By Shawn Peterson
Stepping outside of the norm is what allows for adaptation from the normal result. Cross-training is a vital component of success for anyone who has a goal to improve their ability to run farther and faster. In order for it to be effective, cross-training has to be a strenuous enough workout to increase heart-rate, increasing aerobic capacity. Their also has to be a strengthening of the muscles involved in running, and an added bonus would be if impact to the knees and legs was minimal.
The rowing machine is a perfect fit to achieve success given these criteria. Whether you are experienced at rowing, or a novice, you’re in for a great workout. Rowing requires total body activation with legs being used to push off from the pedals, the core and butt are used to stabilize, arms and back are used to pull. With a rower you can get your heart rate up, and attempt to maintain consistent strokes with a high heart rate, and a steadier, slow pace can be used to help improve breathing during strenuous activity.
Perhaps the most advantageous benefit goes beyond the great cardio improvement or the strengthening of the arms and legs. The lack of heavy impact on the knees, ankles and feet will allow for regular, vigorous workout to be had while allowing the joints time to recover and strengthen, rather than continuing to hammer them into the ground. Doing the same thing over and over is a sure way to get injured, mix it up with a low impact exercise on the rowing machine.
Rowing is less natural than running, and requires more skill and technique to do properly. Spending time training your muscles to work in unison, and in a coordinated way, while under duress will allow you to improve your ability to maintain good form for any exercise when you become tired. Fatigue is what causes most runners to break down fast on long runs, because as we get tired, our poor form causes the body to use muscles that aren’t trained for that strenuous activity, and it becomes a domino effect of pain moving from one part of the body to the next. All of this results in a slow, uncomfortable run and certainly not an enjoyable experience.
How to properly utilize your rowing machine for run cross-training:
1. Spend time doing interval sprints on your rowing machine. Most rowers have monitors that will allow you to row short intervals of 250 meters. Do 5 x 250 meter rows with 30-60 seconds of rest between each row. This can be done at high intensity to work on increasing cardio, or at a more slow and steady pace to stay within the aerobic threshold that won’t cause your muscles to fatigue so quickly.
2. Increase your run distance, by increasing your rowing distance. Maintain 20-25 strokes per minute, which will allow for a brief rest between each stroke, for 2k-10k. Work to increase your distance while maintain consistent strokes per minute. Consistently increasing your rowing distance and pushing your limits on the rower will improve your run times and distance greatly.
3. Go even slower and short for recovery. Taking more of a comfortable stroll on the rower is a great way to get the blood flowing, and engage all muscle groups. Row at 15-20 strokes per minute for 5 minutes for warm-up, cool down, or the day after a long run.
Rowing offers a variety of benefits and is one of the best cardiovascular exercises that you can do, especially in the comfort of your own home. Rowing improves your strength and cardio at the same time, and will astonish you with the improvement it brings to your running results.