A fundamental tenant of Crossfit coaching is to “hold exercises quick and intense.” Why, then, did I join a full/half marathon row modeled off the latest Video games occasion? Nice query.
I regretted my choice nearly instantly after committing to 5 weeks of long-distance rowing; nevertheless, reflecting on the coaching expertise and the half marathon itself, I discovered essential issues about myself as an athlete and coach that I hope will profit different power athletes.
Rowing Marathon Background
My Crossfit gymnasium arrange a rowing seminar with a collegiate rower turned faculty rowing coach to prep our small crew for 5 weeks of endurance coaching and the grand finale—21,098 meters for the half and 42,196 meters for the complete marathon. Through the seminar, we went over rowing method, stroke charges, pacing, and different methods for our marathon effort.
Over these 5 weeks, we had two rowing exercises, one finished in interval model and one higher-volume day. It was additionally advised that these taking part within the row attend the lengthy cardio exercise programmed for the remainder of the gymnasium every week. In whole, we’d prepare high-volume cardio work 3 times per week for 4 weeks, with the fifth and closing coaching week together with just one lengthy conditioning piece as a taper earlier than the primary occasion.
5 Weeks of Conditioning
A part of my motivation for signing up for the marathon row was my deep disdain for all issues endurance; I knew that I’d by no means do one thing like this until I had a coach, a plan, and a bunch to undergo alongside me.
Every Sunday, our coach despatched out an e-mail with the week’s upcoming conditioning items. The emails crammed me with dread and foreboding. I spent the morning teaching my very own coaching purchasers by their exercises with the considered an hour spent on the rower hanging over my head like a darkish and ominous storm cloud. When the time got here to hop on the rower and knock out that day’s exercise, I did so begrudgingly.
The stunning factor about long-distance rowing is that it didn’t suck after a short time. So long as I centered on the display screen whereas matching my stroke price and tempo to the programming for that day, I fell into a gentle rhythm of pull-catch, pull-catch, with out actually enthusiastic about it. It’s as if I turned a part of the erg.
I assume that’s what runners are speaking about once they attempt to persuade me that operating is stress-free. Whereas I didn’t discover the rowing exercises precisely stress-free, I did really feel completed after ending every bit. One thing about dripping with sweat makes you are feeling such as you did one thing along with your time.
Classes from Coaching
Within the kick-off seminar, we established that type can be the whole lot. Give it some thought you are on the erg for about 1.5-2 hours to row a half marathon or Three-Four hours for the complete. That’s 90 minutes on the low finish as much as 240 minutes on the excessive finish. Even pulling a low stroke price of 22 s/m means you’re doing 1,980 reps (greatest case) or 5,280 reps (worst case). That’s numerous freaking repetitions and never numerous room for sloppy motion.
Whereas coaching, I centered intently on making every pull as near “good” or as excellent as attainable given the calls for of the piece. That meant sustaining an upright posture (“chest up”) and pulling within the right order: drive along with your legs, lean again into hip extension, end with the arms, and return to the catch main along with your arms. The toughest half was having the persistence to return the deal with earlier than breaking on the hips and knees to enter the catch place.
The 2 totally different types of coaching items (intervals and quantity work) offered an superior alternative to study the distinction between stroke and tempo and the way every affected my efficiency on the rower.
For these not acquainted, your stroke price is proven on the erg show as “__s/m” or strokes per minute. Usually, shorter folks have to tug extra strokes to cowl the identical distance as a taller particular person pulling fewer strokes. A decrease stroke price additionally means you possibly can protect extra vitality throughout lengthy distances since you’re not pulling as continuously.
Tempo, alternatively, not directly measures the ability of every particular person pull. A quicker tempo signifies that pull “moved” your boat additional, aka, you set extra energy into that stroke than somebody pulling at a slower tempo. (Sure, you possibly can set the rower to show your wattage, which straight measures energy, however that’s fairly irrelevant with out context.)
Lengthy story quick, a stronger leg drive helped me pull a quicker tempo, whereas quicker arms and fewer relaxation on the catch helped me pull the next stroke price. I got here to think about it as tempo:legs and stroke:arms. If my tempo fell beneath my goal, I’d put extra energy into driving with my legs. If my stroke price didn’t match the day’s programming, I’d alter the pace with which I returned the deal with after finishing my pull.
This may occasionally sound bizarre, however I feel studying to have quicker arms on the pull and catch carried over to my barbell clear as a result of I seen in latest power exercises that my elbow pace beneath the bar has improved. Completely anecdotal, after all, nevertheless it’s enjoyable to note carry over to different aspects of Crossfit.
The ultimate lesson that distance coaching taught me is how good it feels to not get beat up in a exercise. None of our coaching items left me gasping on the ground. None had been designed for us to row at wherever approaching our most effort (in truth, a lot of the items had been written as 5-15 seconds beneath your estimated 2,000-meter tempo).
Through the 5 weeks of coaching, I continued power coaching however dropped metcons to solely as soon as per week. Regardless of fewer Crossfit-style metcons, my endurance and cardio capability appeared to extend over the 5 weeks of conditioning, and my restoration improved.
As a power coach, I recognize the programming that will get outcomes with out destroying an athlete. As an athlete, I appreciated coaching that didn’t destroy me!
Getting ready for Half Marathon Day
Okay, I already admitted to strongly disliking cardio, so it ought to come as no shock that I signed up for the half marathon as a substitute of the complete. On sport day, I’d begin within the first warmth and be adopted by a associate, who would row the second half of the marathon. Our gymnasium had 9 groups splitting the marathon in half and 5 or 6 athletes decide to the complete marathon. So a minimum of I wasn’t the craziest one within the room that day.
The day earlier than the race, I made positive I had the whole lot I might presumably want in the course of the occasion: the garments I used to be going to put on to the gymnasium, the garments I’d put on on the rower, the squeeze prime water bottle I’d sip on all through the race, the BCAAs and snacks to gasoline my row, and my (totally charged) Bluetooth headphones. All the pieces was able to go the day earlier than.
I made positive to hydrate all through all the day earlier than the race and get to sleep round 10 pm the evening earlier than in order that I might get a full Eight-9 hours of sleep.
Going into the race, I had a plan of what stroke price and tempo I needed to carry, once I would enhance each, and once I was going to sip water. A few of the rowers deliberate to eat gummy bears, gels, or different fast sugars in the course of the occasion, however I used to be going to rely solely on BCAAs and an electrolyte pill dissolved in my squeeze-top water bottle. I did pack a child’s applesauce pouch simply in case I wanted extra vitality in the course of the half marathon however didn’t plan to make use of it.
The morning of the complete/half marathon, I awakened solely an hour beforehand, figuring out I wouldn’t want time to eat or do a lot of something earlier than heading to the gymnasium. I needed to avoid wasting all of my vitality for the 21,098-meter effort. I additionally didn’t need to really feel sick on the rower. I’d save consuming for afterward.
My sport plan for the race was to begin at round 20-22 s/m and ramp up my stroke price each Three,000 meters till I settled into 26 s/m. I additionally needed to carry between 2:20 and a pair of:30 tempo throughout the row till going all-out on the ultimate 500 meters.
To remain hydrated and energized, I’d sip on electrolyte water each ten minutes for the primary hour, then each 5 minutes within the second hour. To take action, I practiced rowing with one arm in order that I might drink water with out stopping. My purpose was to finish the half marathon and not using a single break, principally as a result of I didn’t need to restart the erg’s fan and waste vitality within the course of.
The one good factor about rowing a half marathon? You don’t need to heat up. You simply sit down and begin rowing—slowly at first, then selecting up your tempo as your physique adjusts to the work you’re doing. My sport plan was fairly conservative. I might have held a quicker tempo and completed sooner. (I received’t be testing that principle any time quickly, although!)
The worst factor about rowing a half marathon? Effectively, there have been two main negatives, if I’m being trustworthy. First, it was boring as all heck. And secondly, my butt went numb after some time and was sore for days afterward. Bike shorts would have been good. One of many athletes in my warmth sat on an ab mat, which I assumed was good.
One of many weirdest components of the entire expertise was that the passage of time appeared to grow to be meaningless. After the primary 9 minutes, I used to be feeling nice. Across the thirty-minute mark, all I might take into consideration was how a lot farther I needed to go. I began enjoying video games in my head. “Two minutes till your subsequent water break” or “1,000 meters till you decide up your tempo.” To say my prepare of thought turned repetitive can be an understatement.
The most effective factor in the course of the row was seeing the meter countdown drop from 5 digits (21,098m) to 4 digits—whats up, 9,999 meters to go! I used to be simply over midway by the piece and needed to begin hauling ass to complete quicker, however I needed to keep in mind to stay to my pacing as a result of I nonetheless had about fifty minutes of rowing forward of me.
You know the way I stated I didn’t plan to eat something whereas I used to be on the rower? Simply in case, I had positioned a squeeze pack of applesauce on the ground subsequent to my erg. Round 1.5 hours, I felt a headache come on, so I went for the applesauce. Whole life saver! The sugar cured my headache immediately, and I felt like I had extra vitality for the ultimate 5,000 meters.
My plan was to open up the throttle across the 1,500-meter mark, so I picked up my tempo to a 2:15 cut up, which I held till 500m. From there, all bets had been off. All I might assume was “no matter you pull on the display screen, that’s how a lot time till you may get off this factor!” I completed the ultimate 500 meters with a 2:08 tempo.
My quads felt like they had been filled with cement for all the two minutes and ten seconds of all-out rowing. However I did it!
Instantly following the half marathon, I felt unusually high quality. I wasn’t particularly drained or sore. I used to be pondering I ought to have pushed myself more durable. Contemplating this was my first try at a distance occasion, I used to be pleased with my end time, although.
About twenty minutes after finishing the half marathon, my legs began to really feel like lead, and I spotted how sore my butt had gotten from sitting on the plastic seat for almost two hours. That was most likely the worst half, and the soreness lasted a pair days.
About one hour after the occasion, I began feeling light-headed and usually exhausted. I knew I wanted to eat, however I wasn’t hungry. I had anticipated to really feel ravenous after the occasion. Because it seems, adrenaline from endurance occasions can suppress your physique’s starvation indicators. Whenever you’re placing a lot vitality and energy into “simply hold shifting” for 2 hours, your physique shuts down much less important features, like your digestive system. Regardless of being in a extreme calorie deficit from the two-hour exercise, I felt no starvation in any respect.
The remainder of the day, I used to be merely drained. Napping didn’t assist. I nonetheless felt drained the following day however skilled nearly no soreness apart from my butt from the plastic seat. If I had run a half marathon my physique would’ve been destroyed.
Classes from the Half Marathon Row
Upon reflection, I feel long-distance occasions is usually a useful expertise for Crossfitters as a result of we’re not used to doing endurance coaching. Crossfit’s “hold exercises quick and intense” philosophy is nice for constructing robust, highly effective athletes, but when we’re to proceed claiming that the game of health produces the “fittest folks on earth,” we should always all undertake some type of endurance coaching sooner or later in our Crossfit careers.