Rowing machine training

Our veteran rower moves into the third stage of his record-breaking programme

April 1996 saw a change in routine to a more Anaerobic Threshold (AT) set-up to let my body deal with Lactate Transportation (LT) more effectively. LT and L conversion to energy (glycogen) via the liver may be the most important thing for the endurance athlete. Therefore, interval training (and is not all training interval?), which had measured hard and light work periods, where results were stored and carefully studied, was used to gain performance. Knowing that I had the basic speed helped, but training my body to keep it going long enough to achieve the 2000m Indoor Rowing World Record was to prove beyond my ability in 1996, due to injury (stupidity?).

It is said that 85 per cent of our performance is hereditary and 15 per cent is training and motivation. If this is correct, in 1997 I have to look for an extra 2 per cent from the 15 per cent or an extra 12 per cent effort both mentally and physically. Well, I know I can do that but the side-effects are annoying. Remember the 10 per cent and 5 per cent rules? I broke them again and am currently 4 per cent slower than my 1996 best because of injury. Damn this old mind, why will it not learn as it should?
It may be of use to you to know that my fade in the second half of the 60-minute time trial led me to deduce that I should do over-distance training. So in January this year I started on 20km units each day at AT, intending to back off to two once I was comfortable but my back quit after five days. Some three weeks later I started again at 20km, aiming for three per week, reduced this to two after a week and the third week my knee gave out. Both cases were muscle strain – no doubt they will recover but it has lost me two months through being careless. Not only this, but as Arthur Weltman points out on page 95 of his book, Blood Lactate Response to Exercise, I may have lost a lot of power (presumably aerobic) during the down time.

Back to April 1996. My 1995/6 records showed that my performance varied in some sort of wave which seemed to have a three-week cycle, and a day off seemed to make my performance worse, not better. I was aware that more than three days off had an adverse effect as well, so what to do for the best result? I decided to stick to the one day off per week and accept that Monday was Monday for 1996. Then, during April, one of our club members introduced me to biorhythms and to the physical cycle of 23 days. While statistics can be used to prove just about anything, my records showed that, taking best-case information, biorhythms seemed better than 60 per cent accurate, and worst case some 30 per cent, with a mean of around 40 per cent, so I decided to apply them in May, aiming to reduce discomfort.

In April I entered a nationally advertised triathlon, consisting of a 2500m ergo row, 7000m cycle and 2800m run, and since I was the only entrant in my age group, I got a prize. The 2500m row was respectable at 8:26.1 but the cycling and running were below average, due to lack of preparation. I learned one very important thing, however, and that was that running is an impact sport – my knee joints were painful for three weeks afterwards. On reflection, when you remember what happens to water-filled balloons when you drop them on the ground, it is hardly surprising. The increasing number of runners I talk to who have impact knee injuries make me glad rowing is largely non-impact.

This is a good time to mention how lucky I am to have had as training partners at Hightone Health and Fitness Centre in Wallingford, the UK 1996 Body Heat Champions, Niki Orr and Kevin Huffington. Their dedication was inspiring. While I could nearly keep up with Kevin at ergo rowing, in most of the other cross-training exercises he left me cold, and at the end of the year the gap had increased. Niki was also much quicker than me at running and cycling, and better at body-weight exercises. They are a formidable pair and worth every bit of their win. Kevin has left the area now and the man to watch in 1997 is Philip Brown, who is training for the UK Cross-Training Championship in May and could win his class. Again he is fitter, younger and a helpful training partner. It is of immense benefit to me to train with someone of his quality, and, yes, I struggle to get close on the erg.

The April programme
Warm ups, stretches, rest periods and recovery efforts remained the same as indicated in the February issue of PP; otherwise April’s programme was aimed at LT improvement. Above AT, L pain affected my speed and if it was possible to reduce the pain, then I would be faster, so better LT would help, thus:
Monday a.m.

Ergo: 2 160SFO (160 secs flat out) + 180SL (180 secs light) + 8K HR (heart rate) 155
Monday p.m.

Machine weights (MW): 200 (SQ @ 150 kg + LR @ 50 kg) + Pyramid 50 (KR + HC + SE + TR + FSQ)
Tuesday a. m.

Ergo: 4 (80SFO + 60SL) + 8K (HR120)
Tuesday p.m.

SHB (Stationary Handlebar Type Bike): 10MFO MW: Pyramid 50 (LPD + RC + PD + CH + SP + CP + SR + SE)
Wednesday a.m.

 Ergo: 640SFO + 8K (HR120)
Wednesday p.m.

Treadmill (T): 10MFO
Free Weights (FW): Pyramid 50 (FL + BC + RC + CP + SP + SAR + SR + SE)
Thursday a. m.

Ergo: 320SFO + 8K (HR 120)
Thursday p.m.

As Monday
Friday a.m.

Ergo: 8 (40SFO + 60SL) + 8K (HR 120)
Friday p.m.

As Tuesday
Saturday a.m.

Ergo: 16 (20SFO + 60SL) + 8K (HR 120)
Saturday p.m.

As Wednesday
Sunday: OFF!

The reference to aerobic weight exercise in the February issue should, of course, have mentioned the 255 operations and not included the pyramids.These were reduced to 200 in April because my 2000m uses around this number of pulls, and while the squats had been reduced in weight the lever row had to be worked up to a much higher weight, as the difference between upper-body and lower-body strength exercises was far too great.

April was caffeine month! When I took caffeine tablets at the recommended supplement level, I found that dehydration followed. This was relieved by the addition of water, then the effect was reduced and I was loo-bound again. Overall, I found no benefit and changed to having a caffeine-free week, then a couple of mugs of strong coffee on the test day. This seemed to work, though it did produce a high which made me less confident when driving. I found that best results were achieved by taking coffee 30 minutes before exercise but, as expected, this took six months to get any form of results and by then I could not be sure that I would not have got there anyway: those statistics!
I have been trying to find out the effects of shaving the body but can find no good research on it. If anyone knows of any, I would be glad to have details.

Next month: how biorhythms worked for me.

Noel Frost

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