Today I published an article to the Tabata Times Contributor Network on how to prepare for a 2K indoor rowing race from a CrossFitter’s perspective. Comment here for feedback! Thanks to James Bailey of Q-Power, Mike Stanitski of Ever Green Boat Club, Olympian and Coach Xeno Muller, and Steve Macioci of CrossFit Ignite for contributing, and good luck to all the athletes competing at CRASH-Bs this weekend!
As we get into the heart of indoor rowing season, I wanted to highlight three easy ways to check your own technique on the C2.
1. Pump up the volume! You can’t groove in good technique by doing 500m or 1000m as part of your warmup routine. You need to commit to a couple of days in which your goal is to row 10-15K at a decent pressure that makes you breathe as hard as you would in a long chipper like Murph or the Tough Mudder. You have to get tired enough to learn to relax, and you have to row for long enough for your body to find a natural “groove” and work out some of the inefficiencies in your stroke. I guarantee that if you do this a couple of times, it will benefit your sprint performance significantly through technical improvements alone.
2. Row feet out! Undo the straps, put your feet on top of them, and spend some time rowing that way at about half pressure. If you lose your musculoskeletal connection during the stroke, your feet will pop up. This is the #1 way to work out the major faults in your technique. Feedback is immediate, and you might even end up on the ground! You can do feet-out as a drill during your warmup to check yourself before getting into the meat of the WOD.
3. Buy a cheap full-length mirror! You know – the $5 “expendable” kind that you can stick to your kids’ closet door. Lean it against a wall slightly off center in front of the C2 so you can see your entire stroke. I know CrossFit boxes are anti-mirror, but this is not for posing and flexing – it lets you self-coach your technique as if you had a live video feed, and it is the single best coaching tool there is for indoor rowing. Watch the online videos of the world’s best, then watch yourself in the mirror and make corrections.
Good luck to all CrossFitters, indoor rowers, and on-water rowers who are competing in indoor races this month!
<< Feet Out! >>
Great post from Tabata Times:
Amen I say, especially as we start to get into CrossFit Games season. I’m always amazed at how many people go strict Paleo, etc. but then only exercise in the controlled environment of the gym. Get out there like your ancestors! Strike out into the woods in the snow! Swim in the ocean! Climb a mountain! Sometimes we forget the “learn new sports” aspect of the CrossFit philosophy. There’s no better “constant variation” than trying something you don’t know how to do.
While I was traveling recently, I tried the Invictus Rowing Club WOD. This is Shane Farmer’s creation – the same driving force behind CrossFit Rowing. This was a late night WOD done around 10 PM after a brutal day, so my splits were not what I would normally expect, but at least I got it done. This is a good one that I would like to re-try when I’m more rested. You can program this using the “Intervals –> Variable” function on the Concept2.
Sandwiched between two weeks of stressful business travel, I was able to take a weekend in my old home of Sonoma County, California to get in two-a-day workouts and rejuvenate. It was great to get out of the gym in the middle of winter, leave the barbells on the ground, and go up against Mother Nature instead. Here’s how it went:
AM: 10k row in a quad at Marin Rowing Association with several old ex-elite friends. The water was perfect and we were able to get way out into the bay past the last pylon on the ferry road. Rowing in a skilled quad is a rare treat, and always improves my technique both in the single and on the C2. There are 3 specific skills that l like to work in the quad:
1) Subtle but lighting-quick blade mechanics, trying to perfectly pick up the speed of the boat with almost no splash at all.
2) Huge length, mostly from leg compression and extension of the shoulder girdle.
3) Well-defined acceleration through the body swing – it’s much easier to feel the ratio in the quad than in the single or on the C2.
PM: Trail run on the Kortum Trail, which follows the bluff tops of the Sonoma Coast State Beach for about 8 miles round trip. I started the run just on the heels of a small winter storm, which meant that the mist, the stone monoliths, and the smell of pelagic air + wet manzanita + eucalyptus made it seem like something straight out of Tolkien. This is a mostly flat run with absolutely spectacular views. There is one section where you descend to beach level briefly, and you realize that you have to look WAY UP to the level of the tortured wavetops just offshore. That is a great motivator to run up the steps on the other side before a giant rogue wave rolls in!
Post-run: THE BEST myofascial release massage I have ever had in my life at Osmosis spa, which is in quite literally the middle of nowhere in the hamlet of Freestone. Back pain = GONE. Knee pain = GONE. Tight wrists and forearms = GONE. All the stress and unhealthy sitting of the previous week = GONE! If you are in the Bay Area and don’t mind the drive, it’s worth it. CrossFitters, ask for Lauren K or one of the other therapists certified in myofascial release. It’s a very different style of massage that involves a lot of the same extended stretching and pressure point stuff we try to do with a lacrosse ball and foam roller, except that when another person is doing it they can get to places you can’t reach yourself. She was able to customize her technique to what she felt in my muscles and joints as she progressed, and the results were astounding!
Sunday AM: Row in a quad at North Bay Rowing Club in Petaluma, which is my old club from the 1990s. We rowed for about 9 miles round trip, firm steady state at a 22 on the downstream leg and intervals of 10/20/30/40/50/60/60/50/40/30/20/10 work strokes at 30-32 with 20 strokes off per interval on the way back.
Sunday PM: 5.5 mile trail run in Marin Headlands, from Rodeo Beach, up the Coastal Trail to Hill 88, and down the Wolf Ridge and Miwok trails back to the beach. This is one of my favorite runs, because the scenery is from a postcard, but the workout is just death. The trail grade goes straight up from the parking lot, gaining about 1000 vertical feet in maybe 2K of distance. It is simply punishing. Then the trip down is longer, curving around the back side of the hill, but not that much flatter, meaning that your quads just get shredded. After the run, I took my shoes off and soaked up to my calves in the freezing surf, rinsed off in the surfer shower, and headed for the airport.
Bottom of Coastal Trail looking up. View from the top, Mt. Tam to the north
Looking down on parking lot. Cryotherapy in the freezing surf!
When I think “CrossFit,” this is actually more what I believe the philosophy should be: Combining multiple sport modalities in a single day: Rowing for technique and endurance, rowing for intervals and speed, technical trail running requiring balance and real-time tactical decisions, and a matched set of recovery options including cold-water immersion, stretching, and myofascial release. The purest form of this, in my opinion, is to do it outside of the gym, where you are at the whims of water, wind, and terrain, and your body has to constantly adapt to conditions. Although if I’d had access to a portable kettlebell or a small boulder, I probably would have worked that in somehow.
All in all this was a perfect weekend combo of workouts and recovery – I feel like my batteries are recharged for a year. If you have the opportunity, try it!
Thanks to Row2K for publishing my rowing hack submission, and giving a shout out to Ever Green Boat Club! I use this hack a lot while traveling. I also find that wearing FiveFingers on the erg not only saves on space in my luggage, but also makes me pay more attention to my finish timing, as they are both more flexible and less forgiving when your technique deteriorates.
I tried this WOD last week…it was a good exercise in rowing with powerful swing at low ratings, trying to keep a consistent split. I did it on a public gym ergo using drag factor to calibrate the resistance to 125. What I found is that while I managed to hit the ratings pretty well during the pieces, the C2 memory function overstate the average rate. In reality, it takes a couple of strokes to hit the correct rating, and I think this skews the memory algorithm on short duration pieces. This was a fun WOD that let me get a great workout in late at night after a grueling day. Thanks Renegade Rowing!