Spring is in the air, the docks are going in, but we’re in that weird transitional time in the Northeast when freak snowstorms still blow through. I always go through a type of cabin fever this time of year when the very last thing I want to do is another erg session. I am so done with indoor rowing that I am mentally guaranteed to have a poor quality workout. My visualizations are all about rowing, SUP, skating, running. So what do you do when the weather is awful? Jump in the pool! It will do you good for several reasons:
1. Every rower says they passed a swim test, but how many years ago was that? It doesn’t help you much in the single when your oarlock breaks in the middle of Mission Bay (speaking from experience). It never hurts to practice swimming when you’re going to be out in a boat, because there are situations in which you can be in the water for a long time, and you have to be comfortable and efficient either waiting for rescue or paddling a broken boat to shore.
2. It will work out all the kinks in your posterior chain, like magic. After doing squats and erg work all winter, swimming is like giving your spine and hips a nice massage.
3. It will tell you pretty quickly if you are weak in the shoulder girdle, and is a great exercise for injury prevention. Rowers tend to be immensely strong in one plane of motion, but weak through other portions of the whole 360-degree arc of the shoulder.
4. It’s really hard work, and forces you to focus on finding a breathing rhythm that works. Sound familiar?
5. It’s something new, it’s fun, it reminds you of summer, and it breaks you out of the erg room doldrums.
For 1000m racers, I’d recommend 250-meter (~3:50) repeats with 1:30 rest or something similar, and double that for 2000m racers. The intervals should be long enough that you have to find a way to glide vs. just muscling it through. If you are not a skilled swimmer, I’d recommend the Total Immersion DVD series as a good way to get decent, fast. You can get it on Netflix and often at your local library. If you want to get really technical, CrossFit Endurance’s Power, Speed, Endurance spends more time on swimming than anything else.