FAQ’s & feedback from my recent post

Hi there,

Thanks for all the great questions and feedback from my recent post on how always training in the middle can be costly. I have summarised most of the questions and feedback below.

Thanks to all that have enrolled and completed the course on ‘how to create your heart rate zones for rowing.’ Please forward the course link to a friend. Course Link

In the coming days I’ll be sending out information on my new course, ‘How to create your training plan’. I will be launching this in late May and welcome suggestions on topics you’d like to see covered.


Q         Do I count the sessions of the time spent in low vs. high intensity?

A         I count the number of sessions training in low intensity vs. high intensity. For example, I train 5-days a week, I spend 4 days training at low intensity and one day where I focus on training at high intensity. When my squad do say 7 sessions a week, they will do two high intensity sessions that week.

Q         How long is the time required to fully reset aerobic base? During the reset period, should I be aiming for an 80:20 ratio (80% zone 2: 20% zone 4/5) or some other ratio?

A         Between 8-12 weeks depending on the individual. My annual plan is very similar to a classical periodized plan in that I prescribe at least 8-weeks of aerobic foundation at the start of the season. During the ‘re-set’ I focus my clients on 100% zone 2 (<75% heart rate peak) until I start to see some improvement in their aerobic condition, i.e. improvement in pace or power for the same effort. After I start to see some improvement I may include one high intensity session a week.

Q         I used to train for bike racing and used my HR zones almost exclusively so as to focus on effort and not hills or wind that affects speed. I would like to start doing that with rowing, but need to re-establish my HR zones as I haven’t done that in 10 years – on the bike. My questions are 1) what is the best way to do that for rowing 2) I want to train by HR for on the water rowing as well as erg – I’m on the water more than erg anyway. 

A         First establish your heart rate peak on the ergo for 2k, or on the water with a 6-minute Vo2max test. From there you can set your heart rate zones from this peak and use this as a guide to your training intensity on the water, ergo or bike.

Q         If ratio is 80:20, does it matter if I mix in some zone 4/5 with zone 2 workouts, or should they be done on separate days? Thanks

A         They should be done exclusively on separate days.

Q         I feel my 2k erg pace (which also needs to be redone) is not a good marker as I’m likely not working hard enough in that test. Thoughts?

A         The 2k test should be your maximal effort. To really get motivated and to push an all out effort, re-do the test with some friends cheering you on. 

Q         Is there guidance around about HR geared workouts as opposed to pace? Almost everything I see is based upon your “2k erg pace”. 

A         The 2k test is there to establish your heart rate peak. Once you have your heart rate peak, you can set up your training zones and train accordingly.

Q         Hi Bill, I am a follower of polarization training for over 4 years. I am happy with the long 18k-26k around 75% HR sculling/erging. What I am struggling about is the 10-15% red zone training. I cannot manage it without greater percent of yellow zone. What type of intervals do you use to achieve the preferable percentage? Many thanks for your help. 

A         So what we do (masters squad) and what I do is as follows: look at the intensity of the session first of all and count these as either low or high intensity. For the high intensity I aim to accumulate between 30 – 45 minutes in zone 4 through different interval variations. My objective is to get into zone 4 as fast as possible and therefore only transition through zone 3. ntervals are a variation of 2:1 work to rest ratio. I let the squad pick and mix to keep the varsity yet a favourite is 5 x 8 minutes with 4 minutes rest between intervals. This is comfortably hard.

Feedback on the approach

Hi Bill. Just read your post on base training. I’ve just completed a solid 4 week blockof it. Two comparative workouts 4 weeks apart. 2nd one at same wattage but HR 20 beats lower. (Craig)

Great case study Bill Chambers. Have you, or are you considering submitting this formally? There’s a real dearth of rowing specific research out there relative to other sports.

Thanks this is a very good post, and spooky as well – we were just talking about this as a team. I can attest that the single biggest improvement in my 2k time was doing the long, boring sessions at 65-75% HR. Audible helps!

Thanks for this. Improvements in aerobic capacity, not limiting carbs, is what leads to efficiency in burning fat for fuel.

I’ve been training mainly in the middle for the last 4 seasons and last year I started feeling my shape was going under. No recover between sessions, more fatigue more pain in the body. When I started rowing at home in March I saw a video from a British rower claiming the benefits of training below AT2. After that, my club coach shared with me your Course about adjusting the training zones. Since then I’m focusing on working below AT2 as a base training.

With no pressure from regattas to train for sprints, I’m catching up on a couple of lost autumns’ UT2 endurance work. At 71, I’m sticking to 120bpm @ 18spm – for 10k up to HM. 200k out of 260k (75%+) so far in April. Need to do another couple of months of this!! Money in the bank!! 👍

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