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Workout Tricks

Jul 24, 2012


With the dawn of the New Year, CRASH-B training begins in earnest. The Holiday Challenge was a great way to build a base (and endurance), and now it is time to build strength and speed.

I realized during my CrossFit workout the other day that there are certain “tricks” to rowing workouts that might be worth sharing.

  • Get the Flywheel Spinning: On the first stroke of your workout, the flywheel is at a dead stop; it is strenuous on the body to immediately pull at race pace with full strokes. Instead, start with several short, quick strokes. I find this helps me get to my target pace faster.
  • Cheat your Rest: Interval workouts incorporate periods of intense rowing with periods of rest. My workout today, for example, includes a ten minute row with 30 seconds at race pace followed by 90 seconds rest. If I start the “30 seconds at race pace” on a stopped flywheel, it will take me approximately 5 seconds to get started and find my race pace. These 5 seconds at wildly variable paces will affect my average pace, which is the target of my workout. So how do I ensure I hit my race pace for at least 30 seconds? I start rowing before my 90 seconds of rest are up. Using five strokes to “build” into race pace is less strenuous on the body than trying to haul on the first stroke. This strategy also ensures that I am at race pace for the entire interval. It may sound “harder” to have less rest, but my workout is more productive and my intervals will more accurately reflect my racing ability. Cheating on rest is only cheating the clock, not your fitness!
  • Up Two, Down Two: On strenuous workouts, it is easy to lose focus and fall into technique errors. Be your own coxswain, and be mindful of changes you can make to improve your stroke when the numbers on the Performance Monitor are slipping from where you would like them to be. A helpful reminder is called “Up Two, Down Two”: focus on bringing up the strokes per minute on the drive by two, but relax the speed of the recovery by two. To speed up the drive, firm up the pressure in the legs and accelerate the hands into the body. On the recovery, relax on the slide and breathe. Overall, the stroke rating should stay the same. (In fact, if the stroke rating increases, you have not relaxed the recovery enough!) The improved ratio should emphasize your efforts into the drive while making the recovery more comfortable.
  • Rule of Tens: Rowers use “Power Tens” to focus their efforts by counting series of ten strokes. When and how is this helpful on the indoor rower? Mentally, I calculate 10 strokes for every 100 meters. So if I have 300 meters to go, that is approximately 30 strokes (or three Power Tens). I find that this math approximates well at a 2:00min./500m pace, even if my spm vary. As every good coxswain knows, it also helps to pad a few extra strokes to the finish than to have to add in a few more when the crew is mentally done. (A strong sprint finish also brings the spm up, which adds a few more strokes.) Find out what math works best for you and your rowing ability. I love to cut and dice my workouts into manageable mental bits. Depending on the workout, the last 300 meters of my workout may be managed in any number of ways:

“Only thirty strokes to go, let’s count them out as three Power Tens!”

“Relax and breathe for 10 strokes, then take two strokes to bring up the stroke rating, and finish strong with two Power Tens.”

“Hang on for 200 more meters; don’t even look at the Performance Monitor. Then sit up and GO! Fifteen big strong strokes!”

“Stay at this stroke rating for 100 meters, then bring it up 2 spm for 100 meters, then bring it up higher for the last 100 meters.”

I would love to hear what mental games you play to get through your workouts (it’s a long winter, let’s help each other out!). Leave comments on what tricks you’ve found help you get through difficult strokes.

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