How to Keep a Challenge Interesting from an Old Dog of Meter Madness!

Jan 14, 2019

Editor's note: Terry Smythe was a long-time friend of Concept2 and champion of indoor rowing. Terry passed away on November 27, 2018, after a fierce battle with mucosal melanoma. We remember her with fondness and want to share her rowing tricks of the trade.

Ah, the Concept2 Challenges. Those monthly team and individual competitions that help fans of flywheel fitness stay consistent on their rowing machine, SkiErg or BikeErg. In my 35+ years of experience as an indoor rowing instructor and on-water college coach, I can tell you the Challenges have been the hook to introduce new people to the Zen of the flywheel, and also offer ongoing goals that help keep my rowers fit.

Challenges are great for several reasons:

  • They make it easy to move consistently which, as with all things, is the true key to success.
  • They help you mix up your workouts by giving you different targets to hit every month, different machines you can use, different formats, etc.
  • They help you connect with a community of fellow flywheel athletes online. Even if you row alone, you’re never really alone.

Bottom line, the challenges keep the flywheel FUN, and that’s the secret to success. The fun in setting a goal and chasing it, the fun in being part of a community, the fun in feeling your body change as you challenge it through daily workouts on the erg. The fun in helping your crew achieve its goals, the fun of discovering the athlete within if you are newer to indoor rowing or this is your first time participating in a challenge.

Concept2’s challenges are non-intimidating because you determine your goal and you decide to participate or not. You decide how hard you will row, ski or bike. You decide how much fun you will have. As the instructor in a group environment, it was my job to bring the fun and create the opportunity for others to join in and add to it. I might start the idea but it gets a life of its own once people are sitting on the ergs during warmup or cool down and thinking, “What else could we do?”

Here are some things I have done to make the challenges fun for my members:

  • Create a daily calendar for the Challenge that provides a theme for the day. Monday might be wear your favorite ball cap, Tuesday wear your favorite college team, Wednesday is cookie day, Thursday rowing facts, Friday write your favorite quote on the wall.
  • Track your team or individual progress toward your meter goal and post it on a wall, then share it on social media for extra support and bragging rights.
  • If you row on your own, join one of the online rowing groups (for example our RowStrong group on Facebook) and find virtual support and accountability there.
  • Take the ergs outside, to the mall or a storefront downtown and have people rotate times rowing. Nothing draws a crowd like the rowing machine! In warm weather we might row on a flatbed during a parade!
  • Run a “Wicked 500s” competition to see who can row 500 meters the fastest. People can do it as many times as they want in the time allotted. Even better if there’s a prize of some sort at stake.
  • Pick a charity and “row for a cause.” Donate a certain amount of money for every certain number of meters, or for reaching a goal. We often rowed in support of local non-profits or people in need in our community.

You get my drift. There is no place you can’t take an erg, and a challenge is a great time to do it. A fresh audience is always welcome. I would often put the ergs in the parking lot and would decorate with banners and balloons and we would all wear crazy hats and wave at the people driving by.

Challenges boring? Heck NO! If you’re a loner don’t just row steady state. Mix it up with the Concept2 Workout of the Day or a UCanRow2 workout. Reach out and join a team that looks like fun to you.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by enjoying a challenge a few times a year. No Excuses!

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