RR Answers Your Training Questions: Running and Rowing

Cross-training for rowing success

Every now and then, athletes and coaches write in to RR about particular training issues or goals. And, we're here to answer your questions. Here's a recent example of a question from one of our readers:

I'm a personal trainer and have a client I will be working with that is a rower. I will be working specifically with him on running to help increase his endurance for rowing. I certainly want this to complement his rowing and have been researching what training would be beneficial (hill repeats, track work, steps etc).

His shortest distance is 2k and longest being a 5k. I would love some suggestions on what running workouts would be the most beneficial.

If you have any suggestions or can point me in the direction of material that would be a helpful guide that would be great. I know you are the experts in rowing and would love some advice.

Thank you! -M

From the RR Editorial Staff:
I would say that in order to have the most success it is important to do a combination of power (sprinting) and endurance (distance) running as a supplement to rowing training. If someone were to ask me which runners make the best rowers, I would probably say 400 meter hurdlers, because they have the right blend of power and endurance. Although distance runners have more endurance and log the mileage required to be a great rower, they lack the necessary power. The perfect rower would probably be someone built like a 400 meter hurdler with a little more endurance training to complement their power/strength.

The best way to look at his training as he prepares for 2k and 5k racing is to look at his two energy systems: anaerobic power/fast-twitch muscle and aerobic endurance/slow-twitch muscle. Train each of them as best you can. 

The best way to train the power/fast-twitch component would be much the same way you would train a sprinter: starting each workout with a 1-2 mile easy jog and then interval sessions of short high intensity bursts working on maximum power and speed. 

For these types of workouts I would do things like 10 x 100 meters all out with 15 seconds rest (very little rest) and 2-3 x 4 x 200 w/ 30 seconds rest, or 2 x 5 x 150m w/ 2 min rest working on maximum speed with short rest. I would also do sessions with longer rest and more speed intensity as 4 x 400 with 3 minutes rest as fast as possible. 

Hill repeats and steps/stadiums are also great if done HARD/FAST. I would do any work on the hills or steps as an all out blast for whatever length of time you want from 15 seconds-10 minutes with lots of rest to ensure lots of speed. These are things that will increase his maximum power which is very important in rowing. The best rowers in the world can all generate very impressive peak power numbers. These speed/fast-twitch workouts will help that.

Despite the need for power to be a great rower, endurance may be more important. If I had to pick one workout to do for a rower it would be more endurance/distance based, but it would be great to have some speed and power in addition to lots of volume/endurance training. Rowers log a lot of mileage and train as rowers much more like distance runners do in terms of total volume. 

To give you an idea, collegiate rowers are rowing on the water or rowing machine typically between 90-160k a week. That should give you a good sense of the volume required whether it is rowing or running that much volume should be similar to train the heart and legs. If he is a high school athlete something more in the ballpark of 50-80k a week of total volume combined rowing and running might be more appropriate. In this sense it is important to help make sure he can increase his endurance. 

The bulk of the training has to be about logging consistent mileage and increasing aerobic base. This is the easiest thing to control and improve over time with training. If he is able to increase his endurance and can run faster for longer, it will help him in rowing.

Finally, there is the middle ground type of training that combines the two and is more of the anaerobic threshold and VO2Max variety. These are things that would simulate his testing and racing at 2k and 5k distances. These would include workouts like 4 x 1 mile w/ 3-5 minutes rest, 1600, 1200, 800, 400, 200 breakdown w/ 3 min rest, or 2 x 3 miles with 5-10 minutes rest or 3-6 mile hard "tempo" runs. It is usually good to do at least one of these type of efforts every week to really push fitness and ability to sustain the redline pace longer and longer.

Without knowing specifically the level of the athlete you are working with, I would suggest a typical week of running workouts of something along the following lines:
  • Day 1: 4-8 mile medium paced aerobic run at 70-80% of max HR to build endurance
  • Day 2: 2 mile easy warmup, 4 x 1 mile w/ 3-5 minutes rest, 1 mile cool down
  • Day 3: 30-60 minutes of cross-training (run, bike, swim)
  • Day 4: 4-6 miles moderate at 75-80% max HR
  • Day 5: 2 mile easy warmup, running drills and steps, 10 x 100m all out w/ 15 seconds rest, 1 mile cool down
  • Day 6: 5-10 mile progression run, starting easy and building speed throughout the run to finish strong at a hard tempo type effort
  • Day 7: OFF or cross-training
Got specific goals, and the desire to do what it takes to accomplish them? Looking for some training insights & advice? Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your questions via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook page.


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