Wednesday, April 7, 2010

CrossFit Rowing

All of my rowing over the past couple days has been at CrossFit.   Monday's WOD had two sprints: 1000m and 500m at either end of a WOD that included double-unders and dumbbell snatches, and yesterday there were two 1000m intervals serving as bookends around a WOD that was 5 rounds of 20 jumping pull ups and 20 thrusters.

Rowing in a CrossFit WOD that combines other physical elements is a very different experience from rowing a 2K, 5K, or 10K piece.   It is very different experience from doing "normal" interval work on the rower (like last night's 6x500m CrossFit Endurance workout).   During a normal rowing workout, the erg is your sole focus.  And in my experience, the body fatigues in an "even" way with rowing.  By that I mean my legs, arms, core, and even my general aerobic capacity all seem to get exhausted at the same rate.  Granted there are some interval workouts I have done on the rower that seem to just destroy my legs, but certainly with 5K and up pieces, things seem to get exhausted at pretty much an even pace.

Not so with CrossFit workouts.   If you have never done CrossFit before, here is an example that will give you a taste of what this is like.  Set up to do 6x500m intervals.  Between the intervals, insert another exercise - like pushups - and do a tabata interval of that. (Tabata intervals are 20 seconds of work, then 10 seconds of rest for 8 repeats).  Throw in a 1:00 rest before getting back on the rower.

So your workout would look something like this:
500m row
8x0:20w/0:10r pushups
1:00 rest
repeat 5 more times...

When you get back on the rower, notice how much different the interval feels.   You would probably think you would be hitting a completely different muscle group on the pushups (triceps, pectorals) than you were using on the row.  However, engaging the core on the pushups is going to pre-fatigue the core for your next rowing interval.  What generally happens to me on these kinds of workouts is that I hop back on the rower thinking, "great, back to rowing!!  I'm gonna kick butt on this because I row all the time!".  But what I discover is that the row feels completely different because of the pre-fatigued core.  It is a totally different experience than a normal 6x500m interval.  My body has to cope with fatiguing in a different way than it is used to.  Rowing becomes slightly unfamiliar and more challenging.

It seems to me that my rowing workouts on days after a CrossFit WOD that incorporates rowing are better than other rowing workouts.   I will have to review my rowing logs to see if my performance backs up that feeling! :-)   But psychologically anyway, I feel better about rowing after a good CrossFit WOD that incorporates rowing.   Perhaps it is because the CrossFit rowing always feels so much harder, that if I can just row it is a huge relief.   Or maybe that unfamiliarity I am feeling durning the CrossFit WOD rowing makes returning to "normal" rowing kind of like a return to the familiar and somehow more comfortable.

I have also noticed that all the "normal" rowing I have been doing has improved my CrossFit WODs that incorporate rowing.   Seems like most folks at CrossFit dread the rowing - let's face it, nothing kicks your butt like rowing!  But I actually look forward to WODs with rowing in them.   I look forward to the place in the WOD where I can get back on the rower, get into my rhythm and, well, just row!  Even though physiologically it is unfamiliar because of the pre-fatigue induced by the other CrossFit elements, psychologically it is a return to something that I feel strong in.  My mind is telling me "you row 10Ks all the time, a 1K will be practically like resting".

Did I just say that a 1K row could be like resting?

Results from the last two days:

Total Meters
1K (Mon - CF beginning of WOD)
500m (Mon CF end of WOD)
1K (Tue CF beginning of WOD)
1K (Tue CF end of WOD)
1K (Warm up CFE)
rest meters
1K (Cool down)
Total for 2 Days
Meters to go

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