There are a million posts out there about fueling for long runs. Most of them have great information about nutrient amounts and timing, as w...

There are a million posts out there about fueling for long runs. Most of them have great information about nutrient amounts and timing, as well as the types of fuels that tend to work best. A lot of that information is applicable to erging (and rowing).

For example, the recommended calorie intake for sessions lasting longer than 90 minutes is generally 200-300 calories per hour. (Anybody going longer than 3 hours might want to revise that number for their own needs.) This is about how much nutrient your body can theoretically use while exercising. Water intake recommendations are widely varied, from prescribed fluid and salt intake to the advice of "drink when thirsty".

The articles also have great advice for foods that don't slosh in the stomach, and finding foods that work well for you. Dates, bean burritos, chia seed slurries, Gatorade, Gu and more have been recommended countless times.

None of these articles, though, talk about how to eat when both of your hands are occupied holding onto the erg handle. What then?

Short of having somebody feed you—not an easy task when the target mouth is moving—the best option is fuel that can be consumed one-handed.

Since there's less sloshing in erging than running, liquids are a great way to get calories. During rows of 90-120 minutes, I usually keep a bottle of Gatorade nearby. Smoothies, diluted juice, sugar water and sweetened iced coffee or tea are also great options. The important piece is how to get the fluids from container to mouth.

I prefer a water bottle with a squeeze top, like common cycling bottles.

Leave the top open and set it next to the erg for easy mid-row access. Other options include cups with straws:

These don't work well in the boat, but set next to the erg, they're a great second choice. They work better than bottles for thicker beverages like smoothies or chia slurries, but interfere with breathing a bit more than a squeeze bottle.

In running, light foods are preferable because they are easy to carry. Less necessary on a long erg. Although Gatorade usually does the trick for me on shorter workouts, the occasional two hour erg session requires a bit more. 

If I'm taking rests during the workout, I'll opt for fruit as much as possible. Watermelon and grapes are definite favorites during workouts. If I'm trying to eat while erging, fig cookies are a favorite. If it's an easier workout (i.e. I'm not going to be sucking air), I can shove the whole cookie in my mouth and chew/eat over the course of a few minutes. If I'm expecting to be short of breath, I will cut the cookies in half so I can breathe, chew and eat simultaneously.

In all of this, it's easiest to incorporate food and beverages if they're within easy reach. I recommend a low table or shelf next to the erg if possible, but otherwise place bottles/foods at arms reach when you're at the finish of the stroke: that way you have the recovery to grab and eat/drink.

Beyond food and water intake, comfort is a big factor on long erg workouts. The handle gets sweaty, clothing starts to chafe, blisters form, etc. Dealing with those issues can change the pleasure of an erg workout.

In all of these, I find excessive sweat to the biggest factor. When I erg on a hot day, I try to get as many fans going as possible. Counterintuitively, I also wear a t-shirt, rather than go without, to help absorb some of the sweat and prevent it from dripping to my hands. Keeping a towel nearby helps deal with sweaty handles and blisters.

I tend to also get chafe from long erg workouts. The seats are not particularly comfortable, and swinging back and forth repeatedly causes a lot of friction and wear on my skin. To help, I start with preventative measures: I pre-apply cornstarch, petroleum jelly, or lotion to areas prone to chafing. I've have also found that spandex with great compression help prevent chafe most successfully. Finally, sitting on a towel or seat pad helps a lot.

Any other tips for long erg sessions?

This September marks the beginning of the next training year. I just completed my first full year of training with the World Championships i...

This September marks the beginning of the next training year. I just completed my first full year of training with the World Championships in the fall, and looking back I've come a long, long way.

The past year has been all about learning how to train and refining my goals. When I first came to the California Rowing Club, simply getting down to the boathouse was enough to elicit improvements. I was incredibly out of shape and out of touch with my single. Much of my first six to twelve months of training were spent fixing those major issues.

In winter 2012-13, I spent hours sitting on the bike, rowed miles and miles and miles, and ran more than I've ever run in my life. I'm still working to improve my base fitness, but it's no longer holding me back. In fact, I've reached a point where my ability to recover is more of a constraint than my endurance. I can row or run or bike for 4+ hours a day, but if I were to do that every day, I wouldn't ever reap the benefits that only occur during recovery.

My goals also needed some major work. Racing at Canadian Henley my first summer showed me just how far from my goals I was. This past year has been an opportunity to refine my goals, to make them more realistic, and to identify the habits I need to develop and the people I need to rely on to reach those goals.

The Olympics is definitely still a goal, and I have some long-term plans for getting myself there. In the meantime, however, I have my sites set on making a World Championship team, as well as improving my individual performance. People often ask me about the process for making the Olympics: when do I know, how do I get myself there, etc. I always tell them that the first step in the process is self-improvement: I need to get fitter, faster, smarter and stronger. Then I can worry about racing, boating and more.

Overall, the 2012-13 year was about learning how to improve. This coming year will be about putting those lessons to practice. I have some great racing on the schedule for this coming year, but mostly the year will be about consistent training: logging the miles and the meters and the pounds lifted.

1. Train consistently.
I've lost weeks here and there to minor injuries, illness and fatigue (don't try to train if you're not sleeping enough!) Most of those things were preventable, or at least could have been minimized by earlier attention. I've also lost training sessions to laziness and bad habits. When we crossed the finish line 2nd at IRAs in 2011, I regretted every skipped weight session and optional additional workout. I don't want to find myself in that position again.

Action plan:
- Add commitments slowly and choose mostly short-term commitments.
- Actively develop good training habits, including a workout log.
- Surround myself with the resources I need to succeed and stay accountable.

2. Eliminate unnecessary stress.
Stress is a major contributor to lost training for me, and also detracts from the quality of my training and recovery time. It's obvious when there are major stressors, but it's less obvious with the stress of day-to-day life. Every bit helps, and this is definitely something I could use to improve.

Action plan:
- Add commitments slowly and choose mostly short-term commitments.
- Ask for help more often.
- Practice stress management like meditation.

3. Continue learning.
Once you think you're good enough, you start to fail. Two years ago, I thought I knew a lot about rowing; now, I know that I hardly know anything. There's a lot left to learn—nutrition, physiology, anatomy, periodization theory, and more. And there's much to be said for a good coach managing these things for you, but there's also no substitute for understanding your coach's plan.

Action plan:
- Read more books, at least 4 a month.
- Ask lots of questions, of coaches, teammates, experts, etc.
- Whenever I think I'm right, try to prove myself wrong.

Already this year has set out to test my resolve, with some major stress that got in the way of my training. (Fortunately, it was during late August, a bit of a break month.)

I'm trying to keep in mind that these goals represent bad habits I want to change, and I won't get there overnight. In fact, if I can make any progress towards my goals over the course of the year, I will be in great shape.

Right now, I'm working on putting in place the habits that get me down to the boathouse to row in the mornings. I think putting on workout clothes before breakfast is a major keystone habit. When I'm in spandex at breakfast, I'm motivated to put them to use after breakfast, and when my first workout is successful, I'm more likely to rest during the day and complete the second workout successfully. (I also hate getting into bed with spandex on, so it's much easier to not just crawl back into bed after breakfast.)

What are your major training goals?

Dan's birthday was Monday—the lucky guy got a whole holiday, just to celebrate. And we spent the long weekend doing just that. Over the ...

Dan's birthday was Monday—the lucky guy got a whole holiday, just to celebrate. And we spent the long weekend doing just that. Over the course of the three days, we managed to do all sorts of incredibly fun things: go to the beach (and do a photoshoot!), ride our bikes for hours, watch a movie, go grocery shopping, bake bread, sip coffee in pajamas, eat french toast and pancakes, and more.

If you've never made french toast from scratch, there's no better time than now. On Friday, while Dan was finishing up his work week, I baked a loaf of cinnamon swirl bread. Saturday morning, we sipped coffee and cooked up some tasty cinnamon french toast. (Barely enough of the bread made it to Saturday morning. Sorry I'm not sorry.)

Although I would someday love to really compose a complicated dish from the beginning (growing and grinding the grains/fruits/veggies/spices, processing and baking, cooking, etc.), it was still incredibly satisfying to start from flour and end up with french toast. And somehow, the love that went into each step made the toast that much more filling and satisfying.

We've been experiencing this often recently. From freshly baked breads to homemade pastas to homegrown organic tomato sauces and more, putting more care into our food has made us eat more mindfully. There's something precious about a strawberry or a tomato grown in the backyard that makes it all the more satisfying, and something valuable about home-ground peanut butter that makes it harder to eat by the spoonful.

Have you had that experience?

Of course, we don't always have time for homemade hummus and fresh bread. When I'm traveling, racing, working, or in the throes of a nasty training week, getting nutritious food on the table quickly is definitely our priority. Those weeks we definitely rely on our freezer to get us through.

Hope you had a great labor day weekend filled with friends, family and good food.
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