The rowing machine or erg is the place to be for training to row an ocean. We’ll row roughly a million and a half strokes over the roughly 50 days of our race. Our bodies will need to be primed for that sort of punishment.
In the gym you see people jump onto the erg and pull out of them with great effort for short periods of time. The machine seems intutitive enough to use, pull the handles, pushing back with your legs, relax in and repeat. How hard can it be?
Not wanting to hurt myself, I looked around on Youtube for some instructional material. I found a super series of videos by the British Rowing Association. I started with their basic 20 minute workout. From there I really focused on trying to build up the time I spent on it.
In practice, the rowing machine is a trickerier machine then it first lets on. Balancing stroke rate, effort in the legs, body and arms combined with breathing takes some coordination. As you go and muscles start to tire and your heart rate goes up the balance changes. You find yourself having to keep focused on the motion. Sliding out of the careful balance you had at the start is easy. It takes mental strength to keep you focused on the motion.
I have found the mental conditioning of the gym as important as the physical. Setting a goal of 10km for a session and then sticking to it is hard. After 3km, a little voice starts to suggest changes to the goal. "...you really only meant to do 8km today" or "why don't we try intervals and then we can be done in 10 minutes". Setting larger goals like 100km in the month definitely helps. I knew there were mileage goals to meet, so if I didn't do it in one session I would have to do it another.
Set yourself goals. Don’t listen to the little voices. Don’t beat yourself up about failure. Celebrate your successful finishes.