During the early fall, there is an opportunity to reduce the focus on sport-specific training for rowing and work on cross-training and rebuilding parts of the body that have suffered over the high-intensity summer racing season.
For CrossFitters and rowers alike, there is also an opportunity to do some injury-proofing before changing over to indoor training in the winter months, with its heavier loads and the propensity of indoor rowing to overstress and compress the ribs and spine.
While I have never suffered a serious injury in my rowing career, as I get older the minor aches and pains resurface and remind me that it could happen at any time unless I take precautions.
For scullers, there is the additional challenge of jumping into sweep boats for head races. While the load and compression is less than that of sculling, the challenge of twisting and off-center forces increases the risk of injury if you’re not used to it.
Here are a few of my favorite exercises to develop core strength and injury-proof my body.
In the gym:
- Planks – nuff said. Do standard planks, then side planks.
- Turkish get-ups. CrossFitters will be familiar with these. I like to so them slowly and make sure I am fully stabilized in each position before progressing. These are especially good for developing stabilization on your weaker side for sweep rowing.
- Hollow Rocks or raised leg circles – I usually start doing sets of 10, then continue until I can’t even do just one.
- Back extensions or Supermans – especially important for rowers to flex the spine in the opposite direction we normally do.
- Chop and Lift or Slash using the cable machine. As detailed in the Four Hour Body, these are easy to do in almost any gym since most have some form of cable machine.
On the water:
- Stand-up paddling (SUP). There is no better full-body integrated core exercise.
- Stand-up paddling on a stationary dock. This is incredibly hard. The resistance is huge and it takes a couple of seconds to complete each pull. The cross-body forces are large and it’s very exhausting. I usually do 30 reps each side then rest and switch. This is awesome for the ribcage.
- Kayaking. It’s a different motion and uses the torso in unusual ways.
Off the water:
- Land paddling on a longboard. This is insane fun, and involves even more twisting than traditional SUP as you have a sideways stance. I think this is especially fun for training on your weaker side if you are going to be jumping into a sweep boat for the fall. It preps your shoulders and ribs, and it gets you paying attention to precision on your “goofy” side, which for me is starboard.
Right now I am trying to get at least 2 sessions in per week that focus on core stability and strength.
Today was a glorious 50-degree day in New Jersey, which is highly unusual for January. I had to break out the Kahuna Big Stick land paddle and longboard and go for a skate! Unfortunately everyone else had the same idea.
I was coming down the biggest hill in Saddle River County Park, ripping fast, lining up to pass some joggers with dogs, when the dogs saw something on the other side of the path and were strong enough to pull over right across the path on their leashes.
It was a split second decision, me or the dogs, and I decided to ditch instead of running them over. Ouch! I tried to brake but it was too late – instinct from on-water paddling kicked in and I ditched to the right side, landing on my torso (probably not optimal for ditching on pavement) – my paddle, board, Windows Phone, and Rudy Project sunglasses kept accelerating down the hill and ended up abut 50 feet down the path in front of me.
I have been experimenting with the RunKeeper software, and happened to be tracking my ride. Here’s the moment before the crash. I am the blue dot heading north on the map. You can see just ahead where the GPS track goes nuts as the phone goes flying. Just before I ditched I was going about 23 miles an hour. You can see in the speed graph how the phone continues to accelerate down the hill up to 34 mph after it left my body before coming to a stop. That means the paddle did the same. Good thing I got the paddle and board pointed off the path before I bought it.
The good news is that no dogs or humans got really hurt. I figured I’d be covered with blood and possibly have a dislocated shoulder. But I had my safety gear on and escaped with only minor abrasions and a strained right pectoral muscle. The rowing calluses on my hands kept the cuts from going too deep. I credit my Crossfit work with kettlebell snatches and overhead squats with keeping my shoulder together – if this had been a year ago it probably would have popped.
Now for the interesting parts:
- The phone survived and kept tracking the ride! That’s a pretty nice vote of confidence for the quality of Windows Phone devices.
- The paddle flew off the path into a tree, but suffered only scrapes that ruined the graphics. I took some pics back at my car. You can see how deeply the aluminum got scored. I guess its now officially a “battle paddle.” But this shows it’s a high-quality instrument. No dents, no bends.
I still can’t believe I didn’t end up at the hospital. I am sure glad I nixed the shorts idea, because I considered it given the temperature. I guess 43-year old rowers/crossfitters are pretty durable too, as long as they have their helmets on!
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,kahuna big stick
Since they were supposed to remove the Passaic River Rowing Association docks this Sunday, I figured I’d get one last row in today as it was a beautiful 60-degree fall day in New Jersey. Unfortunately when I got there, the docks were already out! Bummer.
So I went for an awesome 10-mile land paddle instead using my Kahuna Big Stick. Many of you have asked what land paddling is, so I’ve attached some “belt-cam” video taken with my Windows Phone that shows a first-person perspective on the technique and speed involved. As always, it’s a great core, lat, glute, and balance workout that left me dripping, but also amazing fun.
This is probably one of the last semi-warm fall weekends here in New Jersey, so I went for a 10-mile land paddle on my longboard with my Kahuna Big Stick. It was a blast, but also a great full-body workout. I am finding that the way to go fast is to shift my center of mass forward using the stick as the fulcrum during the stroke, and that means quite a bit more leg and core work than usual. I am also finally getting good at going up hills and getting up to speed paddling on my left side. I am also finding that it’s much harder to paddle in regular shoes than it is in FiveFingers or Sanuks. I really like the near-barefoot feel on the board to maintain control – I had several exciting moments today because it’s harder to feel the board through thicker soles. I also experimented with using my Windows Phone as a helmet-cam. Here’s the vid:
Fall Big Stickin’ in NJ with the Kahuna Big Stick
I’ve been getting in some practice land paddling with my Kahuna Big Stick. It’s great for stress relief because it’s crazy fun, possibly more fun than actual stand-up paddling because I can keep the gear in the trunk and do it anywhere with no setup. I’ve also found that as I’ve gotten better, I can get quite a good core workout – hams and glutes, core, and shoulders/lats. It’s great for core stability because the motion is similar to the “chop” movement described in the Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss for injury prevention.
Things I’ve learned:
1. How to go up most small hills:
- Sick cadence – literally as fast as I can possibly move my arms.
- Short strokes, really only from the “pushing” position, no “pull”.
- Really bear down on the stick.
- Feels like paddling a dragon boat.
2. How to steer:
3. How to go down hills without fishtailing:
- Start by holding the blade under the front wheel while mounting the board.
- Crouch and use the paddle for balance, try not to compensate with toe steering but use the paddle to gradually lean to one side or the other.
4. How to paddle on the “goofy” side – which for me is the left or “starboard” side (remember I’m a rower so I sit backwards and port/starboard are reversed):
- Turn the torso full frontal.
- While maintaining center of mass (butt) over the board, “bow” the knees out over the regular side so that the stick has room to pass essentially through the hollow under your butt on the goofy side.
- I find I need to use a pretty straight upper arm on the paddle to get enough force bearing down to keep the blade planted – more than on my regular side.
- I definitely have to pay attention to where I plant the blade, and then push a little outwards to avoid any chance of entangling the blade in the wheels.
- I am at the point where I can goofy-side paddle to maintain speed on the flats and avoid paddling on the same side as a pedestrian when I pass them, but I am not good enough to use it for going up hills yet. I think I may never be – the time it would take to switch sides with the paddle would be enough to kill momentum on a hill.
Some of these points are shown in the how-to video. I found that my progression went pretty quickly:
Session 1 – figure out how the whole thing works.
Session 2 – be able to paddle a little on the flats.
Session 3 – be able to steer, small hills, cooking on the flats.
Session 4 – Serious speed, good workout, still not good on hills or goofy side.
Session 5 – Figured out the hill thing, tried the goofy side.
Session 6 – Figured out the goofy side.
I had to share this funny video that was running between events on the Battle of the Paddle live feed:
Danny Ching “Paddler’s Workout”
Today my project is rebuilding all the storage in my garage. How boring. So while eating an awesome “accidentally paleo” lunch of ground turkey, onions, and collard greens from my Purple Dragon CSA box, I took a look at the Battle of the Paddle, which I guess is like the Head of the Charles of SUP. Amazing. A couple of years ago I decided to learn SUP because it was this weird new thing that nobody had ever heard of, but seemed like a great core training supplement for rowing. Now I look at the scene on Doheny and there’s thousands of people there. Great to see so many people adopting the sport, and great to see all these new businesses trying to keep up with demand. Perhaps our “jobs plan” should be to have Laird promote a new sport!