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Old 04-22-2010, 12:50 AM   #1
Dan Morgan
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Location: St Albans  UK
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Advice on programming for a competitive rower

Hello everyone,
I'm a competitive rower at the university level in the UK. This entails basically training four mornings on the water, two 'fitness' sessions on weekend mornings (think running and calisthenics) and five evenings a week on the water. This will be the schedule from now until late June. I have to go to every one of these sessions if I am to be in the squad.

Having been a crossfitter since last summer, I was able to keep doing workouts while the schedule was less intensive during the winter, but now I am wondering how to fit crossfit workouts in, while allowing time for proper recovery and progression in my rowing. I want to do this basically because I want to still be 'crossfit' and still be a good rower.

What I had planned to do was do five workouts a week during the middle of the day when I can fit them in. I've been trying this but it has just made me very tired and my quads feel like they are going to snap/burn out all of the time. For example today is my 'day off' in the rowing schedule, I had planned to get up and go to the gym and do a triplet workout with power cleans, pullups and pushups, but my quads and lower back are aching so much I'm using my better judgement and allowing myself to recover.

Does anyone have any advice to offer or experience in this kind of programming? Do you think it would be best just to do one or two CF workouts a week, then pick it back up to 3 on 1 off in the summer holidays when I'll only be rowing once maybe twice a week as I won't be at uni? Or just leave it out completely and hope I don't lose too much 'crossfitness'?

Thank you in advance!
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Old 04-22-2010, 12:56 AM   #2
Dan Morgan
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Re: Advice on programming for a competitive rower

I forgot to add, my diet is pretty good, doing an eyeball zone apart from pwo nutrition which tends to be carb heavy with a bit of whey. And eating mostly paleo apart from the whey pwo and I can't afford the best meats (being a student and all!) so I sometimes am eating sausages and bacon and stuff like that rather than lean chicken breast. But no grains at all, and lots of fruit and eggs.
My sleep is as good as it can be, I have to get up at five or six for training and sometimes aren't able to get to bed until 11ish, but sometimes get a bit of a power nap during the day. I sleep well though, generally.
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Old 04-22-2010, 03:15 AM   #3
David Meverden
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Re: Advice on programming for a competitive rower

Unless you can convince your coach to let you do CF workouts for your weekend "fitness sessions" I don't think there is any way you can keep up your CF workouts. Nine rowing sessions a week is already a pretty demanding schedule. MAYBE if you slack on your weekend fitness sessions you could do a CF workout later that day, but any addition and I think you'll be pushing it, so monitor your recovery closely.

Also, if you haven't read it I recommend The Paleo Diet for Athletes. Written for endurance athletes particularly, which would probably more-or-less fit you (the events are fairly short, but the practices are long, right?)
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Old 04-22-2010, 04:43 AM   #4
Dave Hardy
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Re: Advice on programming for a competitive rower

I'm in the same situation, trying to fit in additional strength and fitness work around water sessions and ergs. After playing around with different routines and schedules, I think I can just about fit some meaningful stength training (couple of sessions a week) around my rowing schedule but not much more; probably depends on your course workload too I suppose. Any more for me would be pushing it, especially with BUCS coming up soon.
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Old 04-22-2010, 06:08 AM   #5
Ryan Earle
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Re: Advice on programming for a competitive rower

Maybe share this with your coach: - Work Safe

Cam Birtwell is a strength and conditioning coach at the Canadian Sports Centre Pacific (CSCP), as well as the owner of CrossFit Zone in Victoria, B.C. He works with specialists including Olympic gold medalists and generalists, and he talks about the strategies he uses for both groups.

In CrossFit, we often state that we are training for the unknown and unknowable. Most frequently, we accomplish this goal by utilizing an intensive stimulus that is varied in time and mode. What about when we encounter a group of athletes who are preparing for a known entity, such as a 2000-meter row at the international level? Instead of constant variance, we need planned and progressive training that is sequenced in such a way as to minimize interference with sport-specific training while building toward maximum performance at the right time of year.

Within the Rowing Canada team program, all the technique, anaerobic-lactic, aerobic-power, muscular-endurance and power-endurance work are taken care of by the head rowing coach. As a professional strength and conditioning coach with CSCP, I don't feel the need to develop those qualities in the weight room as they are best developed in the most specific manner possible: either on the water or on the rowing ergometer. Instead, the weight-room focus is on the development of maximal strength and alactic power.

As a CrossFit affiliate owner and planner of our member’s training, the need is different. I lay out both the training of varied work capacity and strength/power to create the most efficient and well-rounded stimulus.

Programming for the Canadian rowing team relies on consistency in exercise parameters through four-to-six-week blocks. This allows the athletes to have maximum exposure to the exercise selection, intensity and volume of that phase of training. Too much variety in these parameters generally leads to an inaccurate training effect and variable levels of soreness and fatigue. These adversely affect our athletes’ ability to perform in and adapt to their on-water programming. This is in contrast to the non-specialist CrossFitter, for whom a certain variety in mode, volume and intensity may be the best path to becoming an athlete competent in several domains.

Even though I am an affiliate owner and CrossFit athlete myself, I recognize the need for differences in programming for elite athletic performance and for the unknown and unknowable of everyday life or work. In this video interview shot at CrossFit East Sacramento, we discuss some of the details of the Rowing Canada team’s training during a recent training camp in Sacramento. The video highlights the nature of being a specialist athlete at the elite level in Canada and how these athletes train toward Olympic performance. We also touch on some of my own feelings about the benefits and power of CrossFit for individuals outside of such a narrow sporting domain.

Additional reading: Rowing a Sub-7 2K—Without Rowing? by EvaClaire (E.C.) Synkowski, published March 30, 2009.
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