • John

    Ben, good article. Just some tips (from a rower) and I’m not being technique police here.

    1. Don’t pull your hands / arms to your neck, pull to your nipple / chest
    2. Don’t sit back so far at the top.
    3. On the way back to the front of the stroke, bend at your hips, let your hands go past your knees then break your knees to go to the front (saves time / energy lifting your hands over your knees every stroke)
    4. From the front, push with legs, then lean back with your hips, then finish with your arms. So the process is Legs – body – arms / hands to nipple – arms away from body (fast) – body rock over – break knees to go into next stroke.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but you may get better time (especially on the 2k)

    John