Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blog Bits and Rowing Woes

I've got a stat counter which tracks the number of users to my blog in addition to some other gee-whiz stuff and because I'm a bit of a 'details' guy I think it's cool information to have. But, there's a part of me that would like to forget that other people read what I have to say. Odd as it is I sometimes worry that my writing may be hindered because people I know will read my words and maybe they'll infer something they shouldn't from my writing.

There are often times when I feel compelled to blog because there are regular viewers who stop by and I want to have a new entry for them. That can cut both ways in that it can motivate me to sit down and collect my thoughts (therapy) but I may also find myself writing not so much because I have something to say but because I feel I have to say something. That doesn't always make for interesting reading.

I need to remind myself why I began my blog in the first place. For me, as a way of expressing myself and getting in touch with my thoughts.

But having said all that, I do appreciate that people take an interest in some of what I have to say and sometimes even take the time to leave a comment. I thank all of you for that. I apologize for some of the rants about my profession and the boring posts about my bike rides but there's a reason they're here; for me to be able to look back on years, perhaps decades from now and reminisce about those good old days. I only wish I had started this sooner.

Speaking of things to reminisce about. I'm taking off work early today to attend Ash Wednesday service at noon at Hosanna with Tammy and Rachel. They're planning on going out for lunch together afterward but I'm going to take a pass and jump on my bike in the 40-degree weather. They're forecasting 5 to 8 inches of snow for tomorrow. I was last out on Sunday in 14-degree air for a little over 31 miles. The roads were dry for the most part and the sun was out with light winds. Beautiful weather for riding. Really. The only negative about the ride was reaching down for a drink of Cytomax and finding that I'd waited too long. It was frozen.

I'm happy about the days getting longer and looking forward to some longer rides after work in the next few months.


I left work at 11:30 and met Tammy and Rachel at church. We sat with a few hundred people for what was a nice service. Mom was there with her friends but we didn't get a chance to talk other than to say hello.

I was able to crank out 45 miles this afternoon and I'm happy about that. I again see myself reducing my mileage this year. I'll be happy with 6000 miles. I hope to be filling my days off the bike with workouts on our C2 rowing machine. Speaking of which, I haven't been able to use it for the past two weeks since suffering an injury to my right forearm using the rower. I figured that after two weeks rest the injury would be healed but it's not. There's an acute pain when I do certain motions with my arm. I've never had tendinitis but I'm guessing that's what it is.

One thing I've learned through my injury is that my approach to rowing has been all wrong. There was nothing about my form that was correct. I watched lots of videos but none of them stressed that it was a lower-body workout. I'd been pulling much too hard with my arms and getting very little help from my legs. What I've since learned is that it's 80% legs. My technique (or lack of it) was 80% arms.

Here's what I love about the internet. You can post a question (in my case, a question about my technique) and there is usually someone out there willing to offer their help. Sure, sometimes they may not have the best advice but oftentimes they do. Here's a response I got from a woman in California who took a considerable amount of time to set me in the right direction.

Hi onekgguy,

I don't know if you're thinking about rowing as "pulling the handle", but it looks as though that might be the case. I'd like you to start from a different perspective. Think about it as pushing the rowing machine away from you with your legs with high torque (that's at least some of what the 70% legs or 80% or 90% legs comments are getting at). Before you can push that hard, you'll need to brace your body to be able to push against it and your back will need to be stable and not move while you're pushing, or otherwise, the effort you're making will not move the chain. Since you want to transmit all of the power you can into the chain, you'll want to "hang off the chain" and maintain a stable linkage with your back and arms.

Here's a link to a "Flip Luisi's animated tutorial using a similar stick figure" which is well regarded.

I'll make a few observations about your body position. Note that you won’t want to try to think about all of this at the same time, but they will be useful things to notice as you review the two animations and my diagrams.

1. Sit on your “sitz bones” on the front half of the seat. I see (##1-2) that you’re sitting toward the back of the seat, with your pelvis “tucked under.” This means that in order to reach forward, you’re pivoting forward from the top of your pelvis (which almost has you in the top position in a crunch. Contracted abs and extended lower back which may make your back vulnerable to injury).

2. Your back and arms are the connection between your leg drive and the flywheel. Their role (during the leg drive) is to be a stable connection—you shouldn’t be swinging the back or pulling on the arms during the leg drive. If you do either (swing or pull—see #6), you will be limiting the force the leg drive can put into the flywheel to what the arms & back can do/hold.

2. Sit “tall”—raise your collar bone and drop and relax your shoulders. Your torso should be strong, stable and supported by your abs & your lats. Your shoulders should be supported against the drive by your lats, but if you have your shoulders raised, your lats can't help you withstand the leg drive. If the image is helpful, think about the posture of a top-notch ballet dancer—balanced, graceful and able to move in any direction. Your ears should be as far away from your shoulders as you can get them.

3. Pivot from the hip (where your thighbone inserts into your hip)—instead of from the top of the pelvis/lower back. When you pivot from the lower back, you're using your abs and extending your lower back muscles. Instead, use your abs & lats (both!) to stabilize your torso and your hip flexors to hold your stable torso against the leg drive.

4. When the leg drive is nearly exhausted is the time to open the back, and when the backswing is nearly exhausted is the time to “pull” with the arms. Both the backswing and the arm pull portions of the drive are much, much shorter than the leg drive. (You shouldn't have a position during the drive like ##6-7 you're opening your back & pulling with your arms before you've finished your leg drive.)

5. Don’t pull with your shoulders (see ##1 and 6 and the tension in your shoulders). Keep your shoulders relaxed, your forearms parallel with the floor, your elbows close to your ribs and use your think of using your back (lats) to move your elbows (and thus your forearms and the handle) behind you—you’ll end up w/ the handle against your sternum. Don't let your elbows "wing" out (see #1-3 & 8).

6. Make “hooks” of your hands (the thumb can be below the handle, but doesn’t need to grip it at all!) and try to keep your hands/forearms (relatively) relaxed. You should be able to wiggle your fingers on the recovery. Your wrist and the top of your hand should be flat and aligned with your forearm. You’re gripping the handle too tightly (I can see the muscle tension in your forearms).

7. Don’t think of the finish as a time to pause…your hands should move back out with the same speed they came in. Let your hands lead your arms back to a full extension. And your extended arms should lead your tall-stable-torso forward.

8. Once your extended arms have cleared your knees, pivoting from the hip, your torso should angle forward as you move toward the catch position. By contrast, see #4 in your recovery.

9. The catch angle (of your torso to the rail), once attained during the recovery, will be maintained until late in the drive when you’ve expended your leg drive. You will need to hold that angle against the pressure of the leg drive.

10. As you move into the catch, your shin should come close to but not past vertical. You can allow your heel to rise as needed to get you into that vertical position. You’ll begin the drive by moving your heels down and forward forcefully.



I hope to be able to put Alissa's advice to work next week. I really don't want to get back on the C2 too soon and exacerbate the injury. It's a very fun workout and I'm missing it.

No comments: