Tonight at DingBatz in Clifton, NJ the band Generation Kill has their CD release party for We’re All Gonna Die on Nuclear Blast Records, with a feature on Sirius Liquid Metal. I’m fortunate to work out at CrossFit Ignite with their drummer, Jim DeMaria, and their singer, Rob Dukes, of Exodus fame. Jim is the same age as me, in incredible shape, and currently holds the leaderboard slot for the 500m row at 1:32.9, which is pretty darn fast for a non-rower and would put him in the 80th percentile in the Concept2 World Rankings for his age group. It’s been great to see Jim follow his dream, improve as a musician and a CrossFitter, and most importantly always be there cheering others on and helping them improve as well. If you are in the NY/NJ area and are up for a late night and a great show, come by DingBatz and give a shout of support for a fellow CrossFitter who made his dream a reality!
Thanks to SportGraphics for great pics from the Catch the Cooper Regatta. This time they took several action shots of each boat near the 500m mark, which is great for looking at the stroke sequence.
This is a shot from the Men’s Open Single race. Although I am slightly offset in this frame, the blades are coming out pretty squarely at the finish this late in the race.
That translates into victory, especially in longer races. Say I got an extra 6 inches of boat run each stroke, times 240 strokes, equals about 120 feet or just over 4 lengths. At 3 seconds per length that is about 13 seconds. The actual margin was 17 seconds.
This is not something you can train on a rowing machine, because the connection to the water at the finish is not there, and there is no sensation of really supporting the blades’ connection to the water all the way through the finish with your core. What does train the muscles needed to do this? Kettlebell swings. They help build the ability to sit in a powerful position with legs locked down fully and the core rock solid at a 30-degree angle, allowing the small muscles of the arms and upper back to continue pressure on the blade for that last half-second that is crucial to preventing the blades from popping out too early. In a long race it makes a big difference in the run of the boat.
Now I need to work on my head position – as you can see I was tired and bobbing my melon up and down, which is 8 pounds of non-horizontal momentum and wasted energy.
At the end of October my Crossfit Ignite coach, Steve Macioci, asked me for an idea for a Crossfit rowing challenge for Nov. 1-30. I suggested having the box try to row 1 million meters. This sounded daunting as most people in the box were not accustomed to rowing more than 2K at a stretch.
I am impressed that the box made it, had over 50 people participate, and there were quite a few 20K-plus people.
Here’s the whiteboard showing 1,107,232 meters as of 6PM today!
It’s been a week of stress, travel, and not enough sleep. “I can gut it out” is what we all tell ourselves. “You are a liar!” is how your body responds. You need the recovery time, you need the mental focus. The numbers don’t lie, and they are terrible. A 1:36 split for 125 meters is like 10 seconds off pace. Yesterday I did the Crossfit Endurance WOD and thought I was going to die, with 1K splits in the 1:40s. I was able to hit the first piece OK, but after that I dropped like a stone.
Especially for masters athletes, the recovery time becomes more and more critical with every year you age. Diet can mitigate some of it, but sleep knows no compromise. Every now and then I need to re-learn this lesson. Better to do so in November than the week before Masters Nationals!
Coming off of Fight Gone Bad and a bunch of snatches and overhead squats, I was feeling pretty cooked today, however I was excited by the CrossFit Endurance short intervals WOD of 10 x 30 seconds at max effort with 2 minutes rest, coming into each piece at full speed. This translates nicely into 20-stroke pieces at just under 40 strokes per minute, taking stroke #1 with 2-3 seconds left in the rest interval to get the wheel spinning as you start the 30-second work interval. I also believe that 30-second sprints are the perfect vehicle for determining what your sustainable max effort is on the C2. They are short enough to be done truly at max, but long enough to penalize you for bad technique. You can’t just muscle through, because with 10 intervals you will be so fatigued in the second half of the workout that your scores would drop rapidly.
How do I find my “MAX?”
As you know, I believe CrossFit Endurance is an extremely effective training technique for competitive rowing, but only if done at correct intensity. So how do you accurately find your limit? Answer: when you are able to deliver 6 or more intervals with a level of precision within 2-3%, you can confidently say that you have trained at your max for that day. I say “for that day” because you may be feeling good or lousy on any particular day, but you have to be able to consistently find the max you body is capable of on that day.
Why 6 intervals?
This is not scientific, but based on experience. The first interval on the C2 is usually significantly slower when doing a short interval workout because you are starting from a slow or stopped flywheel, which makes a huge difference on short pieces. Personally I find that it takes until interval #3 to really get my body to perform at max. I’m not sure why, but it may have to do with the aerobic nature of short intervals, which is a subject of debate. If that’s true then it would take several minutes for the aerobic “engine” to kick in. I also find that after 6 solid intervals I usually start to see my scores fade, and I have to work extra hard to maintain precision due to muscle fatigue. So that leads me to believe that my capacity for delivering consistent, quality intervals at truly max intensity is about 6.
Why is precision important?
If you have large variations between intervals, then it’s likely that none of your intervals was truly a maximal piece, and your body is still experimenting with technical, neurological, and psychological factors in an attempt to squeeze the most meters out of every stroke. Muscling out a single great interval but then not being able to replicate it will not allow you to gain the desired training effect. You need to practice enough to figure out where the redline is, and then consistently hit within 2-3% of that over and over again. I have found that the usual CFE prescribed precision is too loose for short intervals on the C2, and the 2-3% range is a better target to ensure a challenging target for consistent max performance.
What about a sprint?
You may find that in the later pieces you have to increase your stroke rate to maintain your results within the 2-3% range, but that just means you are keeping yourself at max output by any means necessary as your muscles fatigue. You will not be able to deliver significantly more meters per intervals even with what you perceive as an “all out sprint,” because your body is already at max output. If you are able to sprint for significantly more meters on the last piece, then you may not have been truly at max in the earlier intervals. I tried this approach in my last interval today, figuring I’d really “empty the tank.” It felt like I was going faster, but in the end I only delivered 2 more meters – hence the tank was already empty!
Here’s the results from today’s WOD, with a 2% over/under range on the chart. These were done at drag factor 110:
Well I am still reeling from Fight Gone Bad 6. Had a HUGE PR today, scoring 337. I came in feeling OK but not great with a sore shoulder and coming off of a week of poor sleep, so I figured I’d be happy to just break 300, as my previous PR was 313. My strategy was simple: come in at 25 or above on my strengths: wallball, sumo deadlift high pull, and rowing. For my weaknesses, gut out at least 20 on box jumps, and hang on for dear life on push presses for whatever I could do. I also decided to take a 50 seconds work / 10 seconds off approach on each exercise, provided I could meet my minimum goals (except for the row, which is the last exercise before the rest). This would allow me to control my rest, get set up correctly for each exercise, and avoid going into a max heart rate situation until the end.
What I found was that this worked perfectly, especially on the wallballs and SDLHPs, where I was able to squeeze out some extra reps and inch the score up. While I consciously did not blow it away on any one exercise, I was able to remain highly consistent and controlled except for the last segment of push presses. On the rowing, my goal was to keep it at 1500 calories pace, but not greater than 1700 in order not to totally smoke myself. I used a heavy drag factor (140) and a low rating (30) and focused on consistency, which delivered between 23-26 calories per piece.
Not sure if I can ever replicate it, but happy with the results for today!
As an example, one of the CFE WODs is “Tosh”:
3 rounds of:
- Row 250m, rest the amount of time it took to do the interval
- Row 500m, rest the amount of time it took to do the interval
- Row 750m, rest the amount of time it took to do the interval
If you select “Just Row” from the main screen on the C2, it’s tough to keep track of the times when your lungs are burning and your legs are screaming. There are a couple of options on the C2 that can help.
Drag Factor & Damper Setting
First, to make sure you are comparing apples-to-apples vs. your last WOD, I’d recommend checking the drag factor before you begin by selecting More Options –> Display Drag Factor. Temperature, dust, wear and tear, and airflow restrictions can make the damper setting an inaccurate way to calibrate machine-to-machine. You can display the drag factor and then adjust the damper to get a consistent number no matter which machine you are using. I generally default to a drag factor of 140 for repeat intervals, sometimes 150 for single timed intervals or testing. Remember that there is no “right number,” and a lower number isn’t “easier” – it’s more like bike gearing. A lower “gear” feels lighter, but requires a high cadence to maintain speed. At C2 races such as the CRASH-B, you can use whatever damper setting you want.
Custom Workout: Mixed Time/Distance Intervals
Next, you can select Select Workout –> New Workout –> Intervals: Variable in order to set the machine up for a workout such as “Tosh”:
- Estimate your target pace for 500m. This is easy because the display shows split time for 500m as you row, so you probably know about what to expect from previous workouts such as “Jackie.” Let’s use 1:40 as an example.
- If 500m takes 1:40, then 250m will take half that (0:50) and 750m will take 1.5x that (2:30). Those are the times you can program in for rest intervals. These pieces are short enough that you will never be off by more than a few seconds from your actual performance.
- Program Interval 1 with 250m work distance, 0:50 rest time.
- Program Interval 2 with 500m work distance, 1:40 rest time.
- Program Interval 3 with 750m work distance, 2:30 rest time.
…you can program in all 9 intervals if you wish, or you can just program in one round, and then hit Menu/Back –> Select Workout –> Re-row after you finish the round.
Why would you spend time programming vs. “Just Row”?
The main reason is that you can go back and review your splits after the workout. CFE usually prescribes something like “do not vary more than 3 seconds from your best pace” I usually take a picture of the memory screen with my mobile phone after a workout, so that I can review it later and enter it into my journal or C2 Online Logbook. If you are away from your box, you can easily post the snapshot to your box’s blog as a sort of “virtual whiteboard.”
The other reason is for personal accountability, kind of like trash talking against yourself. If you are tired, it’s sometimes easy to row 5 seconds slower and get 5 seconds more rest. If you have the rest intervals pre-programmed based on a target pace, then you are mentally on the hook to hit the target pace every interval or else go down a slippery slope of suffering.
Here is a great link to the menu structure on the Concept2 PM4: http://concept2.co.uk/monitor/pm4_menu_structure
Hope this helps someone out there!