Earlier this week I did something I’d never done before. I went public on my erg scores. In the past I’ve always been deeply ashamed by my performance on the erg. My scores have always been right down towards the bottom of my squad’s leader board, no matter how hard I try (and trust me, I try). Even allowing for my age, my height and my weight, I’ve just never been able to achieve a score that seemed even vaguely respectable. My response has been to be pathologically secretive about what’s on the monitor. I’ve skulked at the back of the erg room to find the machine with the least likelihood of letting anyone see my screen and I’ve never, ever posted an erg score on my social media.
Until this week. After giving it my all in an erg test the other day, it dawned on me how ridiculous it was to be ashamed. The reason, you may be surprised to learn, isn’t anything to do with ergs not floating and technique being all that counts (though I discovered this summer I could hold my head high in a single). I’m fully aware that erg scores matter as a measure of fitness and strength, and I get why they go into the mix when it comes to crew selection.
No, the reason I’m not ashamed any more is simpler than that. It’s just that so long as I’m doing all I can – training as much as my health permits, looking after myself and trying my very hardest – then what comes out on the erg is the best I can do. Where’s the shame in that? It may not be anywhere close to most other people of my age, but it’s my best, and way better than I used to be. So long as I’m always striving to improve then I should be happy, not ashamed.
So with that thought in mind I took a deep breath and posted the results of my not-very-impressive 20-minute erg test. Average split 2:22.4, as against the 2:05 the others of my age were averaging.
Well, nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. I’d kind of feared a tumbleweed moment as people realised how embarrassingly bad I was and quietly turned away, cringing for me. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. The response was overwhelming – and overwhelmingly positive. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” was the cry from other erg-room-skulkers who’ve lived with the same feelings of shame. And from others, whose erg scores are a thing of beauty, I had nothing but support and encouragement. One rower even reported it had inspired her to achieve a PB in her erg test the next day.
So if you’re mortified by your erg scores, I’m going to urge you to stop beating yourself up. Don’t set the monitor to watts or calories to prevent people knowing your split. Don’t hide at the back of the erg room. Don’t be afraid to let people know what you achieved. If you’ve worked hard at it, done the training and given it your best shot, no one should judge you, and you shouldn’t judge yourself either. So you might not make the first 8+, but you know that already. If it’s your best, then it’s good enough. For today.
And then tomorrow we’ll see if we can figure out ways to make it better and stronger. If you like, we can do this together – support each other to see if we can inch up that leader board, just, you know, because it’s there. I’m in if you are.
So maybe I’ll see you in the erg room. And remember. No more hiding. If I can do it, you can, too.