As someone relatively new to CrossFit, I can tell you that there are activities at the gym that I greatly enjoy and others I enjoy slightly less. When I show up for a WOD at CrossFit Local and find rowing front and center, I am thrilled, in spite of not being a great rower. Maybe it’s because if we are rowing that day, it means we MAY not be doing lots of wall balls, burpees or other equally torturous activities.
Many of you may use Concept2 machines at your gym, but have you ever competed in a sanctioned indoor rowing competition, or even knew they existed?
Not only do these competitions exist, but they are thriving. According to the team at Concept2, some 40,000 athletes competed in 400 indoor rowing events during the past year alone.
Terry Smythe from UCanRow2 shared the following observations based on her years of training, competing, and teaching: “The playing field of competitive athletes in indoor rowing racing has never been so diverse, and CrossFitters and other non-traditional athletes are increasingly generating some real competition for the on-water rowers and others who used to dominate the sport. CrossFit has played a pivotal role in the growth of indoor rowing as its own sport and it was awesome to see athletes from Team Again Faster pull PBs at C.R.A.S.H.-B’s early this year.”
While the race calendar for 2012 will not be finalized until October, you can click here to get an idea of when and where races are typically held.
Resources for Improving Your Rowing Technique
The Concept2 site maintains some excellent videos to assist you in improving rowing technique as well as in identifying common errors they typically see in beginners. Once you have gotten the basics, you may want to attend a rowing seminar or training session taught by the qualified instructors like the folks at UCanRow2.
“Rowing, whether indoors or on the water, is all about finesse, so the lowest WOD or 2k time is often the direct result of the athlete’s technique. We have had a number of CrossFitters in our trainings, and every one of them has come away an improved rower, with a greater understanding of how better technique plays into better performance and better WOD times.” – Terry Smythe at UCanRow2
Tips for Racing
If you are interested in racing, here are a few tips provided by the Concept2 team (this is a subset of the tips listed on their website):
- Start training. If you have been rowing regularly anyway, this will simply mean adding a little more focus to your workouts. If you haven’t been rowing regularly over the summer, it’s time to get going again, gradually at first. If you never row hard, start rowing hard some of the time. If you always row steady state, add in some interval workouts. See the bottom of the Training for Competition page for the 5 key workouts to help get you ready for a 2,000 meter race.
- Measure your progress. Row a 2,000 meter time trial every 3-4 weeks. This is great practice for the race, gets you familiar with your pace, and shows you how your training is going. Don’t worry if the improvement is not constant – it is normal to hit plateaus and have bad days.
- Know your pace. Pace is displayed in the central window of the Performance Monitor when you are in pace mode. The PM also shows your average at the end of any timed or distance piece. As the race approaches, be sure you know what pace you should be rowing. You can use your 30 minute pace as a guide. Subtract 7-9 seconds from your average pace for 30 minutes and try using that pace for a 2,000 meter piece. For example, if you can row a 30 minute piece at an average pace of 2:15/500 meters, try using 2:08-2:06 for your 2,000 meter pace. This pace will guide you when you get into the real race, where excitement and adrenaline will make it feel very easy to start out at a pace much faster than what you’re actually capable of rowing. Don’t be carried away. Hold yourself to the pace you know you can row. If you have extra energy in the last 500 meters, fine. Use it then and finish strong.
- Know your drag factor. The drag factor is displayed on the PM3 or PM4 screen by going to the “MAIN MENU,” then selecting “MORE OPTIONS” and “DISPLAY DRAG FACTOR.” At races, there is no prescribed damper setting so you are free to set the damper anywhere you want as long as you don’t change it during the race. See Understanding Drag Factor for more information.
- Be rested for the race. In training lingo, this is called “tapering.” Do your last really hard workout about a week before the race so your body has time to recover. From then on, get plenty of sleep, and do just enough hard rowing to keep yourself feeling sharp. A good pre-race workout is to split the 2,000 meters into 4 pieces: a 1,000 meter piece, a 500 meter piece, and two 250 meter pieces. Do each one at your race pace and allow plenty of rest in between. Do this workout 3-5 days before the race. Besides that, do some relaxed 30-40 minute rows. You should be itching to pull hard by the time race day arrives.
- Race Day: get to the race location at least an hour before your race time. Note that some races have both “preliminary heats” and “finals.” Be sure you know when your race is being held, and whether there will be finals in your event. (If you make the finals, you will have to row a second 2,000 m race later in the day!) The time of your race will affect the timing and size of your pre-race meal.
Even if you aren’t interested in competing, but are up for a long term rowing challenge, please check out Concept2’s Million Meter Club.
Special thanks to Meredith Haff at Concept2 and Sarah Furhmann at UCanRow2 for their assistance with this article.
Photo credit: taniwha