I follow and respect Laird Hamilton, not only because he is a stand-up paddling pioneer, but also because he’s a guy around my age who looks great, is at the top of his game, and clearly puts his family first.
I like his recent post about nutrition – it’s less than one page long, summarizes the key points of change that will make the biggest difference for most people, and, importantly, is realistic in terms of “less” and “more", rather than being absolutist and hiding behind pseudo-science, as so many nutrition experts do in the CrossFit world.
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.
I’ve recently switched over to wearing Zem shoes for rowing, and I think they are perfect. They were originally designed as beach volleyball shoes, so they look weird but function well. They are essentially ankle-height neoprene booties with reinforcing bands and a split toe for mobility. They are also great for SUP. They are sturdy enough for minimalist running, and can slip right inside the shoes in the boat, hence minimizing dock time and solving the problem of wet socks and shoes on the dock! Plus you can crumple them up, store them in the car, and just throw them in the washing machine when they get smelly. Check them out!
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!
Technorati Tags: crossfit
,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.
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!
Well for only the 2nd time in 26 years, I flipped my single. Shows it can happen to anyone. I was doing the Crossfit Endurance workout of 8 x 2:00 on, 2:00 off, when on the 2nd piece something underwater hooked my left blade and held it just long enough. At steady state I would have been OK but at full speed the boat corkscrewed around the stuck blade, got sideways to the current, and I decided to ditch rather than risking a bent rigger or broken oarlock.
Some history…the last time I flipped was in the San Diego Fall Classic back in like 1993 or 1994. If I recall correctly, Xeno Muller was in the race, I was ahead of him in the start order, and he was charging up behind me. I decided to see how long I could hold him off for the fun of it, so I put the pedal to the metal but was trying not to wake him out, so I wasn’t looking ahead and I clipped one of the permanent buoys in Mission Bay with my oar. The funny thing was that the top gate of my oarlock broke off cleanly, the oar popped out but stayed in my hand, and I stayed perfectly set as I was going fast. It was like a slow-motion instant replay. I was able to quickly put the oar back in and row for a little while until a speedboat wake got me from the side. With no top gate on my port oarlock, there was no way to get back in the boat. No safety boats seemed to notice, so I had to swim it back to San Diego Rowing Club, which meant about 20 minutes in 55-degree water.
This time, the water was not quite that cold, and was surprisingly clean despite the horror stories. I did not feel my skin starting to dissolve quite yet.
I undid the thumbscrew on the backstay, got up and over (just like on a SUP, albeit an 16-inch SUP ), but then realized that I was maybe 300 meters from the dock with the tide in my favor. Rather than trashing the deck of my boat getting back in the cockpit, I just slid back in the water and swam it back to the dock.
Those are the breaks – hopefully it will be years until the next one!