Taming a Goat: The CrossFit Rowing Specialty Course


Let me guess, you see rowing as a confused movement that doesn’t make sense to anyone. It feels impossibly inefficient and whenever you get off the machine you’re pretty sure satan himself had a hand in helping to produce the thing.

You’re not alone. Thousands of CrossFitters everywhere claim rowing as their primary goat. The one movement that they’ve accepted as the most torturous of all movements in the sport of CrossFit.

Unfortunately, that mentality is leading to lost WOD’s everywhere. So let’s accept that this movement deserves as much focus as olympic lifting or gymnastics and move on to taming this goat for you so you can take this sport seriously either as an athlete or as a coach.

You’re being robbed of energy

An erg can only be muscled for so long before it fights back and makes you wish you didn’t exist. It’s a beautiful machine and it deserves to be treated as such. That means you need to finesse the erg to really get the most out of it. That feeling of not being able to connect to the machine and wasting yourself is a product of inefficient movement. Much like Kelly Starrett’s One Joint Rule  we need to create connected progressions of movement so you’re not spending unnecessary energy to accomplish an end result.

Fighting back, a true story

Let’s do something about it. The effort to tame this machine is mostly focus. You’re all strong athletes and coaches with lots of potential, so we’re going to take that potential and turn it into efficient movement. Work your strength in your training and let us help with the efficiency. One day is more than enough to learn strategy, movement, error identification, and crush factor on the erg. JJ Christopher from Atlas CrossFit in Chicago, IL found a lot of ways to improve his own rowing and how to become a better coach because of the course as well.

It’s time you fight back against the erg, because when rowing shows up at regionals or the games you don’t want to be caught watching others fly by feeling stronger, with more energy, and ready to hit the rest of the workout.

Details, details, details…

Join us at CrossFit Invictus on Sunday, March 18th from 9 – 5 for this one day Certificate Course at a reasonably low cost of $395

  • You’ll learn the secret strategy that helps some of the world top CrossFitters including Aja Barto, Matt Barnett, Camille Leblanc, and Elyse Umeda take on rowing workouts.
  • Improve your coaching eye as you gain insight into how to look for and correct common errors
  • Spend less energy to get the same scores you’re already getting, leaving you more ready for whatever comes next

A good athlete rests on the talents they’re given, a great athlete takes their weaknesses and turns them into talents. See you all on March, 18th.

Pregnant and Taking It Down a Notch or Ten

By Guest Columnist Anna Cummins, 2008 Olympic Champion Rower

Once an Olympic champion, I could now barely get out of bed and go for a walk, let alone get to the Pocock Rowing Center or Crossfit Bellevue. I knew something crazy was happening inside mybody.  For the first time in my life, I felt like the anti-athlete.  As an athlete my whole life and an elite rower for ten years, any form of working out always made me feel like a million bucks, maybe not during, but for sure after each workout.  In my first trimester with my first baby, the thought of any form of exercise was like thinking about rowing an Olympic final with no prior training.  I did not want to go there.  Not only did I avoid getting a rush from a little workout, I also wasn’t very hungry.  Hmmm, who is this new person in my body and where did I go?

Pregnancy is a time to learn a lot about your body and that of what it takes to create a new body in the form of a little baby.  Every woman has a different journey and the most important thing I have learned so far is to listen to what my body is telling me about the race ahead.  In my first trimester, the message my body kept sending me was to take it down a notch or ten.  As US Olympic coxswain Mary Whipple would say when we were out for a swing row in the eight, “let’s let the boat glide out and cruise at two beats down on this one.”

That said, my best workouts were walks around the neighborhood, getting to Crossfit once a week, and doing aslow swing row.  When rowing, I could make it about 20 minutes at the slowest pace ever (for me:).  Let’s say I was impressed at rowing 2:12.  (Pre-pregnancy, I’d feel great at 2:02).  In my first trimester, 3 out of 4 mornings, I hit my snooze button to just keep sleeping and I never felt rested!  I felt so out of it that the only thing I could rally around was to simply show up and move.

We all know that exercise makes for healthier babies and for healthier moms.  As much as I’d like to sleep in every day and not take that walk or trip to the Box, I knew I needed to try.  I take the time to get adjusted by my chiropractor (that’s Dr. Bob Cummins) each week because I know it’s good for me and the health of our baby.  Why don’t I get my body up and moving with the exercise I also know is awesome for my health?  Hence, the only thing that will be different in my second trimester compared to the first is to have an exercise plan and to try to be disciplined.

It’s never too late to change a race plan, so don’t worry, my “plan” is now in full effect for the second trimester.  January 1st and a New Years’ resolution couldn’t have come at a better time.  However, my focus on exercise while pregnant is not competitive, it’s health.  I still remember to listen to my body, take rest, scale the weights down, and cut out a round or two if my body is telling me.

Hang in there all you Pregger-Rowers, Crossfitters and anyone trying to make a change! Know you have a fellow pregnant friend who is just as unmotivated as you are.  Keep trying to get your body moving and keep listening!

First Trimester recommended Rowing W.O.D.
Warm-up:  Spinal hygiene exercises or Joint articulations,10 air squats, 10 side lunges, 10 push-ups, 1000m easy row
2 rounds of 1000 row, 20 squats, 750 row, 15 squats, 500 row, 10 squats rest 2min. between rounds.
Intermediate: 1000 row, 20 squats, 750 row, 15 squats, 500 row, 10 squats
Beginner: 750 row, 15 squats, 500 row, 10 squats, 250 row, 5 squats
Post row: Easy row 500m, Stretch: Hamstrings,  Hip Flexors, Quads, Calves.


Taking Risks


Comfort is an easy place to live. We know what to expect, exactly what we can handle, and we have control over it. We can tuck comfort in our pocket and when things start to get tough, we just tap our hand on that pocket and we’re reminded we can take a step back to our comfort zone.

This place is where many of us choose to live our lives. After all, who doesn’t want to be guaranteed a life free from failure? Where every day may not be the greatest day you’ve ever had but it certainly isn’t the worst. If you never fail then you’ve got to be doing something right…right?


As a coach and an athlete I encounter this decision making on a frequent basis. In my own training I spend a lot of time under stress. WIth multiple workouts a day I have to decide whether I’m going to be comfortable with the workout, or if I’m willing to risk discomfort on a major scale on the chance that I could succeed in a big way.


With clients we face the same challenges.  As a coach it’s my job to figure out what they’re comfortable doing and what I can do to challenge their very being and elicit a decision that makes them uncomfortable. Whether or not they step through that door is a day to day decision for them as well.


The weight behind taking action often falls silent though when confronted with non-life threatening actions like workouts. It seems that as humans we easily get lost in day to day monotony, the “little” things if you will. Is it really going to be that big a deal if i don’t take a risk today? Probably not. The question remains though, does that become your autopilot response to every question? If so, we’re not just talking one decision at a time, we’re aggregating all those decisions and weighting them over a lifetime.


It starts when we’re young and we realize not everything goes our way. We learn that life isn’t necessarily fair and sometimes we get the short end of the stick. It’s understandable then that we as people would start to develop an aversion to the negative. That when an opportunity to fail presents itself we quietly tap our pocket of comfort by not taking the potential step and all feels better.


The problem with doing this is over time, those pocket taps start to become the definition of your life. The pain never prevails, the road most traveled become more heavily rutted, and things run smoothly.


Let’s talk about the alternative though. The road LESS traveled. Let’s find out how we can make those decisions. Because if you understand the weight of a lifetime of safe decisions, a lifetime of challenging yourself will become that much greater.


  1. Start small
    • If you quit your job, pack your bag, and hitch your thumb for destination unknown, you may recoil quickly when it all sets in. Instead, take a decision you’re faced with on a regular basis and ask yourself why you do what you do. If you normally stop with 5 seconds left in a workout, try going 5 seconds past the finish line. It’s a small decision that will have a listing impact on your training.
  2. Be confident
    • Have faith in yourself. The greatest barrier to taking risks is self confidence. Once you trust in yourself and believe that you have the ability to succeed you’ll be much more likely to try something that may be challenging. Often the mind is the only thing standing in the way of where you are now, and success in the future.
  3. Follow through
    • If you start, don’t second guess yourself. Continue on. Whether you get exactly what you were going for or end up with a different outcome than you were expecting, the greatest achievements happen because of perseverance and execution.
  4. Embrace failure
    • Failure can be the greatest teaching tool you never knew about. Because the outcome was different than what you may have had in mind, the knowledge you gain will be greater than you could have imagined. Some of my biggest successes have happened because I failed enough to find the secret to that puzzle.
  5. Make it a habit
    • Once you try it, become addicted. As your life rolls on, it will be the collection of choices you have made that move you to a place of success. You’ll find that your world can become wider and brighter when you realize that many of the things you experience from day to day are within your power to change.


It’s for many of these reasons that as a coach I take great pride in my clients when I ask them to do more than they may think they’re capable of. When they succeed it’s a celebration of more than just fitness. It’s often that they’ve blown through a mental wall they never knew was there and they’re slowly reshaping their lives just the way they want.


Take some risks, resist the urge to tap that pocket, and enjoy the ride. Small steps equal giant distances covered when you put them together. And keep this favorite quote in mind; “Remember that guy that gave up? Neither does anybody else.”

Businessman or Fisherman?

There are times in life you may lose focus of your thousand foot goals. It is necessary to discover both what drives and makes you happy. Whether it is completing the WOD in record time, taking time out of the work day to comment on the Crossfit Rowing page with your peers, or simply cooking a healthy meal in instead of ordering out, passion and fulfillment are two of the key motivators everyone tries to satisfy.

Life isn’t about material accomplishments but the things we do to make our lives fulfilling and whole. The destination is no more important than the steps we take to get there.

What makes life full-filling? Where should we focus our goals? What goals are the right ones for us? These questions are hard for any one of us to answer but sometimes a little inspiration can get us there.

If you are having a professional, mid or early life crisis, or need to re-evaluate what is important to you, check out this story provided by http://www.trackthetime.com/fun/story-of-the-mexican-fisherman.


A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his catch. “How long did it take you to get those?” he asked.

“Not so long,” said the Mexican.

“Then why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was quite enough to meet his needs and feed his family.

“So what do you do with the rest of your time?” asked the American.

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evening, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar and sing a few songs. I have a full life.”

The American interrupted. “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.”

“And after that?” asked the Mexican.

“With the extra money the bigger boat will bring, you can buy a second boat and then a third boat, and then more until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants. Pretty soon you could open your own plant. You could leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York! From there you could direct your whole enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

“Twenty — perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.

“And after that?”

“Afterwards? Well, my friend,” laughed the American, “that’s when it gets really interesting. When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?” said the Mexican.

“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a beautiful place near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take siestas with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”


The moral of the story… Know where you’re going in life — you may already be there.

Thanks for posting, Chris Tingom. It truly says all.

Rowing for a Cause on Veteran’s Day

Today is 11/11/11.

While some of us might make wishes for a new erg or apparel, many of our injured war veteran’s only wish to get back to a normal life after making huge sacrifices in service to our country.

Luckily there is much that the rowing community has done to give back to those that have given so much to keep us safe. Rowing is a great way to both raise money and rehabilitate injured soldiers from all branches to help them mobilize and win their lives back.

There are already many ways to get involved. Some are as easy as watching this video made by Veteran’s Rehab program at Community Rowing in Boston. 3 min. http://youtu.be/kSkgWJvFeY8. With each view, Concept 2 will donate money to Community Rowing in Boston to help rehab injured soldiers.

It’s not too late to participate in the  Sweat For a Vet event held by Project Visibility, November 12. Funds raised will be used to buy Concept 2 rowers for disabled veterans.

For more information visit http://sweatforavet.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=461232.

At the very least, reflect on the sacrifices these amazing men and women have taken to protect us.

Happy Veterans Day to everyone.

Invictus Rowing Club: Week of 9/18 – 9/24


  • 2 minutes easy spinning
  • Dynamic Warmup of your choice


2 x 20 minutes with 5 minutes rest between.

In teams of two row as many meters as possible, switching on and off the erg every two minutes. Every time you get back on the erg, you should perform a full sprint start.


The goal of this workout is two fold.

First is to have fun. Rarely in rowing do we get to perform a workout where we’re working with a partner. This week is about enjoying the workout with someone and making a game of it if you have more than two people with you. Throw a little competition into the mix and enjoy the workout.

Second is to practice high intensity bursts with lots of practice starts. In 20 minutes you will get 5 turns on the erg with equal time rest. Learn to develop your start even when you’re slightly burned, and get comfortable with a faster than 2k pace so your body will know how to respond when you’re fatiguing towards the tail end of a piece.

Post comments for discussion.

Optional Mid-Week Workouts

If you’re thinking about picking up your training. Here’s your mid-week workout option.

4 x 10 minutes with 3 minutes rest

Splits should be well below your 20 minute steady state time. The focus won’t be on overall split, instead it will be on quality of strokes and focus on maintaining consistent power.

Invictus Rowing Club: Week of 9/11 – 9/17


  • 2 minutes easy spinning
  • Dynamic Warmup
    • Perfect Stretch
    • Inch Worm
    • Single Leg Deadlift
    • Deep Squat Progression


Work – Rest: Use a manageable pace for the first three pieces and ramp it up on the last three

  • 2:00 – 2:00
  • 3:00 – 3:00
  • 4:00 – 3:00
  • 3:00 – 2:00
  • 2:00 – 1:00
  • 1:00 – 2:00

After the final 2 minute rest immediately start into:

  • 4 x 45 seconds on 15 seconds off sprint intervals.

Each 45 seconds on should be structured like the final 45 seconds of a 2k. 15 seconds hard, bump up 2 beats with 30 left, cut layback and sprint in final 15 seconds taking stroke rate uncomfortably high.


The goal of this workout is to build high output at distances slightly under our favorite 2k distance. Use the first three pieces to build to your groove at a pace around your 2k pace. In the final three pieces you should be pushing the boundaries and attempting to exceed your 2k pace significantly.

Once you finish your final 1 minute piece you will rest for exactly 2 minutes then roll straight into 45 seconds on 15 seconds off. This is designed to hit you when you’re down and get you used to sprinting when it doesn’t feel very good. Stay true to the schedule laid out for the 45 seconds. First 15 seconds should be a build to your body pace. Then step up two beats in your stroke rating with 30 seconds left. In the final 15 seconds you should cut layback and sprint to the finish. Once you finish the 45 seconds, continue to paddle light for your 15 seconds of rest. Trust me…you don’t want to just stop rowing altogether.

Post comments for discussion.

Invictus Rowing Club: Week of 8/28 – 9/3

This weeks workout is a tasty treat. Totally necessary to establish your baseline and find your jumping point for the foreseeable future.


  • 10 minute build
  • Step off and take 3 -4 minute rest
  • 6 minutes of steady state, low power rowing, with 3 power 20′s at your desired goal split for your 2k test


  • 2k for time


If you need help with strategy I’m happy to offer one up. It’s not necessary for you to follow but if you’re wondering how you’re supposed to go about this then follow along.

  • Start with your Starting 5 (3/4, 1/2, 3/4, Full, Full)
  • High 10 (still no layback, and hitting these for power)
  • Now settle at about 1 second above your desired split and maintain for the majority of the body
  • At the 500, 1000, and 1500 hit power 20′s at 1 – 2 seconds below your goal split, then return to 1 second above your goal split
  • Once you get to 250 left, step your stroke rate up by 2 beats
  • At 150 left, step your stroke rate up another 2 beats
  • With 100 left, cut your layback and go for broke giving it everything you’ve got.

There you have it. Make sure you record average split, total time, average stroke rate, and average cal/hr. This will act as our baseline in the near future. Please post scores to comments.