“PAIN IS THE HUNTER…” – A Horatian Ode to Rowing

“Pain is the hunter,

And we are its prey.

Crusades along the water,

Eternal bouts, end of day.”

 

“Pain no longer instills  fear,

Encounters end with healing scars,

Respectful bows in our defeat.

On this day, the end is near,

The hunter cannot read the stars,

Death to Pain, in our final meet.”

Patrick H. Rufo – 2016

111155_12-LG-HD

 

Moral of the Story

 

For more information on Strength and Conditioning for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, AthleteDISC, and the Process Communication Model® follow my blog or like me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.

 

“YOU CAN’T ROW AND HOPE…”


You can’t row and hope.” A great man once said.

I use this quote often with my athletes. Every time I use it, I ask them where it came from. I still have not gotten an answer.

Do you know? (Special prize to the first that emails me)

This quote carries a lot of meaning in the sport of rowing. Simply put – you can’t go out on the water hoping that you will win if you have not done all you possibly can.

I believe this quote applies to strength and conditioning and rowing. Rowers and scullers that refuse to train for strength will be at the mercy of the athlete who does train for strength.

One of my favorite quotes from one of my Masters athletes was, “What good is lifting weights when there is six miles of open water to row on…” Fine words from a fine athlete. However, this athlete no longer competes at a high level.

Rowing is an “Aerobic” Sport

My experience as a rower and sculler has taught me that you just cannot go fast if you never train fast. Athletes must follow an organized training program that will build their aerobic capacity and aerobic power over time to peak at their particular event. However, how do rowers and their coaches project speed if they have never physically raced at that speed?

Many young athletes begin with raw strength and power. There is a definitely a genetic advantage to the former football player that decides to pick up an oar and race against you. Give that athlete time to put in some aerobic capacity training and you might be in trouble.

I was at a disadvantage. I gravitated towards rowing because I came from another aerobic sport – cross-country running. I was blessed with the lungs and patience to race the full 2k distance multiple times, however if you put me on the rowing ergometer against some of my bigger, stronger teammates, I would usually lose. If a training session called for 6K test or Hour of Power then I usually could come out on top…

…but the Olympic racing distance is 2000 meters.

In 2005, I lost to my younger brother on a 90 second erg piece. He is 6’6” and can probably still dunk a basketball. As we began the ergometer piece, he went out way too fast. I purposely would bide my time, so I could level him with my sprint. As the clock ticked down, I realized I was going to run out of race course. He defeated me in my prime…

Did he go to the Olympic Trials? No, but I would never have the power that he had.

Unless I trained for it.

There is no time to lift weights

There is not enough focus on strength and conditioning in the United States specifically for rowing athletes. I am not writing about “CrossFit”. There is definitely a place for CrossFit in the world of fitness. Athletes like Erin Cafaro were successful with CrossFit because they found brilliant coaches like Kelly Starrett and Brian MacKenzie to train them individually and correctly.

Every collegiate athlete that I have ever worked with said that their rowing coach did not have time for lifting weights or did not “believe” in it. The strength and conditioning coach at their college or university did not understand the sport of rowing.

Is this really true?

There is no time to program strength and conditioning for your athletes?

I learned everything backwards. I was a  competitive rower  at the end of my rowing career that became a strength and conditioning coach. As a CSCS*D through the National Strength and Conditioning Association I have the ability to train athletes in any sport. I understand how the body moves and how weight lifting affects it. I do not claim to know more about football, basketball, baseball than people who play them competitively.

I do understand rowing.

I know that successful rowers are strong. Athletes like the Sinkovic brothers and Olena Buryak train for months to build large aerobic capacities to travel fast over 2000 meters. Multiple times. Do they also do strength training? If they do, you better get cracking…

Diagrams show that a rowing race is mostly aerobic.

IMG_8752

“Energy Systems in a six-minute race”

That is true…provided that all the athletes in the race can produce the same speed and have similar aerobic capacities. An 2000 meter Olympic race is basically a  “drag race” to see which athlete can maintain their racing speed  and cadence and outlast the competition. That requires Aerobic Capacity and Aerobic Power.

However, when you watch a 2000 meter high school or collegiate race, it is more like watching a prize fight. Some boats start out fast,  and some boats cannot even get off the line with everyone else. Usually a winning boat requires one or two “moves” to knock out other boats. That requires Peak Power and Anaerobic Power.

To improve Peak Power and Anaerobic Power you have to do strength training.

Mobility, stability, flexibility, and strength  for rowers is just a “fad”

Volker Nolte published Rowing Faster in 2005. It is a must have for all rowing coaches.

Rowers must be able to do three things:

  1. Start fast
  2. Maintain
  3. Finish Faster

Ed McNeely, who wrote a fantastic blog on Peak Power contributed the chapter on strength. It’s on page 87, Chapter 8:

IMG_8748

It’s in the Second Edition (2011) as well! Chapter 12, page 163:

IMG_8750

The data he provides is simple:

There are three lifts that each racing class must be proficient at – Deadlift, Bench Pull, and Squat.  Basically  a “Hinge”, “Pull”, and “Squat” exercise.

And for each lift he provides the recommended standards at each level.

Coaches may argue that athletes that they have trained as rowers were successful without having reached those physical goals.

That is wonderful…those athletes are the exception.

Whether I was an elite rowing coach or Masters coach,  I  would want make sure that my athletes had all the tools for competing in their racing class.  Our athletes should be proficient in all of these lifts, and close to the recommended standards if they want to be successful in this sport.

It was true over 10 years ago, and it is still true today.

 Get Screened or Get injured

Before putting weights in your athletes’ hands, have they been examined by a fitness professional or physical therapist to make sure there are no underling physical issues?

In November, I wrote an article for Rowing Recruiting about the “Next Evolution” in rowing training. In the article, I interviewed some top, well respected, and qualified coaches that felt that coaches need to take a step back when it comes to  implementing their training programs.

It isn’t really an evolution. It is more bringing awareness to coaches that if their athletes are not being screened at a young age then a “specialized” training program may be sending down the road for poor performance and potential injury.

Building a solid foundation of mobility, stability, and flexibility for our athletes will allow a coach to successfully implement  a strength training program. Athletes will get stronger, and will less likely get injured.

Collegiate coaches need to decide if their goal is to win races or develop athletes that may have a future at the national, World Championship, or Olympic level.

If  athletes continue to focus just on Aerobic Capacity and Aerobic Power, then they will continue to manage rowing slower than their opponents for a long period of time.

Moral of the Story

The 2015 USRowing Convention was full of smart, capable coaches. Here are a few questions for them:

  1. Will all coaches ever get together and decide a single training standard for the United States and follow through?
  2. Why are our athletes – from high school up to Olympic hopefuls – spending so much time on the water and not any time in the weight room?
  3. Are all of them able to Squat, Bench Pull, and Deadlift well?
  4. Or will they wait until after selection to focus on this?

https://i1.wp.com/i.imgur.com/F06BDG1.gif

 

Until then, athletes will continue to be left figuring these things out on their own.

 

"Hope..."

“’You can’t row and hope.’ Row and hope. All we did was row and hope…”

For more information on Strength and Conditioning for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, AthleteDISC, and the Process Communication Model® follow my blog or like me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.

References

Nolte, Volker (2005). Rowing Faster (2nd Edition). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, Inc. Ed McNeely, “Building Strength”. pg. 89, Chapter 8.

Nolte, Volker (2011). Rowing Faster (2nd Edition). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, Inc. Ed McNeely, “Training for Strength”. pg. 165, Chapter 12.

Davenport, Michael (2000). USRowing’s Coaching Education: Candidate’s Manual, Level II. Church Hill, MD: SportWork. “Training, Conditioning, and Nutrition.” pg. 102. Chapter 7.

Rowing Recruiting, Next Evolution in Rowing Training, November 2015

 

“The 12 Things in Fitness That are so Insane to Me”

This is the most wonderful time of the year. In just a few days we will begin shifting our focus to “Peace on Earth” and “Auld Lang Syne”. We will be exchanging holiday gifts, connecting with loved ones, and taking time to appreciate what we have.

However, there is still time to poke a little holiday fun at things that we cannot stand…

Which leads me to my favorite holiday movie line of all time:

“Take it Russ”

Russ reminds us that are just some things that we hate and would rather do without. There are just some things in fitness in my opinion that should just go away; therefore I would like to add my own spin to one of the more beloved songs of the holidays.

12. “Twelve” Different Biceps Curls

 In anatomy and physiology, we learned about the joint actions of muscles or the primary movement. The Biceps Brachii or “Biceps” have one joint action they are primarily responsible for.

“FLEXION”

That’s it. That means the one exercise that make the Biceps independently bigger and stronger are Bicep Curls. I am okay with Bicep curls, yet everyone seems to love biceps curls. They love them so much that there is actually over 50+ “different” Bicep curling exercises.

For the purposes of body building, it is important to “work all the angles” to get the “maximum pump” for the muscle. For the general public, energy might be better spent teaching people how to incorporate the biceps into full body exercises that will help them get fit over all.

 “Talkin’ about the Cayotes…”

Yeah, we don’t need a million different ways to work the Biceps.

11. “Eleventh” Session Free

 tumblr_inline_nuqffjJo2c1tn8yin_500

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Box gyms want to sell you personal training sessions. In their incentive to get you to buy more sessions, they will tend to throw in 1 more free session.

A few years ago, I went to LA Fitness to do some research. The personal trainer there sat me down to find out my goals, as well as sell me some personal training sessions. As he went over the personal training packages, he said, “The more sessions you buy, the more free sessions you get.” He continued to describe the benefits, and I realized that he was selling me 30 minute sessions.

Therefore, even if I bought ten 30 minute sessions, it would only really be at total of 5 ½ hours of training.

I don’t know about you, but it takes many of my clients 15 to 20 minutes just to warm up (mobility, stability, flexibility).

“Just need one rep…”

 Maybe that’s all we need…

 10. $10 a month

A recent article on UPROXX regarding Planet Fitness has been circulating on Facebook. The article describes how gyms may target individuals that will pay the monthly fee, but never set foot in the gym. This comfort of knowing they have a good deal on a membership is enough for individuals to keep paying, but never-ever going.

For 2016, I suggest you look for the quality of training you could receive, rather than the quantity of money you may be saving.

“Crushed it…”

There is no price on your health.

9. “Nine” DVD’s

 "13 DVD's"

“13 DVD’s”

"11 DVD's"

“11 DVD’s”

"More Options?"

“More Options?”

“How many DVD’s does your set have?

 

 

 

We Love our fitness DVD’s. Every time a fitness infomercial is on, I find myself lulled into watching. For the most part, I want to see if there are any new concepts that these fitness entrepreneurs are bringing to the table.

As I wrote last week –  They aren’t

But they are great at marketing.

Seems like you can’t get fit unless you have the complete box set of DVD’s.

high-fidelity-viny_3075406b

“I guess it looks as if you’re reorganizing your records. What is this though? Chronological?”

“Autobiographical.”

“No f***ing way.”

Why can’t they just put all the content on one single DVD or Flash Drive? DVD’s are like records people. All my CD’s are down in my basement, and I occasionally take them out, dust them off, and put on All-for-One.

Otherwise, they stay in the basement.

8. “Eight” Accredited Certifications

“I am kind of a big deal.”

I can be accused of this as well. In my quest for training knowledge, I have found myself with quite a few letters after my name. Enough that I cannot fit them all on a business card.

However, my clients and fellow fitness professionals really don’t care how many certifications I have. The letters after your name only mean something if you apply what you have learned. I still need to list all the letters in my bio so potential clients can see my experience, but I don’t wear it like a sign on my chest any more.

There are also too many certifications out there. In the world of Kettlebells, there are two that stand out. The SFG (StrongFirst) and the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Certification).

 Now another Kettlebell certification is coming out through Strength Matters – the SMK, and it involves former trainers that used to be SFG and RKC.

“These are O.R. scrubs.”

Now I have to spend more money to get more letters after my name…wonderful!

7. “Seven” Minute Abs

The fitness industry has done very well in creating content that just involves the core. However, if you train the full body, you incorporate the core into every exercise.

The first thing we teach in Kettlebells training is how to utilize and engage the core. The core connects the lower and upper extremities, and is critical to moving well. Therefore, it really isn’t necessary to just do crunches and sit ups at the end of the workout, because you should have already taken care of that earlier in your session.

36ff2a8133da0d9c3b33e5d728af409d

Why train the core, when you can get this!

6. “Six” Workout Selfies

six selfies

Workout selfies. Hmm.

As a competitive athlete, I never thought of taking photos of myself working out. I never wanted my opponents to know what I was doing anyway.

“I can barely lift my right arm ’cause I did so many. I don’t know if you heard me counting. I did over a thousand.”

 People should feel good about themselves. Just make sure to get a workout in!

5. No bare feet (“Five Fingers”)

dwim8

I hate wearing shoes. Ever since I became a Kettlebell instructor, I cannot train with shoes. As a rower, I didn’t wear shoes either. Now shoes hurt my feet. I only wear them to make public appearances, and because my wife makes me.

I really do like the Vibram Five Fingers. I can buy into minimalist footwear. The thing is that they cost over $60, and I refuse to pay that much for shoes. If you train a lot, then you wear your shoes out in 3-6 months. I cannot justify spending this much, just so I can workout for an hour a day.

However, gyms will never go there because of liability.

 

Whether I am wearing shoes or not, if I drop that amount of weight, I am going break something…

4. “Four”Quad Stretches

stretches

“Hold on, I need to stretch…”

If you have a limited range of motion, then you should relax and stretch the muscle. Stretching before training should only be necessary if you cannot get your body in the proper position to train.

Wherever I go, when people are “warming up”, I will see them do the “Standing Quad Stretch”. It is the symbol for all us middle-age athletes trying to “get back in shape”.

Check out the Knee Pain Explained website.

Most of us learned to do it wrong, and we are probably causing more bad than good.

3. “Three” Sets of 10

 MASSIVE

I can honestly say that the first time I have met with an athlete and client that has experience with strength training they always say the same thing:

Me: “How many reps and sets have you been doing?”
 Client/Athlete: “Well, I have been doing 3 sets of 10…”

 

Every client. Every athlete.

I believe it is time to retire 3 sets of 10. Whomever patented that program should be collecting royalties. “3 sets of 10” is on par with common fitness phrases like, ” “Feel the burn,” “No Pain, no Gain”, or “Burns up Carbs”…

2. “Two” Calf Machines

Calf machine 813GVCKG+IL._SL1500_

 

 

 

 

 

Why are there only two calf machines at any gym? Actually, why are there Calf Machines period? For some people the calf muscles are an attractive feature, however, there does not need to be a giant Hammer Strength Calf Machine taking up space in the gym, just so you can do this:

raise_0

“One, Two, Three…”

Here is a great way to work your calf muscles, and you do it every day…

Yes, walking up, and running and down stairs works the calf muscles just the same. And you are using your body weight…

1. One “Shake Weight”

When I was still competitively rowing and going to school for personal training, my wife mentioned that QVC was looking for fitness models to advertise a new product called the “Shake Weight”.

I looked at her and simply said,

“No….”

When she looked up the product. She looked at me and said,

“Oh…”

Moral of the Story

 Don’t be a fitness model for QVC and model the Shake Weight.

REAL MORAL OF THE STORY

Happy Holidays to everyone!

(Sing to the tune of “12 Days of Christmas”)

The 12 Things in Fitness

“That are so Insane to me…”

Twelve Different Biceps Curls

Eleventh Session Free

$10 a Month

Nine DVD’s

Eight Accredited Certifications

7-Minute Abs

Six Workout Selfies

No Bare Feet!

Four Quad Stretches

3 sets of 10

Two Calf Machines

And one Single “Shake Weeeighttt”

 mens-shake-weight

For more information on training programs for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, DISC, and Process Communication like me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.

Also check out the DISC2K – Philadelphia Seminar on January 9th, 2016!

Online consulting and Skype sessions also available.