It’s an early spring, which means I’ve been back on the water before St. Patrick’s Day for the first time since 2006. So the big question was “what did I learn this winter and how fit am I?” It’s an interesting question since I used the Concept2 much less than usual during the winter due to injuries and travel, and focused much more on swimming and general CrossFit work.
1. I am dramatically stronger in my core and have improved the power and stability of my finish. Thank you, back squats, snatches, and deadlifts. It feels absolutely rock solid, surprisingly so.
2. My technique on day one was much better than usual, possibly even better than before I got off the water in December. My stroke is simple, I have fine motor control at the catch, I can pick up the speed of the boat and transfer body weight effectively, and I was able to row in nasty wind and waves with no problem. I honestly credit this to not training on a static erg that much over the winter. Usually in the spring it takes a couple of weeks to just relax, quit tensing in the arms, and quit trying to “muscle it.” Not this year – smooth as butter from stroke 1.
3. I am less “fit” – I do not have the cardiovascular fitness I would like right now, and I am about 8 pounds heavy on bodyweight. Not bad, but less than I’d like. But I am much faster in the single that I normally would be at this time of year. On balance, being able to row well and row fast is harder to train than is fitness, so I am OK with the tradeoff. With 24 weeks till Masters Nationals, I can work with that.
Winter is winding down, CRASH-Bs are over, and the docks are going in soon in the East. While for many this means that the CrossFit Open is starting and they are looking forward to the CrossFit Games, for me it means that it’s time to become a cherry-picker.
What I mean is that I have spent the winter doing whatever CrossFit threw at me, because it made me stronger and less prone to injury, and it made winter training interesting and motivating.
Now it’s time to focus on how CrossFit can make me stronger as a rower, specifically. This means developing power and acceleration in addition to strength in the specific movements that make up the rowing stroke. There are 3 principles I plan to implement:
1. Maintain the “constant variation” theme, but try to bound it within a set of WODs and exercises that relate to developing specific rowing power:
- Russian kettlebell swings – more closely models the speed and cadence of rowing.
- Jump squats or burpees, with emphasis on jump height vs. max reps.
- Box jumps, broad jumps, and other plyometric jumping variations.
- Ring rows and pullups.
- Back/core exercises: single-leg kettlebell deadlifts, hollow rocks, planks, toes-to-bar, L-sits, supermans.
- Light thrusters or wallball shots, training for maximum acceleration instead of max reps. I might even take the wallball outside and see how high I can shoot it vs. how many standard-height shots I can do.
2. Use weekly training volume and periodic testing to add periodization to my plan. While the CrossFit philosophy blows up traditional highly-planned progressive periodization cycles, the concept of varying volume and tapering can still be applied in terms of the number of workouts and how they are cadenced within a 1-week microcycle.
3. Make sure that no week passes without doing at least 1 core strength WOD in the following areas:
- Back Squats
- Some type of single-side injury prevention work such as single-leg kettlebell deadlifts, kettlebell lunges, kettlebell snatches, or Turkish get-ups.
Not to say I won’t still try to get better at things I can’t do well like double-unders or handstands, but these are not going to be as effective in generating a 3:40 1K time in the single scull, which is what I need to be at by the end of July.
The good news is that the first Open WOD, 7 minutes of burpees, is squarely in line with my transitional focus, so that will be an exciting start to the weekend.
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