Rowers, go jump in the pool! (Say what?)

I don’t know about you, but I’m cooked after the first real week of “winter” training here on the Beast Coast where the docks are out and the ergs are in.  During the fall, I spent a lot of time deliberately building left/right imbalances in order to compete in sweep boats.  Now that it’s winter, I feel like we rowers spend all week compressing our spines and ribcages:  squats, jumps, running, and especially indoor rowing where you compress your lower back at the finish much more than you do on the water.

What’s one of the best ways to loosen up your thorax and let those imbalances click back into line?  Jump in the pool!  Why?

  1. Let’s not forget that we do participate in a water sport and we need to be strong swimmers “just in case.”  There were some tragic events in Connecticut this week that should remind us that even the best of us have 1/16 inch of carbon between us and Davy Jones’ Locker, so we need to feel confident in the water should it ever come to that.
  2. It’s a really hard workout.  When you can’t breathe freely, the heart rate shoots up shockingly fast.  Try 200m intervals with 3 min rest to simulate 1Ks on the erg and 400m intervals to simulate 2K.
  3. Rowers have massive shoulder girdle strength and elasticity in one plane of motion – horizontal pulling.  We tend to be much weaker at pushups, and the elasticity tends to make us really awful at overhead work.  Swimming trains the full range of motion in the shoulder girdle, and this is really important for injury prevention during the racing season later on. 
  4. Swimming twists and extends the spine and ribcage, which is like having a nice massage after a week of spine compression.  Every time I get out of the pool my lower back feels awesome and all the little tweaks on my right or left side magically disappear.
  5. It’s fun.  It’s something different.  You get to listen to the old dudes singing Sinatra instead of Slayer.  It’s a new challenge to master.  Let’s face it, winter training is boring.  Mix it up by jumping in the pool once a week.  Your body and mind will thank you.

Been years since you swam?  Order the Total Immersion DVDs from Netflix.  They are awesome, as detailed in The Four Hour Body.

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