The Jon Plan : An erg training plan for people with very little time

My daughter’s fiancee is a first year Urology Resident at a major urban hospital.  This means long and irregular hours and lots of stress.  His father gave him (and my daughter) a brand new, concept2 Model D indoor rower for Christmas.

I decided that I would refine some of the thoughts that I contributed to an online forum about time limited workouts into a more complete training plan.

The plan is mainly based on the Pete Plan.  This is a cyclical plan with 3 “hard” sessions a week, and 3 “steady” sessions a week.  In the 3 hard sessions are a short interval session, a long interval session and a hard distance session.  The steady sessions are basically 8K done at a moderate pace.  The creator of the plan, Pete Marston, is an accomplished indoor rower.  He wanted a plan that would fit into his lunch hour.  It has some similarity to the Wolverine Plan, but dispenses with the parts of that plan that Pete found annoying.

So this, then, is a grandson of the Wolverine Plan.  The constraints of the plan are this.

  • Employ sound training principles
  • Actual rowing time is limited to 30 minutes per session
  • 3 to 7 sessions per week
  • Cyclical, progressive format (like the Pete Plan)

So, here, without further ado, is the John Plan.

The Jon Plan:

The plan is based on a three week cycle. There are no rest days, because life will provide those for you in the form of on call hours and other interruptions.  In each week there are 4 hard days and 3 easy days.

The hard days are intended to provide a weekly balance of power, threshold work, and enough lighter work to facilitate recovery and maintain aerobic endurance.

Start off with a 2K test just to get yourself calibrated. (record your average split)

Since life is all about choices, the workout types are provided in priority order.  Try to get the three highest priority workouts done each week.  If possible try to get a recovery day between these workouts, but that is not mandatory.

Note about  how to row the intervals:  One of the key pieces of advice from the Pete Plan is to set your pace conservatively and stick to it for the all but the last interval, and then make the last one the fast one.  Then you can take the average pace of all your intervals and use that as the target for all but the last interval of the same session, the next time around.

Important Safety Tip:  In order to fit a useful amount of hard rowing into a brief workout window, I have reduced the amount of warmup and cool down in the sessions way more than I would normally like.  If you have extra time for a session, especially the short and long intervals, taking a few extra minutes in warmup is a very good idea.  If you don’t have time for more warmup, starting with a bit slower pace target in the first rep is a good idea. I also think that cooldowns are a good idea, although the research is not as conclusive as it is about the value of a warmup.  But a bit of stretching after a hard session is probably a good idea.

Session Types

Priority #1 – Short Intervals
The objective of these workouts is to improve your 2K performance.  They should be rowed at roughly the same rate (SPM) as your 2K.  The pacing should be about the same as your 2K for the 2′ intervals, and a little slower for the 3′ and 4′ intervals.  If you are not shaking after you do these sessions, you need to try harder.

  • Week #1: 7 x 2′ / 2′ rest ( 2′ warmup / 14′ work / 12′ rest / 2′ cooldown = 30′)
  • Week #2: 5 x 3′ / 3′ rest ( 2′ warmup / 15′ work / 12′ rest / 1′ cooldown = 30′)
  • Week #3: 4 x 4′ / 4′ rest ( 2′ warmup / 16′ work / 12′ rest / no cooldown = 30′)

The two minute warmup up:  Row nice and slow for 30 seconds.  Then do 5 hard strokes. Then 30 seconds easy. Then hard strokes for the rest of the 2 minutes.  For the hard strokes, aim for the target pace and rate that you will be rowing in the intervals.

Priority #2 – Long Intervals
The objective of these workouts is to improve your efficiency and economy and they can really help to improve your middle distance rowing.  They also teach you about dealing with discomfort.  The pacing should be about 6 second slower than your 2K split to start, but it’s going to vary from person to person.  Stroke rate should be a couple bets lower than the short interval sessions.

  • Week #1: 4 x 6′ / 2′ rest ( no warmup / 24′ work / 6′ rest / no cool down)
  • Week #2: 3 x 8′ / 3′ rest ( no warmup / 24′ work / 6′ rest / no cool down)
  • Week #3: The water fall 9′ + 8′ + 7′ / 3′ rest ( no warmup / 24′ work / 6′ rest / no cool down)

Priority #3 – Hard Distance Day
The objective of this workout is to work o lactate tolerance and efficiency.  Pace is going to be about 10 second slower than your 2K test to start (for the free rate piece).  Stroke rate will probably be about 4 beats lower than your 2k.

  • Week #1 : 30r20.  This is a classic power workout.  You row as hard as you can for 30 minutes but the catch is that you row at exactly 20 spm for the whole piece.
  • Week #2: The 30 minute push.  This one is tricky to explain.  The 30 minutes is divided into 5 chunks, each 6′ long.  Row the first chunk at a reasonably easy pace.  Maybe 20 splits slower than your 2k time.  Then, at the end of the first 6 minutes, speed up by 2 splits.  So, for example, if you start rowing at a 2:10 pace, then you would accelerate to a 2:08 pace after 6 minutes.  Then after 12 minutes, accelerate again (now to 2:06).  Then after 18 minutes, do it again (to 2:04).  After 24 minutes again.  Do this one slow the first time, and then start a second or two faster the next time it comes up in the sequence.
  • Week #3:  Free Rate Day.  Choose one of the Concept2 middle distance ranking distances, and go for it.  Your primary choices are 30′, 6K, 5K.  No rate restrictions.  If you are doing the 5K or 6K, do a short warmup before hand.

Priority #4 – Power Day
The objective is to increase your anaerobic power and neuromuscular coordination to row at high rates.  The workout is loosely based on Peak Power Training from Ed McNeely.  This is the same session in all 3 weeks of the cycle.  Here are a few tips from the that article about how to do this session.

On a CII set the drag factor to 200. The high drag factor is necessary to provide adequate resistance so that you can hit a true peak power. Lower drag factors do not provide enough resistance and you will get lower peak power numbers. Warm up by paddling easy for 5-10 minutes. At the end of your warm up come to a full stop and let the fly wheel stop. Set your monitor so that you can see the watts for each stroke. From a stop row as hard and as fast as possible for 10 seconds, recording the highest power you see on any stroke. There is no rate cap but you must row as close to full slide as possible right from the first stroke, do not use a racing start.

  • 8′ warmup
  • 3 x ( 5 x 10″ hard / 50″ paddle) / 2′ rest (2:30 of really hard work, 12:30 of paddling, 4′ rest)
  • 3′ cooldown

Priority #5 – Easy Days
Although these are the lowest priority, they are the key to long term improvement.  These sessions are also the most boring.  You get on the rowing machine and you row for 30 minutes.  Your pace target should be about 2K plus 20 or so.  If you use a heart rate monitor, you should aim at having your heart rate below 80% of your max at the end of the session.  The purpose of these sessions is provide active recovery from the hard sessions, to build aerobic endurance and to improve the ability to use fat as an energy source for exercise.  These sessions can be replaced by a bike ride, run, or other aerobic activity.

The cycle

The whole point of the structure of this plan is so that you go through all the workout over a 3 week cycle, and then you come back and do them again.  You can measure improvement from cycle to cycle and you get better at the workouts.

Example 3 Week Cycle

Week Day Workout Type Session Target Pace
1 Sunday 2K Time Trial 2K
Monday 30′ Easy 2K +20
Tuesday Short Intervals 7 x 2′ / 2′ rest 2K
Wednesday 30′ Easy
Thursday Long Intervals 4 x 6′ / 2′ rest 2K + 5
Friday 30′ Easy 2K + 20
Saturday Power 3 x ( 5 x 10″ / 50″ ) / 2′ rest 2K – ?
2 Sunday Hard Distance 30 R 20 2K + 14
Monday 30′ Easy
Tuesday Short Intervals 5 x 3′ / 3′ 2K + 1
Wednesday 30′ Easy
Thursday Long Intervals 3 x 8′ / 4′ 2K + 6
Friday 30′ Easy
Saturday Power 3 x ( 5 x 10″ / 50″ ) / 2′ rest
3 Sunday Hard Distance 30′ Push 2K + 20 to start
Monday 30′ Easy
Tuesday Short Intervals 4 x 4′ / 4′ 2K + 2
Wednesday 30′ Easy
Thursday Long Intervals 9′ / 8′ / 7′ (3′ rest) 2K + 6
Friday 30′ Easy
Saturday Power 3 x ( 5 x 10″ / 50″ ) / 2′ rest
4 Sunday Hard Distance 30′ Time Trial (Free Rate) 2K + 10

What if you are on call and can’t do a session?  If you have a couple minutes, here and there, I suggest that you try to do some very quick body weight exercises.  Do 50 body weight squats.  Do a set of 20 push ups.

There are two options about what to do with the planned sessions when you need to miss multiple days in a row.  One option is to try to cram all the high intensity stuff into the days that you have.  The other is to just pick up with the normally scheduled session for the day when you return.  I have found that the second way is a lot easier to manage when my routine is disrupted by travel or other business commitments.  But you might be different.  In any case, after a lay off of 3 days or so, your splits will suffer a little, so don’t get all stressed about your times.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Jon Plan : An erg training plan for people with very little time

  1. sanderroosendaal says:

    I would add stretching (and if possible massage). You can do the stretching in the evening before going to bed. It will help you fall asleep fast (= more energy for same time in bed = time saver).
    Even though I sin often myself, I try to teach stretching to all people who sport with me. I think it is essential.

    Like

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