I am Marc Monplaisir, a competitive masters sculler with Ever Green Boat Club.  I row at Overpeck Lake in Ridgefield Park, NJ, and am member of Crossfit Ignite in Park Ridge, NJ.  I have been racing for 25 years since learning to row at Dartmouth College, and discovered CrossFit as a strength training method within the last few years.  This blog documents my journey in integrating Crossfit into rowing training, and in giving advice to Crossfitters on how to improve their rowing performance.








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18 thoughts on “About

  1. Marc–

    How has your performance been while following CrossFit Endurance? I got into competitive sculling THROUGH CrossFit last year…I tend to do a lot of long pieces on the water (if only for technique development). I’ve gathered that the conventional wisdom in the rowing world is: volume, and lots of it. Like Olaf Tufte doing 5,000 kilometers per year, etc. As you’ve noted on your blog, that much work can be wearying. I was just curious about your results (even if just 2K improvement on the erg), and what differences you’ve noticed from “traditional” training.

    I’ll be at Nationals with some members from my club–I plan on doing the lightweight 1x and possibly a 2-. Best of luck!

    1. Brad, see you at Nationals – I’ll be doing the B hwt. 1x and the A hwt 2x! In answer to your question, I guess I’ll find out at Nationals if it’s really worked. I feel that it has – I am 20 lbs. lighter than a year ago and I feel that the KB swings and deadlifts especially translate into more consistent power through the finish in the boat. The mental aspect of doing high-intensity WODs all the time also helps a lot with the mental aspects of racing. But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding, so we’ll see in a couple of weeks!

  2. Yeah! You’ll definitely get some good competition in those races, and I’m sure you’ll do very well. I’m 31 and will be doing several lightweight 2x races and one or two heavyweight events with my 59-year old partner (so, technically, we’re C, but we’re doing A and B as well).

    I always though deadlifts translated well for core stability, hamstring strength (and flexibility if you do stiff-leg versions), and even in the upper back. I’ve always done a lot of power cleans as well, which appears to mimic the mechanics of the stroke–but you really move the weight in a clean by opening your hips explosively, which isn’t really possible in a boat. Still unsure if front squats beat back squats.

    I’m confident that working out in this style has a positive effect–that I’ve been able to come into the sport with no experience and compete has much to with the strength & fitness CF workouts established.

  3. How has your performance been while following CrossFit Endurance? I got into competitive sculling THROUGH CrossFit last year…I tend to do a lot of long pieces on the water (if only for technique development). I’ve gathered that the conventional wisdom in the rowing world is: volume, and lots of it. Like Olaf Tufte doing 5,000 kilometers per year, etc. As you’ve noted on your blog, that much work can be wearying. I was just curious about your results (even if just 2K improvement on the erg), and what differences you’ve noticed from “traditional” training.

    1. Hi, thanks for the comment. I originally undertook Crossfit in order to address a wekaness in peak power that was holding me back. I too was doing the high volume thing, but it wasn’t making me much faster and i was getting bored with it. In addition, I am 41 years old and it takes me longer to recover, so doing high volume meant that I was not resting enough, and the quality of the work steadily declined as the week went on. I began to ask myself how a 15k row was helping me win 1K sprint races. I’ve been doing this long enough that I have a strong aerobic base and good technique, so I began to wonder if I was training my strengths instead of my weaknesses.

      This is why I investigated Crossfit. I began with it primarily as a strength training program, then realized that the high-intensity aspects of both Crossfit and Crossfit Endurance were particularly appropriate to the type of racing I was targeting. I was able to win a masters national championship in the double sculls this year, and last weekend I did an 11K race at 30-32 strokes per minute without running into a physical or mental wall. So I am convinced that the CFE approach works both for sprint races and for distance races.

      In terms of your situation, “it depends”. A lot of people look at the top single scullers like Tufte, but the reality is that these folks have a genetic advantage that no amount of training can overcome for the “average” rower. In addition, to reach that level you need to be targeting a program of >1000 training hours per year, which leaves little time for anything else and is impossible to program if, for example, you travel frequestly for work. Since you are new to rowing, a lot of miles may be warranted for technical development. However the technical skills need to be applied at a high level of intensity for racing, and this is where the CFE workouts come in handy. For myself, instead of trying to fit in 100 miles a week in between work and family commitments, I now seldom spend more than 45 minutes on the water at a time. That approach has worked well for me, and I hope it works for you too!


  4. Marc–

    I totally missed your comments from August! Thanks for the compliment on my work, I appreciate that.

    So, if you’re racing an 11K race at 30-32, you must not be using a lot of layback, and your technique must be razor sharp. I did a session with Gordon Hamilton and became an immediate convert after learning from him. Given that I’m a short lightweight, it’s helped considerably on the water.

    Currently I do a ton of volume, because I need to develop that aerobic base I think. My first 2K ever wasn’t great–like a 7:07–and it was done after several years of just CrossFit WODs. Obviously, there’s never a singular answer for developing performance, but once I incorporated more steady-state and more lactate threshold work, I noticed a big drop in split times (and improved performance in Tabata workouts on the Airdyne), and sessions that once seemed impossible became second-nature. My oxidative system was a weakness and had to be developed.

    Clearly though, focusing on that exclusively won’t make you fast. It’ll just enable you to move closer to your max speed for a longer period of time. You’ve gotta have the capacity for SPEED in the tank, first…

    The only concern I have with CFE is the rest periods in some of the intervals. 90 second rest for five 1K pieces? Eh. I’d rather attack each of those with full-intensity, than either a) go hard the first time and slow down progressively, or b) use a considerably slower pace throughout in order to maintain consistency. That said, they do a lot of Tabatas (Erin Cafaro reportedly does these daily!), and there seem to be plenty of 30-60 second sprints with sufficient recovery built in.

    Also: I did an hour long session with Angel Orozco at San Francisco CF in August, because he and Kelly Starrett have worked with Olympic rowers and the Marin County Rowing Association. Great history of performance there. Not sure what your strength work is like these days, but he sold me on wide-stance box squats (below parallel) and working with bands & chains for both squats and deads. Worth looking into.

    And great point about improving technique at actual race pace. I don’t see that emphasized nearly enough.

    1. Brad, thanks, somehow I missed the notification on your comment as well! On the race pace, I do have a lot of experience in the double and with a good partner you can click it along at a pretty good pace – it’s a very different feel than a single or a C2. I do have a little more upright technique, emphasizing a strong, firm torso at the finish that ironically plays pretty well with the midline stability concept. I hear you on CFE – I was skeptical at first because typically this type of work, with rest time less than work time, is usually a tiny part of the overall training program for rowing. So I am by no means a 100% convert to CFE, but I have seen significant results, especially in my ability to recover quickly and in my mental toughness built from trying to maintain work quality with almost no rest between pieces. I met Angel at SFCF when I was out there on business and he was great – taught me how to improve my power clean. Since you posted this I have started to focus on the deep squat and squat mobility WODs from Kelly Starrett and it has made a noticable difference in my flexibility and especially my deadlift. My former 1 rep max is now my 3 rep max and i am able to get deeper with a straighter back. Thanks and good luck!

    1. Coach Adam, Go for it! I’d be happy to offer some technique advice in the weeks leading up to the NYAC St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. I might enter the 40-49 heavyweight category, but it’s a tough crowd and I might not make it!

  5. I’m a high school rower, I’m a rising senior and being recruited to multiple schools for rowing. I’m 6 feet tall, currently 168 lbs (going heavyweight, normally I’m 172), and my 2k erg is 6:43.3. I just did my first CFE Wod today though I have done other CF workouts in the past. I’ve decided I want to start following CFE at this point because I want to take a break from focused erg training which I have been doing for the past 7+ months. I love working out and I’ve looked into CF a lot and I feel that CFE is a near perfect balance between strength and cardiovascular exercise.
    I want to start doing CFE throughout the fall season in addition to rowing my 1x and the 4+ on the water. As you follow CFE as an rower, do you always do the Wod’s? Also, do you always do the endurance part of the workouts?
    Since I’m new to this and I don’t really have anyone to do it with (all the gyms nearby are too costly) I could really use a little advice on how to get started successfully.

    1. Brett, during the spring and summer I usually do 3-4 CFE endurance WODs per week and 2-3 regular CF WODs per week. So to answer your question, I tip the balance toward the endurance WODs during “the season” in order to be technically proficient at race ratings on the water. I don’t always do the regular CF WODs as prescribed, but try to select those that focus on deadlifts, KB swings, box jumps, and other things that translate pretty well into rowing power. I.e. I tend to save the handstands and gymnastics for the fall and winter. During the fall and winter, I often shift the balance back the other way, doing less endurance WODs than regular CF, or doing the endurance WODs on unfamiliar modalities such as in the pool to challenge my body.

      I almost never sit on the erg during on-water season unless there is a weather or time constraint because I find it to be a technique killer in the 1X. If it is a short, intense endurance WOD, such as short intervals that I can complete in <30 mins, I sometimes do that in the AM and then the core CF WOD in the PM. I also will generally throw in 1-2 non-CF workouts for variety and active recovery – something like a run, swim, stand-up-paddling, or a technical skill-and-drill row.

      I hope this helps – I have a core set of "favorites" that seem to work well on the water and for which I've figured out some targets for doing them in the 1X – happy to share if you'd like. Good luck!

      1. Thanks! That helped a lot with figuring out a good way to balance CF/CFE WODs and rowing. I am buying a used 1x this coming tuesday =) so soon I’ll be putting in a lot more water time.
        Please email me your favorites as I will try them out and see how they work for me – Bretterbhass@gmail.com.
        Today I actually found that I have slightly strained my obliques and I believe its an over-use injury. I’ve been training, like I said, for over 7 months, and I just got back from a development camp where I spent 3 weeks of working out 4 times a day. Since I’ve been home I’ve been exercising nearly as much because otherwise I find I have too much energy and can’t sleep at night, but it seems that I might want to take a week or so to rest my body. I don’t like stopping or slowing down though so this will be hard for me to do; plus I’m still really excited about all the new CFE and lifting that I’m doing so it’s hard to take a break.
        Most importantly though is my success in the 1x these coming seasons.

  6. Marc
    I blame you really!

    If it hadn’t been for your blog inspiring me, I wouldn’t have gone back down to the boathouse after a decade’s absence and got my sculling boat back on the water. I wouldn’t have signed up for Crossfit, something I had been intending to do for years, and I wouldn’t have started following the Crossfit Endurance WODs.

    So now, thanks to you, I am now setting my sights on getting fit enough to compete in D singles at next year’s Henley Masters.

    Your answer to Brett H filled in a lot of the questions I had about how you are using Crossfit Endurance in your training, but if you have any further guidance on how you are putting your training schedule together and blending Crossfit, Crossfit Endurance and On Water workouts together; your favourite workouts etc. I would be very grateful to receive them at drjones35@hotmail.com.

  7. Marc,

    I just came across your blog and would welcome any insight you have into merging CFE with on the water workouts as I’d like to utilize them in my own training program as well as that of the team I coach. I’ve been doing CFE since last July and love it but would welcome ideas on how you’ve expanded the number and types of water workouts beyond the SI, LI and Tempo/TT that is prescribed every week.


    Thanks in advance.

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