The Internet is the great equalizer. During the winter months, when the idea of rowing on the water seems months away, rowers can compete against opponents from all over the world in challenges ranging from holiday fundraisers to international ergathons.
Concept2 has pioneered erg challenges since 2000, shortly after its online logbook debuted in 1999. On March 15, the manufacturer’s World Erg Challenge begins as groups from all over the globe enter to rack up the most meters during a one-month span.
“Overall, we try and make the challenges fun and cover a range of things, so that they don’t all require a lot of effort,” said Concept2’s David Hart. “These are really popular and the camaraderie and competitive element provide lots of motivation for people.”
The data backs it up. Hart said over 10,000 people participated in the company’s Holiday Challenge in 2016, with more than 70 percent rowing more than 100,000 meters each. Concept2 now offers challenges throughout the calendar year at different distances, including full and half marathons in May.
In 2017, the World Erg Challenge will try to surpass the 274 teams and 3,578 athletes who competed in last year’s competition, which was co-sponsored by World Rowing and saw 25 individuals erg more than a million meters.
By participating in challenges, even those run online, athletes can set goals for themselves, which numerous studies have shown helps with athletic performance, so long as those goals are specific and measurable. A 2013 study from the Association for Psychological Science said that people like being able to compare themselves with others, and demographic factors affect their buy-in in competitions. In most challenges, Concept2 sets a target for everyone to achieve, but the World Erg Challenge is focused on who can go the furthest in 31 days.
Additionally, the World Rowing Indoor Sprints offer racers a chance to put their best 1,000-meter time up against anyone else between March 10 and 12. The top three finishers in gender, weight, and age categories receive medals. More information on erg challenges is available on Concept2’s website.