This is amazing – a local high schooler completed a swim around Manhattan, across the Catalina Channel, and now across the English Channel. Congrats Charlotte – an amazing athletic accomplishment at any age, let alone being the youngest to attempt it!
Spring is in the air, the docks are going in, but we’re in that weird transitional time in the Northeast when freak snowstorms still blow through. I always go through a type of cabin fever this time of year when the very last thing I want to do is another erg session. I am so done with indoor rowing that I am mentally guaranteed to have a poor quality workout. My visualizations are all about rowing, SUP, skating, running. So what do you do when the weather is awful? Jump in the pool! It will do you good for several reasons:
1. Every rower says they passed a swim test, but how many years ago was that? It doesn’t help you much in the single when your oarlock breaks in the middle of Mission Bay (speaking from experience). It never hurts to practice swimming when you’re going to be out in a boat, because there are situations in which you can be in the water for a long time, and you have to be comfortable and efficient either waiting for rescue or paddling a broken boat to shore.
2. It will work out all the kinks in your posterior chain, like magic. After doing squats and erg work all winter, swimming is like giving your spine and hips a nice massage.
3. It will tell you pretty quickly if you are weak in the shoulder girdle, and is a great exercise for injury prevention. Rowers tend to be immensely strong in one plane of motion, but weak through other portions of the whole 360-degree arc of the shoulder.
4. It’s really hard work, and forces you to focus on finding a breathing rhythm that works. Sound familiar?
5. It’s something new, it’s fun, it reminds you of summer, and it breaks you out of the erg room doldrums.
For 1000m racers, I’d recommend 250-meter (~3:50) repeats with 1:30 rest or something similar, and double that for 2000m racers. The intervals should be long enough that you have to find a way to glide vs. just muscling it through. If you are not a skilled swimmer, I’d recommend the Total Immersion DVD series as a good way to get decent, fast. You can get it on Netflix and often at your local library. If you want to get really technical, CrossFit Endurance’s Power, Speed, Endurance spends more time on swimming than anything else.
I finally got my copy of Power, Speed, Endurance by Brian MacKenzie of CrossFit Endurance. I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect – maybe 100 pages filled with controversial ideas. What I got was:
- A beautiful, thick, large-format book packed with hundreds of slow-motion stills of every CrossFit exercise as well as running, swimming, and cycling technique.
- A nuanced view of the pros and cons of traditional endurance training and the CrossFit approach.
- Finally, a clear explanation of CrossFit Endurance programming that “clicked” with my brain – I never really understood the methodology behind the website programming until I read the book!
- A comprehensive “manual” of CrossFit, incorporating weightlifting, gymnastics, sport skills, mobility, and nutrition.
In short, it far exceeded my expectations. It deserves a place next to Tudor Bompa’s classic Periodization for Sport on my bookshelf, representing a radically alternative philosophy. PSE advocates constant variation with a lot of flexibility in programming, but also admits that in order to compete in endurance events, you have to practice the skill of the sport and do time trials at distance. Bompa agrees on the skill aspect, but advocates a highly regimented program that is proven but breaks down easily if you don’t have 800-1000 hours per year to devote to training. It will be interesting to read (or re-read in the case of Bompa) both books and draw out the nuggets from each.
I will tell you the following impacts in the first week:
1. I found out that what I thought was Pose running was not. When I tried it after reading the running skill section in the book, I was exhausted and felt like I had just done 1000 deadlifts, meaning that I was using completely different muscles. Humble pie indeed. In 25 years I had never thought about midline stabilization when running. Duh.
2. I got in the pool and found out I was actually swimming pretty well. Core engaged – check. Both push and pull on the kick – check. Etc. Etc. Again, never really thought about it before. Eye-opening.
Congrats to BMack on a great product. Plus it’s heavy enough to turn my backpack into a weighted vest!
I don’t know about you, but I’m cooked after the first real week of “winter” training here on the Beast Coast where the docks are out and the ergs are in. During the fall, I spent a lot of time deliberately building left/right imbalances in order to compete in sweep boats. Now that it’s winter, I feel like we rowers spend all week compressing our spines and ribcages: squats, jumps, running, and especially indoor rowing where you compress your lower back at the finish much more than you do on the water.
What’s one of the best ways to loosen up your thorax and let those imbalances click back into line? Jump in the pool! Why?
- Let’s not forget that we do participate in a water sport and we need to be strong swimmers “just in case.” There were some tragic events in Connecticut this week that should remind us that even the best of us have 1/16 inch of carbon between us and Davy Jones’ Locker, so we need to feel confident in the water should it ever come to that.
- It’s a really hard workout. When you can’t breathe freely, the heart rate shoots up shockingly fast. Try 200m intervals with 3 min rest to simulate 1Ks on the erg and 400m intervals to simulate 2K.
- Rowers have massive shoulder girdle strength and elasticity in one plane of motion – horizontal pulling. We tend to be much weaker at pushups, and the elasticity tends to make us really awful at overhead work. Swimming trains the full range of motion in the shoulder girdle, and this is really important for injury prevention during the racing season later on.
- Swimming twists and extends the spine and ribcage, which is like having a nice massage after a week of spine compression. Every time I get out of the pool my lower back feels awesome and all the little tweaks on my right or left side magically disappear.
- It’s fun. It’s something different. You get to listen to the old dudes singing Sinatra instead of Slayer. It’s a new challenge to master. Let’s face it, winter training is boring. Mix it up by jumping in the pool once a week. Your body and mind will thank you.