I recently received a question on whether there is a translation formula to convert Calories, commonly prescribed in CrossFit WODs that involve rowing, into 500m split times or watts, more commonly used by rowers to gauge pace. CrossFit workouts use Calories on the Concept2 performance monitor to approximate “reps” when combining rowing with barbell movements or other rep-centric movements.
There is a complex formula behind the Calories measurement, and it does not translate directly into meters or watts because it is a measure of energy burned for a theoretical 175-lb. individual instead of mechanical work (i.e. distance the chain travels).
As a rower, however, I have a sense of the “pace” I need to maintain in Calories for certain WODs to generate desired results. For example, in Fight Gone Bad I know that I should target a 1500-Calorie pace for the 1-minute rowing intervals in order to finish at 25+ Calories for the interval.
I decided to experiment a little to see if I could generate approximate Calories-to-pace conversions for 500m pace times from 2:00 down to 1:25 in 5-second intervals. I did this by setting up 100-meter fixed distance intervals with 1 minute rest at drag factor 125, putting the display on average 500m pace, and trying to end each interval at exactly the target pace I desired. For example, for the 1:45 pace target interval, I rowed for 100m, varying my pressure to try to end at exactly 1:45.0 average pace. Then I could switch the display to Calories to see what that translated to. It is of course impossible to hit the target average splits exactly, but here’s what I came up with:
As you can see, Calories increases faster with pace than watts – it is not a linear relationship.
I hope this helps as a guideline for those integrating rowing with CrossFit!