Indoor Sport Services Training Guide
Our Indoor Rowing Training Guide is the ultimate training resource for the Indoor Rower. Written by top education and coaching specialists, it includes information on technique and training, with programmes on cross-training, 2,000m and marathon race training, weight management and keep fit. There are guest chapters written by top names such as Jurgen Grobler and Chris Shambrook as well as dedicated sections on psychology, nutrition and weight training.
Cross-Training - Indoor Rowing For Runners<< Indoor Rowing For Games PlayersIntroduction >>
by Andy Darling
Indoor rowing functions as a middle-ground meeting place for all sports. Heavyweight boxer Danny Williams is a keen enthusiast while World Championship silver medallist decathlete Dean Macey did 6:29.2 at the 1998 British Indoor Rowing Championship. At the 2001 British IRC, I spotted triathletes Sarah Springman and Sarah Coope, swimmer Adrian Moorhouse, and former rugby union stars Andy Ripley and Roger Uttley. In the men's 35-39 Lightweight event, meanwhile, 2:12 marathoner Andrew Green from Warrington completed the 2,000m in 6:47.5. Runners tend to be good at indoor rowing, and the activities complement each other astonishingly well.
George Meredith is something of a legend in the world of Indoor Rowing. At age 55 he has been winning his age category and setting records at the nationals, and medalling at the world championships since taking to the machine eight years ago. He also represents Scotland at cross-country running, has a 66:48 best for the half marathon, and a 2:26 for the full distance, set in the early 80s. His introduction to indoor rowing was via the typical runner's route: he was injured and in need of rehab.
`I was having trouble with my right knee and one of my toes' he says, `and I was advised to incorporate indoor rowing into my training, so there would be less impact. It's definitely given me a second lease of life; my upper body's much stronger, and I wish I'd had it as part of my training earlier in my running career. I have no doubt that it helps when it comes to sprinting towards the end of a race.'
George's indoor rowing sessions are not dissimilar to his running workouts. The 2,000m distance, when raced, boils down to about 80% aerobic work, and 20% anaerobic. That ratio results in a fairly hellish degree of oxygen debt, hence James Cracknell's collapse after a time trial on the BBC's Gold Fever documentary series. To increase his ability to function when lactic acid is telling him otherwise, Meredith favours indoor rowing sessions such as three times 2,000 metres at close to race pace, with six minute rests between each. As with running training, these are done off the back of plenty of long, steady sessions that build up a sound aerobic base. Andy Millbank of Herne Hill Harriers does similar indoor rowing training, based around the knowledge he's gained from a quarter of a century of running. He has done a 3:53 on the track for 1,500 metres, a distance that requires a similar aerobic:anaerobic ratio to the 2,000m row, and like George Meredith and Andy Ripley, whose knees were shot after years of impact on the running track and rugby field, it was an injury that initially brought him to the rower.
`I ripped my hamstring years ago, so I've always tried to cross-train. A guy in my gym said he was doing the British IRC last year, so I had a go, applying the rep system from running. It's similar to running in that everything needs to be timed, all the splits.'
Anyone familiar with the Concept 2 Indoor Rower knows about the 500 metre split time on the performance monitor. Every stroke you take, it tells you how fast you're going, whether you're sticking to your intended times or flagging. People become obsessed: comparing their PB splits for single strokes on the Concept 2 message board, the equivalent of weight training's one rep max. At the other end of the scale, there are the Million Metre men, bashing out 1,000 kilometres in under seven days, and later complaining about no longer having any buttocks. Somewhere in the middle, there's the marathon. 42,195m on the erg requires far less in the way of pure strength, and runners manage to translate their huge aerobic fitness into some excellent times: when he was 50, George Meredith completed the distance in a UK age record of 2:46, which breaks down to 500 metre splits of 1:58.
The first time barrier for men on the Indoor Rower is completing 2,000m in less than seven minutes, for women the same being true of 7:30. And then there's the six minute barrier. On a par with running a sub 2:10 marathon, doing 2,000m before six revolutions of the second-hand are complete truly marks out the world class. No lightweight has ever done it, but a few heavyweights manage it each year: the 2001 Pinsent/Cracknell head to head at the British IRC took 5:47.5. Not too far behind, sneaking under the barrier by a second and a half, was Tony Larkman, a 33 year old former international water rower. After 20 years of high class rowing, this was the first time he'd broken six minutes. He credits the improvement not to extra hours on the erg, nor to long weight training sessions, but to running.
`I decided to enter the London Marathon in 2001 and retire from competitive rowing. I trained for the marathon and thought I'd enter the British IRC as part of my training to give my knees a rest. I completely gave up weight training in April 2001 and watched my weight go from 100kgs to 90kgs from running and cycling, plus using the ergo. I raced at the British IRC and recorded a personal best of 5:58.8, winning a silver. Obviously, I was overjoyed and praised my running for this PB, which was a complete surprise. As a rower who hated running, I've realised the significance running has placed on my cardiovascular system and the improvements I've gained. I understand that lighter smaller people may not receive the same benefits as I did, but for bigger people, running in my opinion definitely improves leg strength, cardiovascular fitness, and your anaerobic threshold. Because of running, I lost 10kgs and did well in my rowing boat as well - thanks running!
`I continued to run including hill sprints, cycling, indoor rowing and do the odd bit of rowing, and I won a gold in Boston at the World IRC (dead-heating with two other Britons). I now cross-train using the Indoor Rower, bike, and running. I find the whole combination, mixed with a variety of work sessions, aerobic and anaerobic, works with great benefits. I'm convinced the combination of the two plus cycling gives an athlete the ultimate return.'
Philip Healy would agree with Larkman, though at around 2/3 of the weight, he comes from the other end of the sporting spectrum.
`I used to run a lot at a decent level: 3:40 for 1,500 metres and 29:35 for 10km. Then I got injured and did little for several years. I then got introduced to the Indoor Rower, and trained on it for about five months with just the occasional easy run. I ran a five mile road race prior to the British IRC last year, and finished 3rd in 25:10 and then came second at the British IRC in 6:24, in the men's 30-35 lightweight category. In a nutshell, indoor rowing, in my opinion, is, by a long way, the best exercise to complement running. During my running career I had frequent injuries and ran in the pool, or cycled but nothing gives you the type of fitness the Indoor Rower gives.'
I've also followed a similar trajectory to Healy, and am finding that my running, put into hibernation for a couple of years, is back to the reasonably high levels of half a decade ago. Undoubtedly this is due to training on the Indoor Rower, building up a good aerobic base via those long sessions, and then sharpening up with hard anaerobic efforts. Mortality permitting, the day will come when, cartilage-free, we all have to follow the example of nonagenarian John Hodgson, and train on the erg and nothing else. Until then, though, the future's bright for rowers who run, and runners who row.