CrossFit Gainesville- School Of Elite Fitness
How to become a better rower
You may laugh, but would you ever walk up to a loaded barbell and lift it without considering what weight is on it? Odds are . . . the answer is No. Before lifting there are 2 very important things to take into account – The movement (Clean, DL, Snatch) and load. The same thing applies to rowing. Although barbell work appears to be so much more complex, there is a technique to rowing in order to get the most bang for your buck. . . No one wants to look like a cartoon character just spinning the wheel and going nowhere.
With all that said, technique is not what I want to cover today, but here is a series of great videos breaking down rowing technique if you are interested: CLICK HERE
Lets talk about the screen. . . we all stare at it, but do we really know where to look, what to aim for, or what the different numbers are calculating?
When rowing, there are 2 very important numbers to gauge:
1. Stroke Rate
2. Split Time
This is your strokes per minute (SPM) or how many times you go back and forth on the rower each minute. During training, your stroke rate should be somewhere between 18-26. In a competitive scenario (one in which you do not have anything else to pace for afterwards, Max Effort) may reach into the upper 30's.
What is important about this number is that it measures the control of your pace. Many who do not monitor this number will have it jump from 18-24-22-26... That may not seem like an issue on a rower, but when you compare it to something like running . . . It just seems silly. Can you imagine going for a run and changing your pace every few steps? That would be exhausting and not very efficient.
Keeping the SPM around 20-24 is a great speed for a workout where you have to have some energy when you get off of the rower to complete KB Swings, Pullups, or a myriad of other movements.
Here is some homework to work on your Stroke Rate:
Practice holding a consistent stroke rate. Ignore your times and all the other numbers on the monitor. Practice holding a specific SPM for an extended period of time. At first it will be rough, but if you persist it will improve. If you are rowing to warm up for your workout, then try this ladder drill, done at an easy pace: Row for 1 minute each at 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 20, 18. (Breaking Muscle)
This is the BIG number in the middle of the screen. This number represents the amount of force you are applying to each stroke. Much like the Stroke Rate, the goal is to be consistent across all strokes. This number is like the weight on the barbell. Before starting a Back Squat build, we usually have in mind what number we are hoping to work up to. Same applies to the Split time. Before beginning a workout with rowing, we should consider a split time that will be most efficient, consistent, and sustainable.
Here is some homework to help work on your split time and learn to start gauging what split time is best for you:
Like the stroke rate homework, practice split times while ignoring all other factors. Practice holding a series of different split times that range from feeling like a light jog to feeling like a sprint. Hold them for thirty to sixty seconds each. Practice this regularly until you have the power to make split times happens. (Breaking Muscle)
Workout of the Day
A. Hang Power Clean x4 reps, rest 60 sec
B1. RDL x8; 3030
B2. Static Hold on Rings x20 sec
C. 7 min AMRAP
50m single arm farmers carry
7x No Push Up Burpee
Every 2 for 12 min
1 Below Knee Squat Clean + 1 Full Squat Clean
60%, 70%, 80%, (85)3
B. 3 sets
15x Hang Power Clean [60% of 1RM]
rest 2 min
ACTIVITY TRACKERS: Should you get one?
Why get an activity tracker?
An activity tracker allows you to keep an eye on your activity throughout the day and so provides immediate feedback on steps, fuel points (explained below), calories, or floors. This can be very beneficial IF the device actually affects your activity level from day to day. That is, you might set a particular goal for each day and if you see yourself not reaching that goal you may alter your normal behaviors: you will forgo the elevator, park the car farther away from the store, or go for a longer jog. Similarly, if the set goal factors into what you choose to do during the day to stay active, an activity tracker is a good purchase. Some devices also offer a built in community or the ability to compete on calories, steps, fuel points, etc with a friend – a bonus way of staying motivated. However, if none of these benefits affects your behavior, you’re better off spending your money elsewhere. If you are considering an activity tracker, below I provide detail on two of the more popular brands. Other brands (that offer products with similar characteristics) are: Garmin, Jawbone, Polar, and Mio.
Which tracker to get: Nike+ FuelBand vs. Fitbit
Cheat sheet: Fitbit comes out on top from the comparison below. I own the Nike+ FuelBand – which speaks to just how addictive the fuel points can be – but I recently purchased a Mio Alpha 2 to help with running and rowing workouts.
Nike+ FuelBand vs. the Fitbit
Both offer the following basics:
- WEAR and APPEARANCE: Easy to wear and pleasant in appearance (matches with almost anything – except for a bridesmaid dress as was pointed out to me by the bride’s mother-in-law)
- WORKOUT TRACKER: Allows you to track specific workouts
- ON-LINE MOTIVATION: you receive various awards depending on a particular accomplishment such as number of active hours in a day, floors climbed, best week, etc.
- ON-LINE COMMUNITY: you can connect with other owners, track their progress, compete, or just chat
- PRICE: about $149 (unless you get a fitbit without heartrate tracking, which goes for about $129)
How it works: tracks your arm movement via an accelerometer that converts each move into Nike Fuel (Nike’s measure of your activity).
- NIKE FUEL POINTS: Nike does not make its algorithm public, but based on my own experience one fuel point is equivalent to about 2.5 steps. That is, unless you’re running fast or performing another vigorous activity. While this measure may seem strange to you at first, let me vouch for its addictive qualities. I am currently on a 347 day streak – going for a full year of meeting my pre-set Nike Fuel goal! Everyone can pre-set their own personalized goal.
- BATTERY LIFE: I assume to get about a week of battery life on my own fuelband.
- CALORIE COUNT: based on your activity only. That is, it does not account for base calories burned during the day. Seems like a minor factor to adjust for, but some find it frustrating and demotivating. For example, you will see daily calories burned equal to 300-600 calories rather than 2300-2600.
- WORKOUT TRACKING: The fuel points, and calories are based on your arm movement only. Therefore, it is a poor measurement of your effort in the gym unless you’re doing burpees, box jumps, sit ups with arm throws and the like. It does not measure weight training, Olympic lifting, swimming or rowing very well, if at all.
- SLEEP TRACKER: Sleep tracker is quite primitive. It measures your arm movement as with your activity during the day. Additionally, you have to set it for sleep mode in order for that to be specifically timed and measured.
How it works: accelerometer same as Nike Fuel PLUS an altimeter which counts floors climbed. Some models (Charge HR) have all day heart rate tracking, and their flagship model (Surge) includes heart rate + GPS. My comments here are primarily related to the Charge HR.
- ALTIMETER – measures floors climbed in addition to steps taken
- HEART RATE TRACKER –measures your heart rate throughout the day and night to provide you with more detailed calorie burn and sleep quality readings than the Nike+ FuelBand. The heart rate tracker is particularly good for tracking your resting HR on days following a heavy load of training. High levels of EPOC (exercise induced post oxygen consumption), commonly known as “afterburn” will now be visible as a higher resting HR.
- SLEEP TRACKER – tracks your sleep without you having to press any buttons to turn it to sleep mode.
- HEART RATE TRACKER – not always accurate during vigorous arm movement. Therefore, not the most accurate measure of your effort in the gym (go with a chest strap if you’re really serious about measuring heartrate during a workout). That said, still better than the output from Nike+.
- BATTERY LIFE – 3-5 days depending on how much you rely on the workout and heartrate trackers. Shorter than Nike+ given the additional measurement of heartrate.
Emily sporting a Nike+FuelBand and a focused split jerk
Workout of the Day
Aerobic Power Conditioning
Go through in order;
ABCDE, then BCDEA, then CDEAB, then DEABC, then EABCD
A.10x Sit Ups
B.10x Russian KB Swings
D.10x Box Step Overs
E.10x Push Ups
rest 2 min active after each set
10 min Alt EMOM; lots of variance here,
A1. Muscle Up Progression x5 reps
A2. HSPU x5, ADAP
B. 3 sets: DB Seated Strict Press x8; 30x2
C. 8 min AMRAP; high effort
3x Muscle Ups
10x DB Snatch total reps
A Story Of Sickness, Wellness and Fitness: Paula Mullally
When I first heard Paula's story I couldn't help but admire her bravery and openess to speak about such a challenging time in her life. I'm proud to have CFG be a medium for her story to be heard. We can all learn a lot from Paula by her positive mindset both in and outside the gym.
1. What inspires you to train?
I have always been an active person and really rely on fitness as an outlet for stress. I also have a little residual 'type A' personality, so I thrive on challenges; and crossfit is challenging both physically and mentally.
2. Have you always considered yourself healthy or fit? Explain...
For the most part, I have thought of myself as a health-and-fitness-minded person. I was active growing up and always felt that exercise and smart eating were important to physical, mental, and emotional health. Of course, for a time, my definition of health and fitness was a little warped by anorexia.
3. You've been open about your eating disorder, how did it impact your life at the time?
Anyone who has experienced an eating disorder will tell you that it basically takes over your life. I developed anorexia early in college and became obsessed with exercise and counting calories. Getting out to run every day was a priority, regardless of the weather or my physical condition, and anything less than an hour barely counted to me. Carbs were terrifying. Fats were terrifying. My own body was terrifying. I was sufficiently self-aware to know that what I was doing was terrible for me, but I felt powerless to stop. Something like that just consumes you. I would get treatment and make superficial progress towards recovery, and a half a year or a year later I would relapse. Any time part of my life felt out of control, I reacted by controlling my diet and exercise routine.
When I was really deep in the disorder, I was always exhausted. Sitting in class was often uncomfortable, because my bones dug into me. I actually started worrying that my heart would fail or I'd break a bone on a long run. I felt trapped in a bubble of my own misery – I didn't socialize much, because eating out was a nightmare. My friends worried about me, dating was impossible, my mom was so scared that she'd threaten to take away my running shoes when I came home. During one of my post-college relapses, I almost fainted standing up from my desk at work. A co-worker actually asked me if I was terminally ill because I had dropped weight so quickly. Even when I wasn't in the midst of a relapse, everyday things like deciding what to eat for lunch and taking rest days from workouts were challenges that could floor me.
4. What sort of challenges did you face because of it?
Having a clear idea of what you want and deserve out of life in general is pretty difficult when you can't even figure out what to eat. I had a really difficult time envisioning a career path from my first job out of college, and I went through some rocky relationships with people around me. I am so unbelievably fortunate to have escaped without any serious, permanent health issues, but I have days where I wonder what my body could have been if I hadn't spent so long depriving it.
5. What was the turning point for you?
I was up and down with anorexia until my mid-twenties, when I finally started getting a handle on my personal triggers. But becoming comfortable with your body after all that time, learning how to take care of it after years of punishment, is a difficult process. I think it was a few months into crossfit that I really started appreciating the difference between working out in attempt to mold my body to fit a certain ideal, and working out to make my body stronger. Training in a different way also forced me to start thinking of food as fuel for my system instead of this torturous challenge of what I "should" or "shouldn't" eat. I still have moments of body dysmorphia – I probably always will – but the difference is that now I know that reacting to them by restricting my intake is only going to thwart my progress in getting faster, stronger, and fitter.
6. Tell us about your sports & fitness background.
I grew up dancing – tap, jazz, ballet, anything I could get my feet into – from the time I was three until high school. I did cross country and track all through high school and ran club cross country in college. I stuck primarily with running until a year or two before I started crossfit; then a friend got me into bootcamp-style workouts, too. That turned out to be a nice segue into the world of crossfit. I have to eat some crow when I say that, because I was a huuuuge crossfit skeptic before I got here. On paper, it didn't appeal to me in any way.
7. How long have you been a member with us?
I've been at CFG for about a year and a half now. I guess it's time to switch to an unlimited membership...
8. Describe your first day.
My first class was a few months before I decided to give it a whirl. Kelly Grogan brought me to a health class. I think we started with cleans & jerks. I remember feeling completely discombobulated and uncoordinated. HOW am I supposed to be picking this barbell up? Why is this so difficult? How is everyone else doing this so naturally? The rest of the workout was an EMOM with sprinting and burpees that actually felt within my comfort zone until the next day, when my shoulders were massively sore. It must not have scared me off too badly, because when Kelly offered me a Golden Ticket that winter, I took it and never looked back.
9. Why do you make nutrition and fitness a priority in your life now?
I love to push myself physically, and I now appreciate that I can't do so without proper fuel. I can't make up for the abuse I put myself through, but I can do my best to keep my body as a well-oiled (and well-fed) machine for the future. Being a positive role model for other girls and young women is also really important to me, because I know that women who are otherwise smart and capable can forget the importance of caring for their bodies and their sense of self-worth. That's part of why I'm willing to talk about all this here. I don't want to be a cautionary tale; I want to be a success story.
10. Do any of your family members share your passion for fitness?
I tend to be a little more of a fanatic than everyone else. Conner (my husband) definitely makes fitness a priority and respects that it's also a priority for me. Neither of my parents were exactly athletes but they encouraged me and my brother to be active in whatever ways we most enjoyed.
11. What are you training goals right now?
I'm going out of my comfort zone right now and really focusing on increasing strength. I decided to give up my distance running for a while to concentrate on building some fast-twitch muscle and pushing myself to make some bigger gains in my Olympic lifts. A fresh challenge feels really exciting (and intimidating!), so I want to work towards being competition-ready. Even if the competition only winds up being the Open Rx workouts next year.
12. How has CFG impacted your life?
I've learned so much here about the hows and whys of exercise and nutrition. There's such a difference between this vague idea that "exercise is good" and actually understanding the body's biomechanics and biochemistry. I've been amazed at what my body is capable of with the proper training and am constantly in awe of the people around me at CFG. Working out with other ambitious and focused people encourages you to aim a little higher.
13. What benefits has our active community had on your lifestyle?
Crossfit has made me more conscious about varying the ways in which I exercise. I make more of an effort to incorporate different types of movement in my life, whether that be occasional yoga, or weekend stand-up paddleboarding trips, or just remembering to stretch at my desk during the work day.
14. What made you decide CF was right for you?
I definitely came in a skeptic about crossfit's being a good fit for me. Superficially, it sounded like an intensely competitive atmosphere with a prescribed, restrictive diet, both of which would be major triggers for me. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, at least at CFG, that wasn't the case at all. I love the educational component, which is something that I had never gotten from another fitness experience. The attention the coaches give to each athlete and the focus on shaping workouts and movements to fit an individual's skill level make it much more comfortable and safe to learn movements that might seem, to a beginner, completely out of reach. As someone who always cherished her solo time during workouts, I was also surprised at how much I appreciated having coaches and fellow athletes to push me and, during the tougher workouts, to "embrace the suck" alongside me.
15. What sort of changes have you seen in your body, health and fitness since starting at CFG (before/after pics)?
I've been slowly replacing my wardrobe, so if you're looking for a reason to revamp your style, crossfit is great for that... In all seriousness, though: crossfit actually helped my running in ways I never expected. I feel so much faster and stronger in everything from a mile run to a half-marathon. Generally, I feel like my fitness is much more "complete" now, especially with respect to mobility work. CFG has also expanded my knowledge of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and nutrition by volumes. This past May, I went to visit a friend who hadn't seen me in a year. She couldn't stop commenting about how "your body is so jacked."
For those of you who aren't there when I try to put on pants and whine about how they're always too big in the waist and too small in the booty (lucky you all), you can see the difference in the photos.
16. What sort of unexpected changes in your life have you experienced out of taking on something like this?
Knowing what I'm capable of in the gym has given me more confidence in general. I'm also learning to be more comfortable with being terrible at new things. I've always hated to try out new activities if I thought I'd be bad at them, and crossfit has taught me that there's a lot of fun to be had when you get past the clumsy parts. More broadly, experiencing the awesome things your body is capable of imparts a real sense of power and ability.
17. Please share with us any favorite moments at the gym/community.
This year's Open was my first attempt at a crossfit competition. I did the scaled workouts but really enjoyed having a different competitive outlet from running. Adrenaline can take your performance a long way. I was definitely proud of myself for completing that. I love the way CFG structured it as a team competition and made it a fun Friday night activity instead of just another workout.
Also, and this will seem like a strange "favorite moment", I had a day in the gym once where I was feeling so overwhelmed with personal stuff that I had to put my kettlebell down mid-workout and walk out of the gym to pull myself together. After class, Nicole Black, who had been coaching, called and had a really long conversation with me about what was going on. It was obviously not a proud moment for me, but knowing that my coaches were there to support me outside the gym as much as inside the gym really solidified that I was in the right place.
18. Any advice for people just getting started or new to training?
Some people walk into crossfit and they're naturals. Some people (hi, me) need to work a little harder at certain things. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not always patient with myself or the process. The best advice I have for newcomers would be the advice I give myself all the time: when you find yourself getting caught in the "comparison trap", step back and appreciate how far you have come yourself. Be inspired, not discouraged, by what others can do; then get back to putting in your own work.
19. What advice do you have for people who can relate to your once eating disorder?
Eating disorders for most sufferers are a lifelong battle. I'm far from a nutritionist or a psychologist, but I think being self-aware and having people who can help hold you accountable is imperative. Last year, Aimee noticed that I had been losing weight and called me out on it. Just having someone remind me to re-focus on my nutrition got me back on track. ASK FOR HELP. Always, always ask for help. Fewer people will judge you than will want to help however they can.
In terms of working out, setting goals that are about physical performance is much friendlier than setting goals about how you want your thighs to look. Your body is your home and an incredible implement, not the enemy; understanding how to make it work optimally can re-channel a lot of the energy otherwise spent defying it.
Workout of the Day
Ax4; Front Squat x8; 31x1, rest 90 sec
B1. DB Bent Over Row x8; 31x1, rest 30 sec
B2. DB Bench Press x8; 31x1, rest 30 sec
Cx5 sets. Row 150m, rest 90-2min x4-5sets
A. Back Squat: 3 sets of 5 reps; 40x1 tempo, working up in weight, rest 2-3 min betw sets.
[2 sets of 5 at 81%, then 3rd set is AMRAP at 81%]
B. 18-12-6, reps for time
2kb front squat
Push ups [ring push ups for advanced]
Box Jump + Step Down (30/24)