Introducing Jane Erbacher- Who she is, What she does & Why she does it

Written by Concept2 NZ on September 9th, 2019.

If you were to tell me 10 years ago that I would be travelling the world teaching rowing and SkiErg in gyms as my job I would have laughed so hard. I’m 34 now and when I was 24 I, a) had never left Australia, b) had never heard of a ‘SkiErg’, and c) Hated the rowing machine.

Now my entire life is consumed by how obsessed I am with teaching people not only how to use the ergs safely and effectively, but how to enjoy themselves while doing so.
The most common thing I hear these days is: ‘I hate the rower.’’ Followed closely by, ‘my back hurts so much when I row.’ Followed closely by, ‘my quads on the SkiErg! It’s like they’re going to blow up!’
What all of these statements tell me immediately is that I have a very important role in this persons’ life. Doing something that feels miserable - maybe it causes actual pain or pain from performing to a standard that feel less than one’s capability - saps our confidence. We walk away from the activity frustrated and defeated. 

24 year old Jane wanted to change the world. She was a big time dreamer (typical youngest child) who had grand plans for a career as a Human Rights Lawyer. Now what might seem like a total abomination of that, given that what I do now is teach Rowing and SkiErg, I’m here to tell you that the dream and the reality are not too far apart.

What seems like rowing and SkiErg coaching on the surface is actually my opportunity to make the world better. To brighten someone’s day; teach them something; solve a problem for them. I don’t care how cliche it sounds, if you’re a coach and a big part of you doesn’t do it to make people’s lives better and build their confidence, then you’re in the wrong job.

I look around these days and see a broken fitness industry. I see people who got involved because they themselves like fitness and thought it would be cool to workout all day. Alternatively you see the rowing world full of ex-rowers unsure of any other path so they fall into coaching. Liking fitness, being good at fitness or experience as a rower does not make you a good coach automatically.

To coach you need knowledge, empathy and passion. If any of those elements are missing the experience you are giving your clients and crew is substandard.

Photos By: Mike Thurk (@mthurk)

I got into fitness when I was 18. I had always been sporty but once I turned 18 I became super self conscious of my body and so ended up in the local YMCA trying to get ‘fit’. ‘Fit’ was code for, I wanted to lose weight, but I was embarrassed and so tried to divert attention from the topic.
Once I started getting ‘fit’ I realised what an amazing impact trainers and coaches can have on people’s lives and decided it’s what I wanted to pursue. Within a year I became a qualified gym instructor, personal trainer, Les Mills Body Pump and Body Attack instructor and a freestyle aerobics instructor. And... I. Loved. It.

I saw the hour I had with people as a personal challenge to make it the absolute best hour of their day. This is still how I see my role as a coach. The amount of stress and anxiety in people’s lives these days means that their training is usually their reprieve. It’s the one time out of the day that is for them. And so now while my job doesn’t have me teaching classes or training clients day in and day out, I see the time I have coaching and educating people as precious and ensure it is so beneficial and enjoyable for them that they are driven to keep excelling in their training and life long after I walk away.

Four years into working in fitness I decided it was time to go to uni. I had deferred straight out of school as I had just missed out on my first preference - Law. Before finding fitness, I had decided stubbornly that the only career for me was as a lawyer. Anyway at 22 I knew way better than that and I decided a double degree in Arts/Health Sciences would be far more suited to me. I launched into a 4 year double degree on top of my work as a trainer and group fitness instructor and managed to juggle it all surprisingly well.

After graduating, I decided I might as well apply for Law one last time and see what came of it. I got accepted the same day I received the keys to my very own gym. 2013 was going to be a big year.
The next two years flew by as I ran the gym with my business partners and attempted to be a law student. The deeper I got into law, the more I surprised myself with how useful the degree was now as a business owner. I knew one had to give though as I was piling on the weight with too little sleep, too many snacks and far too much stress.
At the end of 2015 I sold my share to my business partner and set off on a trip to the USA, you know to ‘find myself.’

I can’t report finding any lost ginger haired chronic over-committers, but I did find a bunch of incredible coaches to intern with and learn from. I spent the following 12 months deferred from uni and on the road. I launched a podcast with the primary objective of interviewing interesting people who loved their life and finding out their recipe for success. What I learnt that year was what people are capable of. I learnt that I had always been a dreamer but I hesitated on the ‘doing’. I was great at completing courses, certificates and up-skilling, but lacked confidence in the follow through and application. I learnt that I was oozing passion for coaching and cemented that my purpose was absolutely to build confidence in others. So, if I wanted to build a life that was big and really change the world, I had to get out of my own way.

First Photo By: Megan Baumeister (@m_baumeister) Second & Third Photos by: Mike Thurk (@mthurk)

In 2016 I launched Project Row. Long story short, I sucked on the rower. As both a coach and as an athlete, it was a massive weakness for me and a course I was doing required me to row a sub 7.50 2000m. To achieve the standard, I started learning how to row. Within 3 months I was hooked. I loved how technical it was and I loved that when I started developing the skill it felt so much better. I got faster and yet it felt easier.

I realised I couldn’t be the only one and so I set about training with every rowing coach and squad I could and something I found is that most of these people were teaching the erg as a side to rowing in a boat, rather than as its own, stand-alone activity. So I decided I wanted to work with people who only use the erg. Maybe at home, maybe in a big box gym, maybe as part of functional fitness or even in CrossFit. It didn’t matter to me but I knew it was the people boat rowers weren’t talking to and the people who I already connected with and coached.

Project Row teaches people how the erg works and how you can use your body in the most biomechanically safe and efficient way in order to uphold the mechanics and integrity of the machine. I am OBSESSED with injury prevention and so a huge focus for me is teaching people why dysfunction in their rowing stroke puts them at risk of injury and how to prevent it. Oh and I find it incredibly fun :)

Project Row took off and now in 2019 we have run over 300 seminars in Australia, NZ, the US, UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands.

The seminars we run now include Project Ski - based around the Concept2 SkiErg and also our Projects Method Certifications. Our certifications follow on from the foundation ‘Projects’ and focus on educating coaches on how to best teach the ergs as well as how to be a more engaging and influential coach.

Project Ski follows a very similar intent and methodology as Project Row as attendees learn about the mechanics of the erg, the biomechanics of their body when they erg and how synergy between the two is required for success when using it.
I teach that the SkiErg is an amazing training tool for many sports and not just nordic skiing and so the method we use is applicable to a range of training environments.

I could talk all day about this - wait I kind of have! Sorry! But let me finish off with this. I love being a coach. I won’t ever stop learning, improving and developing myself and our products because I have seen and felt first hand what an incredible impact fitness and movement can have on someone’s entire life. I chose the Concept2 equipment for two very clear reasons: they are misunderstood by 99% of their users and the industry and they have the power to build incredible confidence in someone because that damn monitor does not lie! I am so grateful for the ergs because they have been an amazing tool for me and I can’t wait to see how many more lives can improve through exposure to better use.

"I used to avoid the ergs like the plague, making excuses left, right and centre because I found them extremely difficult and exhausting.  My confidence was at an all-time low until Jane captured my full attention during the seminar at RAW Fitness. Jane’s positive energy was contagious and her powerful coaching techniques were like light bulb moments for me. Jane you have contributed to my immediate progress and my overall confidence on both the row and ski, and I just can’t thank you enough!" - Tasha . P (RAW Fitness BOP)