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From The Desk Of Clarence Bass (www.cbass.com)

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“Making progress toward a challenging goal is what keeps you motivated. Challenge lights the fire. Progress keeps it burning bright.” Challenge Yourself (Ripped Enterprises, 1999)

Ski Erg Renews Competitive Zeal

Training is no fun unless you’re making progress. I’ve stayed motivated for 60 years by continually looking for ways to improve. When I top out on one area, I look for another where I can realistically expect to improve. For example, when I couldn’t see myself making further progress as an Olympic weightlifter, I moved on to bodybuilding, where I saw many opportunities for improvement.

In my 50s, I took up indoor rowing to help me stay lean and liked it so much that I entered competition. Rowing appealed to me because, like Olympic lifting, it requires power in the legs and back. The new element, not found in the Olympic lifts, is endurance. To excel in indoor rowing requires both strength and stamina.

I had never competed in an endurance sport before and didn’t how well I would do. That being the case, I made a strategic decision. I decided to focus on my own progress and use other rowers as motivation to help get the most out of myself. I wanted to win, of course, and I tried hard to beat everyone I could. But I didn’t judge success or failure based on my world ranking. I had no control over other rowers, but I had complete control over myself. I was happy as long as I was making progress.

For many years the Concept 2 World Rankings helped me improve; I was winning the competition against myself. I started every season with a clean slate, and worked hard to move up in the yearly rankings. I placed high in my age and weight category, but I never made it to the top. That was fine with me, because I was making progress. (If you have to be number one to be satisfied, odds are that you will be disappointed.)  

My best distance was 500 meters, where my lifetime of lifting gave me an edge. I ranked 5th in 2002, 4th in 2003, and 5th in 2004 and 5th in 2005. My best times from year to year were 1:39.6, 1:38.4, 1:38.6, and finally 1:38.2. In 2005, I was number five in a field of 32. That was my best overall ranking. I tried hard but could never crack 1:38. I was stuck.

I lost the competitive edge when my progress stopped. I kept rowing for fitness, but stopped competing.

I didn’t post a time for ranking again until April of 2012—when I discovered the benefits of the Concept 2 Ski Erg. Introduced by Concept 2 in 2009, the Ski Erg mimics cross-country skiing; starting overhead, using your arms, shoulders, upper back, and legs, you pull down to about knee level (see photo below). Importantly, the superb performance monitor, the same as on the C2 rower, allows you to compete with other athletes from all over the world.  

I was vaguely aware of the C2 Ski Erg, but I didn’t seriously consider buying one until a client asked me about it during a phone consultation. In the course of researching the machine it dawned on me that the Ski Erg is the perfect complement to the C2 rower. The rowing motion extends the body and the Ski Erg flexes it; taken together they work just about every muscle in the body.

My client decided to postpone a purchase, but I went ahead and bought one. In a few months, I was back in competition against guys my age from around the world, this time on the Ski Erg. 

On April 28, 2012, I posted my first 500 meter time for entry in the Concept 2 Ski Erg World Rankings.

Unfortunately, there's a hiccup in my competitive strategy. There are plenty of Ski Erg competitors my age, but few if any my weight. Unlike rowing, where competitors are divided into over and under 165 pounds, there are no weight categories in Ski Erg competition. (I assume that there will be weight categories when there are more competitors.)

I soon learned that I am competing with men who outweighed me by 50 pounds or more. There doesn’t seem to be anyone under 165 in my age category. Bodyweight makes a difference in rowing, but it matters even more in indoor skiing, where bodyweight helps a lot on the downward stroke.

Not to be deterred, I found competitors a few seconds over and under my times in the “All Ages” category. The 300-pound 50-something guy I passed a while back and the 13-year-old just ahead of me are my last and future “rabbits” as I move up among indoor skiers of all ages. Thanks, guys, for the challenge.

Having never trained on the Ski Erg, I had plenty of room for improvement. Nothing motivates like progress—and I made progress.

I kept finding people with times a little ahead of me, and trained hard to pass them. Like before, my main goal was progress. It worked over and over. Here are my 500-meter times over the last year:  

April 28, 2012—2:38.2

September 1, 2012—2:22.5

September 19, 2012—2:21.6

November 25, 2012—2 20.7

December 23, 2012—2:19.6

March 2, 2013—2:17.9

My 500m time improved by over 20 seconds in the last 11 months; that may not seem like much, but every second is hard won, an achievement. I worked hard and made great progress. It will be harder from now on, but with the help of my C2 supplied Rabbits, I’m primed for more progress ahead.

Thanks to the Concept 2 Ski Erg, I am now the self-crowned king of the over-70 lightweights. Of course, I’m the only lightweight septuagenarian Ski Erg competitor I know. That won’t last for long, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

You could hear me all over our house hooting and hollering after I made the sub 2:18 time on March 2nd. Few things can lift your spirits like making a PR at 75.  Thanks to the Concept 2 Ski Erg World Rankings for helping to make that possible.

I plan to keep looking for ways to improve. Join me. Find your own rabbit and challenge yourself. 


Taken during my September 19th PR, this photo shows me near the bottom of the Ski Erg stroke. Wayne Gallasch is observing.
Photo by Laszlo Bencze

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