As a runner I was in need of a workout to help me retain fitness while I rehabbed a foot injury, so I was directed to a rowing machine—commonly referred to as an ergometer or “erg.”
Then I endured one of the most challenging cross-training workouts of my life—for exactly 12 minutes.
Rowing is an invaluable tool for runners. When you learn how to do it right it lights up weaknesses you didn’t know you had. It helps runners and cyclists find power in muscles they hadn’t used before.
Rowing is a potent weapon in an endurance athlete’s cross-training arsenal, or as a replacement for running when injuries surface. It’s no joke. It’s some serious, lung-searing stuff. When an athlete is dealing with a foot or Achilles tendon problem, often the solution lies in replacing running with work on the ergometer. For both continuity and recovery. In place of key running workouts, use indoor rowing.
It’s all about proper technique. If you don’t do it right, it’s not going to work.
While running and rowing are similar in cardiovascular benefits, they differ in the muscular workout they deliver. Erin Cafaro, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist and member of the U.S. rowing squad, said that rowing punishes the body in different ways. “In one continuous motion rowing works legs, core, back and arms,” she said. “It’s a full-body workout.”
One of the chief benefits rowing offers runners is improved posture. “Runners typically have terrible posture, leading to bad form, leading to beating the hell out of yourself.
Proper rowing helps runners develop robust midline stability to help shift running from smaller, weaker muscles such as hip flexors to more powerful muscles in the hips.
Properly performed rowing gives a runner a solid blast of cardio work, works the abs, core and lower back, and even develops flexibility in the hamstrings and calves.
Where should you start? Don’t make the mistake most runners do when they first hit the rowing machine and yank away—not only will you miss out on the primary benefits rowing has to offer, but you also might make things worse.
So, what benefits does rowing offer runners and triathletes?
Rowing machines allow runners to do a non-impact form of endurance training. If you want to be a better runner, your training should focus on running mainly. However, cross-training during non-competitive periods in the year and during recovery blocks throughout the season helps runners stay injury free and mentally fresh. Those are the key benefits of rowing for runners.
Any tips fur runners taking up rowing?
Strongly resist the urge to become a rowing specialist. This is especially true for triathletes, who tend to want to mimic the training done in the specific sub sports of their discipline. For example, very often triathletes fall into the trap of training like Masters swimmers, road cyclists and runners rather than training like a triathlete. The same intensity and inquisitiveness that leads to those miss-steps can also lead a motivated runner or triathlete to use the erg as if he is a crew specialist. This is counterproductive because it can hurt recovery. If you’re really trying to improve on the erg, it’s likely your training load will increase on the erg and will cut into your recovery, leading to decreased volumes of sport-specific training. Both problems can reduce sport-specific performance.