Lessons Learned from Rowing a Half Marathon

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A primary tenant of Crossfit coaching is to “preserve 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 resolution 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 health club 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 total marathon. In the course of the seminar, we went over rowing approach, stroke charges, pacing, and different methods for our marathon effort.


Over these 5 weeks, we had two rowing exercises, one accomplished in interval fashion and one higher-volume day. It was additionally instructed that these collaborating within the row attend the lengthy cardio exercise programmed for the remainder of the health club every week. In complete, we’d practice high-volume cardio work thrice per week for 4 weeks, with the fifth and ultimate 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 except I had a coach, a plan, and a gaggle to endure 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 little while. So long as I centered on the display whereas matching my stroke charge 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 suppose that’s what runners are speaking about after they attempt to persuade me that working is stress-free. Whereas I didn’t discover the rowing exercises precisely stress-free, I did really feel achieved after ending every bit. One thing about dripping with sweat makes you are feeling such as you did one thing together with your time.


Classes from Coaching

Within the kick-off seminar, we established that kind can be every thing. 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 total. That’s 90 minutes on the low finish as much as 240 minutes on the excessive finish. Even pulling a low stroke charge of 22 s/m means you’re doing 1,980 reps (finest case) or 5,280 reps (worst case). That’s lots of freaking repetitions and never lots of room for sloppy motion.


Whereas coaching, I centered intently on making every pull as near “good” or as perfect as potential given the calls for of the piece. That meant sustaining an upright posture (“chest up”) and pulling within the appropriate order: drive together with your legs, lean again into hip extension, end with the arms, and return to the catch main together with your palms. 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) supplied an superior alternative to be taught the distinction between stroke and tempo and the way every affected my efficiency on the rower.



For these not acquainted, your stroke charge is proven on the erg show as “__s/m” or strokes per minute. Typically, shorter folks have to tug extra strokes to cowl the identical distance as a taller individual pulling fewer strokes. A decrease stroke charge additionally means you possibly can protect extra power throughout lengthy distances since you’re not pulling as incessantly.


Tempo, then again, not directly measures the facility of every particular person pull. A quicker tempo signifies that pull “moved” your boat additional, aka, you place extra energy into that stroke than somebody pulling at a slower tempo. (Sure, you possibly can set the rower to show your wattage, which immediately 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 palms and fewer relaxation on the catch helped me pull a higher stroke rate. I got here to consider it as tempo:legs and stroke:arms. If my tempo fell under my goal, I’d put extra energy into driving with my legs. If my stroke charge didn’t match the day’s programming, I’d alter the pace with which I returned the deal with after finishing my pull.


This will likely sound bizarre, however I feel studying to have quicker palms on the pull and catch carried over to my barbell clear as a result of I observed in latest power exercises that my elbow pace beneath the bar has improved. Completely anecdotal, in fact, 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 anyplace approaching our most effort (actually, many of the items had been written as 5-15 seconds beneath your estimated 2,000-meter tempo).


In the course of 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 admire 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 total. 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 health club had 9 groups splitting the marathon in half and 5 or 6 athletes decide to the total marathon. So at the very least I wasn’t the craziest one within the room that day.


The day earlier than the race, I made certain I had every thing I might probably want through the occasion: the garments I used to be going to put on to the health club, the garments I’d put on on the rower, the squeeze high water bottle I’d sip on all through the race, the BCAAs and snacks to gas my row, and my (totally charged) Bluetooth headphones. All the things was able to go the day earlier than.


I made certain to hydrate all through your entire 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 charge and tempo I wished 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 through 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 power through the half marathon however didn’t plan to make use of it.


Competitors Day

The morning of the total/half marathon, I wakened solely an hour beforehand, realizing I wouldn’t want time to eat or do a lot of something earlier than heading to the health club. I wished to avoid wasting all of my power for the 21,098-meter effort. I additionally didn’t wish to really feel sick on the rower. I’d save consuming for afterward.


My sport plan for the race was to start out at round 20-22 s/m and ramp up my stroke charge each Three,000 meters till I settled into 26 s/m. I additionally wished to carry between 2:20 and a pair of:30 tempo all through 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 aim was to finish the half marathon and not using a single break, largely as a result of I didn’t wish to restart the erg’s fan and waste power 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 choosing 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 gained’t be testing that idea 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 sensible.


One of many weirdest elements 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 taking part in 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 practice of thought turned repetitive can be an understatement.


One of the best factor through the row was seeing the meter countdown drop from 5 digits (21,098m) to 4 digits—hi there, 9,999 meters to go! I used to be simply over midway by the piece and wished to start out 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 power 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, that’s how a lot time till you will get off this factor!” I completed the ultimate 500 meters with a 2:08 tempo.


My quads felt like they had been stuffed with cement for your entire two minutes and ten seconds of all-out rowing. However I did it!


The Aftermath

Instantly following the half marathon, I felt unusually effective. I wasn’t particularly drained or sore. I used to be considering I ought to have pushed myself tougher. 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 practically 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 customarily 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 alerts. While you’re placing a lot power and energy into “simply preserve transferring” 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 subsequent 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 worthwhile expertise for Crossfitters as a result of we’re not used to doing endurance coaching. Crossfit’s “preserve exercises quick and intense” philosophy is nice for constructing sturdy, highly effective athletes, but when we’re to proceed claiming that the sport of fitness produces the “fittest folks on earth,” we should always all undertake some form of endurance coaching sooner or later in our Crossfit careers.

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