Crossfit Endurance rowing workouts are highly specific to competition

The weather back east has been terrible this April and it’s been hard to get a lot of single sculling in.  What I did notice, however, is that I was able to get right back on the water after a rough winter and was able to be at full pressure, race ratings within 2-3 sessions.  This is unusual – it generally takes a while to get back to a comfort level of rowing at race intensity.  While most people are still “getting back into it,”  I am already able to start race rehearsal.  What is the value of this?  How many sessions of high intensity training am I gaining on a competitor who is still testing out full pressure at 24-26?

In discussions with my coach at Crossfit Ignite, I came to the following realization.  I’d actually bet on this as the most important effect of Crossfit Endurance training:  I probably take more strokes at or above race intensity in a single CFE workout than most masters rowers take in a whole week of traditional training.  As an example, the shortest workout of all is the 8×20:10 Tabata series, which is 4 minutes end to end.     In reality, this is the equivalent to rowing a 1000 race at above race intensity, at the intensity normally only reached during the first 5 strokes of a race.  How often do most rowers actually do that volume of start-intensity work?

Usually I spend months training for a 3:45 minute race, and there’s a lot of pressure to perform when relatively little time has been spent rehearsing the 130 perfect strokes needed to win, at the intensity actually used during a race.  But when every workout is done as race rehearsal, you develop a physical comfort level with the pain and a steely psyche, and the race becomes almost routine.  This is key for me – CFE is extremely specific to the competitive event.


5 thoughts on “Crossfit Endurance rowing workouts are highly specific to competition

  1. Hey Marc,

    I use the CFE rowing wods to design practices that include a variety of intervals to allow a rower to practice perfect race strokes. In my opinion, this is incredibly beneficial. I often get questions and comments from rowers and other coaches who fear that by doing this the rowers may get used to having a rest after a set of race pace strokes and would automatically “take a rest” during the race when they start to experience discomfort. What would your response to this be?

    1. Denise,

      Personally I have found that doing CFE has allowed me to “groove” in the ability to row at race intesity for long races as well as short, so my personal experience would contradict what others are saying, and support your view. Specifically: 1) I am physically able to do it, 2) I am mentally prepared because a lot of CFE workouts with short rest intervals are incredibly painful end-to-end, and 3) most importanly, I am technically ready to row clean at high ratings, which is a challenge without putting in a lot of strokes at those ratings in practice.

      I would even say that last fall I was able to row the 11K GMS regatta in a double at 32 spm, and I never got to the point where I felt I had to stop. If anything, I wonder in the back of my mind if CFE has increased my body’s ability to recover slightly between strokes, because I am able to maintain higher output for longer pieces than I ever have before.

      If anything, I have seen my need to “take a rest” decrease significantly.

      None of this is scientific, but it does seem to support the CFE view of “if you want to be fast, train fast”.

      Thanks for reading. – Marc

  2. Thanks Marc. One more question. For the rest periods, do you row light or do you stop rowing and get a complete rest before the next set of race pace strokes?

  3. Denise, I usually row lightly unless I have to turn the boat around, in which case I would allot about 30 seconds of the rest interval to do that. Since these are pretty short workouts, I usually try to estimate how much distance I will cover and structure the workout so that I will only have to turn once.

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