10 Questions with John Mark Seelig
John Mark Seelig is captain of the USA Men's Rafting Team and 9-Ball Watermen, a group of passionate paddlers who expand their adventures beyond paddling on rivers. He is also the owner of GOAT Training in Edwards, Colorado, a strength and conditioning gym geared towards mountain athletes.
The USA Men's Rafting Team competes all over the world, paddling some of the best rivers with the International Rafting Federation. This group recently chased a Grand Canyon Speed Run attempt, looking to break the fastest time down the 277 miles of the Grand Canyon.
The team designed a unique boat consisting of six rowers on a cataraft frame and inflatable tubes. They nearly missed the record three years ago after their boat broke and the record became out of reach. They recently attempted the record again and succeeded with the fastest inflatable record (38 hours, 5 minutes). They used "nearly indestructible" oars from Concept2 and configured their boat to mimic their training on the indoor rower.
Concept2 recommends watching the award-winning film documenting the team's first speed attempt.
When did you first hear the name Concept2 or try one of our products?
I believe my first time on a Concept2 Indoor Rower was in 2002. It was a workout that entailed 250m in a CrossFit workout. Funny, at the time, 250 meters felt like an eternity.
Do you remember your first workout on a Concept2 machine? What did you think at first? Do you remember how you felt afterwards?
The beautiful thing about the indoor rower is that you get faster and more efficient, but it never gets easier.
Which Concept2 products do you use? Why have you chosen those products? How do they enhance your training?
We use the RowErg, BikeErg, and SkiErg at our gym, GOAT Training in Edwards, Colorado. For paddling events, the SkiErg is probably the most transferable. When we decided to go with a sculling configuration on the Grand Canyon Speed Run boat, we obviously had to learn to row more efficiently. We sought the advice of Olympic rowers and other collegiate rowers to program our training. We had to figure out a way to endure 38 hours of rowing and still have power through the rapids that require a lot more power. The Raft/Cataraft design is very different than a rowing scull. Our boat never planes, it just keeps pushing water, so the resistance on the oars is pretty significant. We always made fun of people with the rower damper on a 10 every time they rowed, but we became those guys. It was a lot more of a strength endurance effort, not a cardiovascular endurance effort.
How do you incorporate Concept2 equipment into your programming?
The majority of the people that come to our gym are cyclists or runners, but we use all of the machines to explore effort in a closed environment. Much of our programming is trying to get our athletes more comfortable with being uncomfortable. The Concept2 machines have a unique way of helping people discover their capabilities. Our hope is for these people to step outside the gym and apply these new discoveries in their specific sport or everyday life.
What types of athletes do you primarily work with?
We work with professional cyclists, professional triathletes, professional paddlers, moms, dads, grandmas, recreational athletes, ex-Olympic ski racers trying to rebuild their body, future Olympians and whoever walks in the door. If they walk in our doors they are already admitting they need help, they need more, and they are deficient in something. They are vulnerable, which is huge. We all need help, a positive community and an environment that promotes growth. We have never arrived.
What’s your favorite/go-to workout?
Honestly, we are always changing things up. Our base of everything is strength training. The sports that our athletes participate in are demanding and can create some over-use injuries. Our goal is to keep them generally strong so they can enjoy the things they love outside, not take away from the outdoors. The Concept2 machines are a perfect tool to allow the athletes to explore effort in a controlled environment.
We’d love to hear a quick story that involves Concept2 equipment–a motivational, funny, or learning moment.
Early on in our training we had our friend, Andy Baxter, jump in the boat to see our rowing technique. We were trying to feather our oars, but not only were we bad at it, but we were feathering the wrong way. Andy convinced us to stop feathering, because the amount of time to become efficient feathering would be a waste of time. Also, our forearms would be smoked trying to feather for 38 hours.
We hold three fundraising events each year using the three Concept2 machines. One is a BikeErg Challenge supporting The Cycle Effect, a local program that gets young girls on bikes. The SkiErg Challenge in the Fall, fundraising for Protect Our Winters. Lastly, a Rowing Challenge, fundraising for Grand Canyon Youth.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone hopping on Concept2 equipment for the first time?
Don't worry about how fast you go. Pay attention to the details and then you can start going harder. It's harder to break bad habits than to start on the right foot.
What trainers or athletes do you look up to?
There are quite a few people who have influenced our training methods. We have developed and changed significantly in the past 3-4 years as we have learned more. Harder is not always better!
The Team from Barbell Medicine has influenced us tremendously with programing, pain science, and sport specific training. Dr. Jordan Feigenbaum continues to be my coach for strength. Steve Magness has exposed me to a whole different realm of training for endurance. The psychological elements of effort have been explored through the eyes of Mark Twight, which can be a large rabbit hole.
What or who inspires you to keep going?
The desire for adventure and experiences with the people I love keeps me going. Shared experiences are so memorable. Suffering with others changes you and your relationships.