Early start today with the first session at 0600 at the home gym. Following a decent warm up, it was time for 5 x 1250m (4 rest) – targets were stroke rate 28-30 and pace 1.35-137. I have finally decided that this is close to the worst session there is. Always find it hard and today was no different. Maybe a mindset thing. Last time out I did only 4 reps with 5 mins rest, so that meant today was definitely going to be hard!! That feeling when you complete the first interval, are blowing out of your a*$e and wonder how you are going to manage 4 more lol. Maybe you just don’t want to do them, because you somehow get yourself home. I hit target, but on each rep the doubts crept in around 850m down to 600m. My aim was to stay on the lower end of the SR and the faster end of the pace. Managed this for the first two, but then found myself at 28-29 and towards the end 30 crept in a bit. Never convinced the PM gives a fair reflection of your stroke rate, not actually sure how it works it out! Let’s see how this effects my lunchtime session…..
5 x 1250m (rest 4m) @28-30 SR
So next up today, a few hours later at work, was 3 x 2500m (5 rest) – targets were 28 SR and 1.38 pace. The previous 2500m sessions at lower SR I have found ok, but was aware I had the earlier session in the body. Did a shortish warm up then headed out bang on the targets and soon got my answer whether the previous session would make this one harder…..er yes!
From the first 500m I knew it was going to be tough. Equally I knew I would do it and, but for a slight error of judgement at the end of the last interval, I achieved what I was tasked with. The HR does however suggest that there was not much more in the tank (max is ~180). A tough few sessions today in a short space of time. Good to come through them on target.
So my last blog was not that positive, which was pointed out to me by a client today! My reply to her was that it was honest and not all weeks can be amazing (hangovers don’t help lol). This week however has been an altogether different experience.
All my life, outside of rugby specific training, I have been the master of my own destiny when it comes to programme writing. It has always done me well and I have got great results from them. More recently I have begun to realise that some of my Concept 2 rowing times have been a bit more than reasonable, so I decided to investigate how and if I could get to the next level. I had my own ideas on this and they will always remain, but I chose to look further afield this time.
Following some research, I decided to leave my comfort zone and take some guidance. I headed up country for a morning of testing and for the foreseeable future have decided to team up with Eddie Fletcher, a proven indoor rowing coach. I knew doing this would mean a lot of my rowing sessions would follow a different style and this would take some time to get used to. Patience is not my number one strength so we are both in for an experience! But what is the worst that could happen….so I have given it a go.
I still take care of all my nutrition and strength and conditioning, but have passed the responsibility of my rowing sessions to Eddie. This is week one of my new chapter and has gone fine. The sessions have not reached my usual intensity as yet, but I am sure there is time for that. There has been more focus on stroke rate and heart rate which will take some time to adapt to, but I am happy to be asking more questions of myself and to be stretching that comfort zone! Now I just have to find some patience…….
So this week was kind of a transition week for me as I enter a new training phase next week. My training is always planned well in advance, both rowing and strength and conditioning. I look forward to these weeks as it is a chance to take the pressure off and do a few different sessions. They generally disappoint me though. I have trained hard, but not felt particularly energetic or as motivated as I normally am. I advise rest (or relative rest) to my clients as it is so important in the overall balance of a programme, yet when I have these type weeks I always feel mentally and physically worse! The edge is taken off and I don’t enjoy that.
Most weeks are very positive, but I found myself drifting a bit counting down the days until monday. It has showed me once again that without a focus, short or long term, training is not nearly as productive or enjoyable. I am looking forward to next week and pushing hard again, moaning to myself that the sessions are tough lol. Took a screen shot from today’s steady paddle to prove I don’t only show the good ones. Funny how days and weeks are so different as I didn’t enjoy one stroke this morning. Would have happily stopped at any time, but realise there is huge value and lessons from digging in when all you want to do is handle down. Maybe the effects of yesterday’s wedding were playing their part….!!
The end of the ranking system on the Concept 2 website is upon us and I thought I would take a look back at my experiences, progression and achievements from this year. It has been a good first year and I am glad to have found the indoor rowing community, something I didn’t know existed, let alone as big as it is. Rowers are a friendly bunch and, although competitive, are always full of support and keen to help whenever they can.
I have always used the rower as part of my overall training as it has so many benefits we are all aware of. As a Pro rugby player it was frequently used as a conditioning tool, or a punishment (2000m) if you were late, wore incorrect kit or did anything wrong in fact!! A far more effective deterrant than a monetary fine it seems. Although rugby players are fit, the vast majority would do all they could to get out of any extra training!!
In the last 6-12 months rowing has become a far bigger focus for me. As I say I always trained hard on it, but I have certainly become more fit for purpose now. I have also kept up all the other aspects of my training: conditioning, weight training, running and cycling etc. There has definitely been a swing towards rowing, which has come at a slight cost to my overall strength, but certainly not my body composition, weight or physique.
It all started to get a little more serious as I decided to enter the British Indoor Rowing Championships (BIRC) in Cardiff last December. It was always something I had thought about, but a commitment that rugby had never allowed me to do. I trained specifically for it for a few months, won my age category and set a PB. The favourite had raced earlier in the day in the open to make the win feel little empty, but still a win is a win and it proved the springboard for me and the focus I needed to fill the competative void rugby had left in my life.
Throughout December I decided to try to set new personal bests for all my distances (including the 500m on Christmas Day!) This I did successfully in a 21 day period. The following month brought about the of birth of a yearly charity event I set up called ‘Janurow’ (www.janurow.org). My part in this was rowing well in excess of 1,000,000 metres (at a fair pace) towards the collective target throughout the month, raising over £8000 along the way. I am hoping Janurow grows year on year and we continue to help those who are less fortunate.
My interest in rowing had gathered momentum considerably following Janurow and I decided to enter the EIRC with the aim of going under 6m 10s for the 2000m. The turn around from the volume training the month before to speed and power had to be sharp! Silver was my reward (a fully fresh field this time), but I did row a decent race, gaining more event experience and hitting another PB.
All was good at this stage, until a failed bid to break the world record in aid Sport Relief in the tandem 1,000,000m. At the time of pulling out we were 4 hours ahead of target, and as disappointed as I was, I was not in the right place to take on such a feat. I think I knew that too. You learn far more in adversity than you ever do in success and it has turned out to be a pretty defining moment in my life, just not the way we had planned it. Perhaps that will be an event for another day!
I received huge support following that disappointment, so it was time to pick up the pieces and get back on track. I had 6 weeks to improve some of my other times before the rankings reset. I have worked hard to do exactly that and the biggest lesson I have learned is that if you have the balls to give it a go, far more often than not you will come out the other side surprised. And if you don’t succeed….. then you have something to work on. In exercise, and perhaps life as well, the finer the margins we are chasing, the greater the effort required. This in turn generally comes with greater reward.
As one season ends and another begins I looking forward to taking on new ideas and influences and pushing myself further from my mental and physical comfort zone. Just aiming to be the best I can be, time will tell what that is…
Today was my 4th marathon and my times have got quicker with each attempt. A lot of my best times recently have come early in the morning, but today I opted for a later start (10.30 am) to allow myself more time for nutrition and hydration. The truth is today I felt very strong for 37km, but my lack of endurance training became apparent in the last 5km. That really hurt and my final split is evidence of that. Really wanted to stop with 3500m to go, but resisted. The last few km were a little ragged to say the least and recovery took a while.
My recent training has all been for the middle distances and have not rowed more than a half marathon in the last few months. I was dubious whether to have a crack at this as it is a real test of body and mind, especially in the final stages as today proved again. There is only a few days left of the rankings, so went ahead with it and a PB is happy days. Nice also to dip under the magic 2hrs 30mins.
I had fantastic support from Lee today, taking fluids and sugars on regularly which is always tricky. Congratulations also to him for his 60 min TT PB and for hitting over 16,000m. He did some digging in himself for that one. Thanks to my wife, Kirsten, for her support and for bringing the kids in to see me. Always gives me a lift.
Today’s rowing session was a restricted rate one that I would usually do on a Wednesday. Logistically it fitted in better for me today, just managing to squeeze it in between clients. The workout itself was courtesy of Paul Buchanan, a fellow rower, as I had seen he had done it a few weeks back and he had said it was tough – in fact his words were ‘brutal’! That wasn’t far from the truth by the end!
Following a short warm up, I set about doing 12 x 2m30 – 30secs rest @ 20 stroke rate (exactly 50 strokes for each set). My aim today was to have a faster overall split than when I did 5m/2m rest @20 SR previously (1.42.6) and to have negative splits. It was a session of two halves for me as the first 6 I just ticked off in my mind, but then did up it for the last 6 and was definitely feeling it. The rest wasn’t really enough to do anything other than grab a drink and be grateful you had at least some kind of break!
I came in one schedule (1.41.5), with negative splits and bang on the stroke count every time. I used the Erg Data app today as it is great for any restricted rate workout because amongst other functions it displays stroke count. To improve this any further would be a case of going out harder to start as there was not too much more there at the end. Cheers Paul…
Today was scheduled to be 8 x 1000m- 3 mins rest, a repeat of a session 2 weeks ago. Same time of day, but different location and rowing machine as I was training at Fitness First with a client. My target was to improve my times from when I rowed alone, and again wanted to hit negative splits. So as to row at roughly the time as my partner for the day, I actually decided to add an extra 130m to each interval and aimed to hit the same splits as before. If I could hit the same splits then this would be a satisfactory improvement, but I knew it would be tough as the last session I found hard.
Well just a few sets in I knew I was going to be on my limit as the 3 minute rest just didn’t seem enough for this distance. That feeling when you pick the handle up and you really want another minute, or 5 lol, to compose yourself. I just kept saying ‘get passed half way’ and sure enough the intervals went by. The last one wasn’t pretty but I delivered a marginally better split today for a greater distance. Onwards and upwards…
A large amount of my training at the moment is geared towards improving my rowing times. This doesn’t mean that is all the training I do however. In fact I believe you would be missing a trick if you do don’t involve an element of ‘cross training’. With this in mind I include plenty of weights for strength and conditioning in my overall training programmes, as well another cardio based exercises such as running and cycling. This not only adds variety to sessions, keeping things fresh, but also compliments my rowing training. This leaves me not just fit for purpose, but also my body far stronger, fitter and healthier as a whole.
So today’s session was a circuit based all body conditioning session. There was rowing within it which can increase the intensity significantly if you go hard in those pieces. Combining rowing and weights in this format makes for a very tough session! In fact there were several times when I was rowing, and blowing hard, where I was questioning how I have kept those splits for some of my recent long row pieces! Came through it and my back, although by no means sorted, held up with a little caution in places. No erg screen shot today but rest assured it played its part! Onto tomorrow where it is back to a full rowing session.
Tomorrow, Sam and Shane of Fitness Matters will be attempting to break a rowing world record challenge; 1,000,000 metres in less than 3 and half days! It’s all in aid of Sport Relief, a fantastic nationwide fundraising event that helps those in poverty in the UK and across the world.
Sam and Shane’s attempt follows a spate of rowing challenges organised by the pair already this year and will build on their success so far. In January, Sam and Shane kicked off with “Janurow” – a new annual event that raised money to help children in the UK and in the Philippines. Last month, Sam entered the English Indoor Rowing Championships in Manchester and beat his personal target of 2000 metres in 6 minutes which earned him a Silver medal.
“I have always kept myself fit, strong and healthy, and rowing has been a part of my overall training programme,” says Sam, “this year it has had a bigger presence than before as my goals have become more specific to rowing. The other aspects of my fitness have definitely not suffered! Rowing is a great physique builder.”
As a personal trainer and founder of Fitness Matters, Sam describes better than anyone some of the brilliant fitness benefits you can get from rowing. One of the great plus points is that rowing gives you a full body work out without any impact on your joints, which means you can go for longer without too much fear of damaging your body. Workouts can be so varied depending on your individual goals and it is suitable for all shapes, sizes, ages and fitness levels.
From the outside, it looks like Sam and Shane are becoming rowing fanatics! “I like the fact that it is you against the machine and there are no excuses. I have always been into indoor rowing as it was a great training tool throughout my rugby career and have now found it a great personal focus for me.”
So tomorrow at 7 am, Sam and Shane will be starting their next rowing adventure – based at Sainsbury’s Pinhoe. If you want to learn more about this fantastic form of exercise, and support the guys and the Sport Relief charity – why not come down and visit? The big question is are THEY ready? “Can you ever be ready for that?” says Sam. “It is not really something you can do very specific training for but I feel I am in a good place to give it a shot. I am certainly looking forward to it. We will be giving everything to beat the previous record and I believe the mind is going to be the most important thing.”
At Fitness Matter’s private gym in Exeter, we have a range of workout options, including the “Concept 2” rowing machine so if you really want to improve your fitness and health, why not think about getting in touch?
After the “one million metres” Janurow challenge, we thought we’d have a bit of a debrief. Sam gave us an honest interview about his hectic start to the year…
How did you find Janurow? Did you enjoy it?
That’s a funny question to answer… I enjoyed finishing and knowing I had helped others. It was satisfying personally but more so to see so many others achieve so many metres and enjoy rowing. It was a good focus but who would choose to row over a million metres for fun….. Oh yeah – I did!
How hard was it?
‘Hard’ is all relative. People have far harder lives than I do. But for 31 days (excluding the pre event organisation) there was definitely a different pressure and focus in my life. Everything else remained, but there was always this nagging in my head to be rowing as it had to be done.
I also chose to make it hard on myself by demanding a fast pace every session. It was relentless. And at times throughout it was mentally, physically, emotionally and logistically hard.
But when something is over it never seems so bad as you move on. You even miss it. Would I choose to do it next month though… Hmmm!
What was your top tip to stay motivated throughout the challenge?
The things we take for granted in our lives would be the answers to these children’s prayers. I was motivated throughout as it had to be done – so I just got on and did it 2 or 3 times per day.
Definitely some days were harder than others, but the children we were doing this for have suffering each and every day of their lives. Forever. Our pain was short-lived.
What are your hopes for the Janurow charity event next year?
I want it to grow year on year. I had so much support, help and understanding this time around and those that entered achieved well beyond what they thought they could. I want it to be recognised everywhere so more can be raised for our fantastic charities. Everything will be bigger, better and smoother next time around as we have so much more time to prepare and will learn all the lessons from this year’s event.
If you want to get involved with Janurow, either by donating or helping us to plan for next year, please visit www.janurow.org.