Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

General discussion on Training. How to get better on your erg, how to use your erg to get better at another sport, or anything else about improving your abilities.
JeffreyL
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Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by JeffreyL » February 8th, 2019, 5:28 pm

A little background: I am 60 years old, 6' 3" and 215 lbs (190 cm 98 kg). In my 20s and 30s I was a decent runner for a big guy. In my 40s I switched to cycling and was quite good. In my early 50s I went back to running but then switched to the erg for a while after a foot injury. I don't remember my times, but after a few months I think they were pretty good. I also got to the point where I rowed a marathon (that was exhausting!). In my mid 50s I started cycling again, but only sporadically, averaging just 50-70 miles per week. Lately I have started getting more serious about cycling (150 mi/week) and want to keep it as my main sport. However, I also need to work on my extremely weak core and upper body for overall health reasons. Because of that I have started doing the erg again.

So, my question are thus: what is the minimum about of training on the erg to get both the health benefits and improve enough to satisfy my competitive side? Will rowing more make it too hard to keep up the cycling miles? I have rowed the last 2 nights and could really feel it in my legs from a hard training load lately on the bike (of course the arms really felt it since I do nothing to keep them in shape). The first night I did 5 minutes (a 1 min warmup and then a 1k. LOL) just to see what I could do. I think I did around a 4:20 maybe. Last night I warmed up for 2 minutes and then did a 2k. I got an 8:17 and thought I was going to puke.

I guess part of me is trying to figure out if I should do rowing as a very minor 2nd sport for overall fitness and health, or if I could get very competitive at it if I should devote more time to it and try to make them almost equals. Does anyone have any thoughts? or have you tried this balancing act?

Cyclist2
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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by Cyclist2 » February 8th, 2019, 7:35 pm

As you can tell from my signature, I do both. I got competitive in rowing in my 30s, then moved to here, where rowing wasn't as accessible, so got into cycling pretty heavily. I got to where I could stay at the front of the pack, but a serious crash up there made me rethink racing. I'd still do group rides, but scaled back the intense training needed to stay competitive.

During all that, I still used the erg - it never really collected dust and only in the spring and summers when cycling took over. As far as balancing, I'd concentrate on cycling during the season, then the erg during the winters. Each helped the other sport. I didn't really have any plan, but when it came to indoor training, the erg was preferable to a stationary bike or even rollers.

Now that I'm retired, I bought a boat and have moved back more into rowing than cycling, so the "balancing act" has sort of shifted to make sure I get enough cycling in to stay in shape for that. I'm not stressing out over it though, because the two activities are complimentary and while I can't cycle quite as fast or as far, it is still enjoyable and I'm not toasted by a 40 mile ride.

My conclusion; Do both. When you have a bike race or century planned, focus on that. When the weather is crappy, get on the erg. Enjoy both, you aren't going to suffer in cycling because you've done more erging than cycling this week.
Mark Underwood. Rower first, cyclist too.

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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by jamesg » February 9th, 2019, 2:49 am

However, I also need to work on my extremely weak core and upper body for overall health reasons. Because of that I have started doing the erg again.
The erg being 70-80% legs provides a nice balance. I find it very effective for flexibility, given the ample range of motion it imposes in knees and hips.
what is the minimum amount of training on the erg to get both the health benefits and improve enough to satisfy my competitive side
Start by learning to row: low rating, good strokes, fast, easy. For health, an average 5 x 5k a week will do, then build up as you get fitter. There are plans for racing, typically lasting six months, but it's best to have a couple of years endurance under your belt first. You already know 2k was chosen to oblige us to go slower than fast, but faster than slow, being a long way.
if I should row.. 2nd sport for overall fitness and health, or get competitive at it .. devote more time
You don't have to decide that now. You'll have speed anyway, if you learn how to get the work into the handle. That and endurance alone are enough to do well in races.
78y, 188cm, 87kg, last seen MHR 163. 2k (24 May 19) 8.46.6@22

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hjs
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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by hjs » February 9th, 2019, 5:04 am

Pick it up a bit and see, atm you must be fit, but also super weak, for a guy you seize and being that active, that 2k time does not fit. Likely reason, upperbody weakness. Cyclist are nototious weak upperbody wise, that should inprove rapidly. So number 1 should be to get your upperbody trained to do work, after years of doing nothing.

Cycling and rowing work well together.
For my training see twitter @Hjsrowing

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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by Cyclingman1 » February 9th, 2019, 12:14 pm

JeffreyL wrote:
February 8th, 2019, 5:28 pm
I am 60 years old, 6' 3" and 215 lbs (190 cm 98 kg). In my 20s and 30s I was a decent runner for a big guy.
I think that my age, background, etc may be relevant here. I took up erging just before turning 66 in Jan, 2012. I too was a runner and cyclist at 6'4", 195lb, although I had already quit running due to hip issues. In my 40s, was highly competitive duathlete [run,bike,run].

I was able to both erg and cycle at a decent level. Erging does require upper body fitness, but at 215lb, it is hard to see you as having a weak upper body. Cycling, especially if done vigorously, gives one a huge head start on erging. I did 6:57.1 for 2K only a few weeks after starting to erg. I did mostly shorter, faster stuff on the erg to begin with. No doubt my 2K time was 90% based on my cycling fitness. Also, I was not weak in upper body.

If one continues to cycle, it is not necessary to slog out mega meters on the erg. You'll get the aerobic fitness from cycling. To do well for 2K, maybe 15K a week or less is needed with nothing more than 5K. 500 and 1K intervals should be done. The number of miles and meters done on the bicycle or erg will vary on the time of the year. In the winter, erg meters go up. Trying to excel at both simultaneously is a little tricky. One will have to back off a bit on each. I learned that when doing multi-sport events. If one gets better, then the training is on track. If not, things must be adjusted.
JimG, Gainesville, Ga, 73,189lb,76”.

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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by kini62 » February 9th, 2019, 2:58 pm

IMO if you want to strengthen the upper body and still put in quite a bit of miles on the bike you would be better off with a Skierg. It's about the complete opposite of the rower in terms of percentage of lower to upper body work.

When I was biking a fair amount I found that my legs were always a little too tired to really do much with the erg. I have both the erg and skierg and I find they perfectly complement each other and together provide a complete total body workout.
56m, 5'6" 160lbs, rowing and skiing (pseudo) on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by hjs » February 9th, 2019, 5:11 pm

kini62 wrote:
February 9th, 2019, 2:58 pm
IMO if you want to strengthen the upper body and still put in quite a bit of miles on the bike you would be better off with a Skierg. It's about the complete opposite of the rower in terms of percentage of lower to upper body work.

When I was biking a fair amount I found that my legs were always a little too tired to really do much with the erg. I have both the erg and skierg and I find they perfectly complement each other and together provide a complete total body workout.
True, minus for the ski is no or hardly any races or anything. But if thats not important and for people with not a great back, the skierg could work well.
For my training see twitter @Hjsrowing

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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by JeffreyL » February 9th, 2019, 7:23 pm

Cyclist2- I too gave up the intense cycling bc of a bad crash (broken neck!). You said skipping riding for a while and rowing would not hurt the cycling. Is rowing a bigger help to cycling than cycling is to rowing, because obviously it hasn't helped me much :(

JamesG- low rating? is that a low stroke count? I think my 2k was 28 (maybe????). I know I had the setting at 4 out of 10 because higher settings felt too hard. And what is "work into the handle"? Finally, how do I figure out if I have good form?

hjs- I am the poster child for weak, especially my core! I am embarrassed to say that bending over get me out of breath. I also have a big gut which is really hindering my breathing. I weighed anywhere from 174 to 186 when I raced competitively. Now I am 216 down from 226. That 30-40+ pound gain is killing me.

Cyclingman1- see my above comment about being weak.

Kini62- I have wanted to try cross country skiing but buying an erg for something I don't even know if I would like is probably not going to happen, especially when I already bought the C2.

I am going to go home on my dinner break tonight and see about doing some of your suggestions.

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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by Cyclist2 » February 9th, 2019, 8:16 pm

JeffreyL wrote:
February 9th, 2019, 7:23 pm
Cyclist2- I too gave up the intense cycling bc of a bad crash (broken neck!). You said skipping riding for a while and rowing would not hurt the cycling. Is rowing a bigger help to cycling than cycling is to rowing, because obviously it hasn't helped me much :(
I think the rowing helps cycling more than vice versa just because of the total body workout, whereas on the bike it's more legs than anything. The cycling is real good for aerobic capacity, however, making longer rows at a moderate pace easier. (My crash, the last of several, was also a cracked vertebrae in my neck).
Mark Underwood. Rower first, cyclist too.

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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by G-dub » February 9th, 2019, 9:21 pm

I would reccomend lifting weights to build upper body strength. The standing shoulder press is an amazing and simple exercise
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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by Cyclingman1 » February 9th, 2019, 9:24 pm

Cyclist2 wrote:
February 9th, 2019, 8:16 pm
I think the rowing helps cycling more than vice versa just because of the total body workout
I'm going to have to disagree. Yes, rowing has got the entire strength, fitness thing going, but in terms of coming to the aerobic fitness of cycling, I don't think so. Try pushing up an eight mile, 6% grade on a bike.

The original question of doing two sports seems a little irrelevant given the fitness level of the OP. I say get in shape first, then worry about fine tuning what you do.
JimG, Gainesville, Ga, 73,189lb,76”.

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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by JeffreyL » February 9th, 2019, 9:42 pm

I thought I posted this earlier but I don't see it so apologies if it is a repeat.

I planned on doing a total of 5k tonight with a higher drag, lower stroke rate, and concentrating on my form. I sat down and thought I started slowly to warm up. 1000 m in I realized I was only on pace for 10-15 seconds slower than my first session. I picked it up a bit and finished in 8:14 which was very hard but not as bad as the other day. I'm guessing that no warm-up is not optimal for a best time :) I rested a min or so and did another 3k at just a bit slower pace.


My next question is whether sore biceps and shoulders means I have bad form. I know that they are weak and would have expected them to be sore, but what surprises me is that my core is not at all sore and I know that it is world-class in terms of my weakness.

Do you guys lift weights in addition to rowing?

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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by G-dub » February 9th, 2019, 9:45 pm

I remain confused why we think that an aerobic exercise (even one that uses lots of the body) is a substitute for strength training (weight training) when it comes to building strength. If you want to build strength, pick up heavy things. If you want to build cardio, ride bikes and row. We can do both and be very healthy
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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by jamesg » February 10th, 2019, 3:06 am

Finally, how do I figure out if I have good form?
If you lift your hands over your knees coming forward in the recovery, your catch posture will not allow a good stroke. Other signs are: sore biceps and shoulders which clearly means you're working hard, but with the wrong muscle; knee angle almost zero and slide close to heels at the catch.

Rowing is a leg sport, despite first impressions. Only the legs (waist to knee) have enough muscle and length of action to do such a big job easily. That they can do a lot of work and so overload our CV system and get us fit, is soon checked. Just climb four flights of stairs, even very slowly.

Rowing technique that lets us use our legs can be seen on the C2 site, technical video. The recovery sequence to get to a strong catch posture is: hands away, then swing, then slide. It can be learnt by doing the backstop drill (hands and swing only) and then slowly increasing slide travel.

The PM shows both rating (spm) and power (Watts). The ratio of these two numbers is the work in each single stroke. If you use the recovery and pull sequences as shown by C2, you will be able to develop your stroke with a ratio of at least 8 for low rate training and 10 for racing.
78y, 188cm, 87kg, last seen MHR 163. 2k (24 May 19) 8.46.6@22

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Re: Training strategies for rowing as a 2nd sport

Post by Allan Olesen » February 10th, 2019, 3:28 pm

JeffreyL wrote:
February 9th, 2019, 7:23 pm
And what is "work into the handle"?
I don't think anyone answered this one, so I will give it a go.

The short version:
  • When you pull with your hands, you produce "good" energy, which is translated into watts/meters/pace by the monitor.
  • When you pull with your feet, you produce "bad" energy, which is just wasted.
  • If you train rowing without your feet strapped in, you can learn to minimize the energy waste.
The long version:
When you row, you are spending energy. Some of this energy will be used for moving the handle while applying force to the handle (energy = force * distance). This part of the total energy is what the monitor is measuring and translating into watts/meters/pace in the display. So this is "good" energy.

But you can also spend energy which never reaches the handle. This is just wasted energy. Imagine that you put the handle down, strap your feet in and start moving your body fiercely back and forth by pushing and pulling with your feet. You will be spending a lot of energy, your heart rate will rise, but the monitor will show that you are producing 0 watt, and the meters will not count up. So this is "bad"energy".

The trick is to push with your feet and pull with your hands. This takes practice, because it is tempting to stop the backward motion at the end of the stroke by pulling with your feet. But if you get the correct sequence of leg push, hip movement and arm pull, you can actually stop the backward body motion only by pulling with your hands, at least at slow and medium pace.

(To use myself as an example, I have to strap in for paces faster than approx. 1:50-1:55. For any slower paces I row strapless.)

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