From the Gjessing-Nilson to Concept2 and Beyond

As I prepare for my last 2k ergo test of the season (and potentially my last ever), I’ve been reflecting on the countless tests I’ve pulled, where I was, what model I was on, what team I was trying to select for and of course, how painful it was. Every rower seems to have an outrageous story about an epic erg test. The account always seems worse than anything imaginable, and I often wonder if the story has been grossly distorted, but why get in the way of a good story, right?

That was until I saw the Gjessing-Nilson ergometer in a documentary about the 1984 New Zealand Men’s 8+ (watch 4:10 minutes in). Hands down, the rowers that were selected in the 1980s and 1990s on that machine had it twice as hard as our modern generation on the Concept2! Not only did they have to pull the bar and accelerate the flywheel that resisted by a hanging weight but they had to push it back in to take the next stroke—that is twice the work that we do on the Concept2!

Additionally, they had no monitors, but rather a simple counter to number the revolutions, and no distance was calculated. An observer would count the strokes per minute and give the athlete a stroke rate.

My own 15-year career has spanned over a few models of ergometers. My first erg test that I pulled as a young doe-eyed 15-year-old all seems so raw. Some winter night in 1996, after a day of school, I made my way to the Montreal Olympic Basin where we had four Concept2 Model Cs: a flywheel and a simple monitor. I’d set a slight opening of the plastic vent, adjust my foot height, set the monitor for the set 2000m distance and just GO!

Today, I have personalized shoes and a performance monitor that can calculate average splits per 500m or draw a power curve for each stroke or provide a bar graph of watts exerted. (Yet, one feature that I could have done with is a simple stroke counter after my coach arithmetically challenged me to do 4 x 100 stroke pieces at high rates. Without my coxswain Leslie’s assistance, I was at a loss!)

So what are your thoughts? Will the rowers of 2020 look back on the 2000 era athletes and think we were so rudimentary with our Concept2 Model D ergs? Is the future of erging with the Dynamic?

Tags: Indoor Rower

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