An Open Letter to All Jan-row-ary Participants

Dear Jan-row-ary Participant,

Welcome back to CrossFit!

It certainly has been a long month of rowing. I’ll bet not one of you conceived the idea that rowing 5k, 10k, or even the vaunted half-marathon 20k was within your bailiwick; but alas, you did it! In fact, I recently read the collective distance you rowers journeyed would set your team boat somewhere between Stonewall Jackson’s grave and Stonewall Jackson’s arm in Virginia! An exciting accomplishment indeed.

To those of you about to return to CrossFit, I am writing this letter as a re-introduction of sorts to the many things that have been going on just over your view of the Concept2 rowing display. Yes, while things remain very much CrossFit (Buck Furpees! and such), you may be a bit intimidated by some of the recent programming changes. Well fear not, for your rowing endeavors have more than adequately prepared you for the fitness challenges ahead. So pat yourselves on the back (after properly mobilizing, of course) and dive in, February is going to be your month!

Now, you may be inclined to delay your return to CrossFit to the day when the 5RM Deadlift is not programmed (After all, it’s not cherry picking if you haven’t started yet!), but you may not realize that your month of all that rowing has uniquely prepared you for the deadlift. In fact, all you practically have been doing for the month of January are frequent deadlifts! Yes! The rowing motion is about as equivalent to a deadlift as one can get without actually using a barbell or making stuttering engine noises.

Wait, what’s that? You don’t pull the barbell to your nose and round your back on a deadlift? Well, I can certainly understand the confusion. Rowing is in one direction and deadlifting is very much the other. Blast. But so what if you’ve missed your chance this January, with this newfound understanding you can just use this current strength cycle to prepare for January 2017! That’s the ticket!

Now let’s turn that left hand around and move some weight! Maybe next year you’ll row all the way to the Equator.

Speaking of mid-lines, you may also be inclined to turn your nose up on the days when the, ahem, “strength” part of the WOD is focused on some silly Gymnastics motion like hollow-to-arch or some other such nonsense on the rig. After all, Gymnastics and Olympic Weightlifting are two very different events and nobody really wants to see you in a leotard. However, I assure you that this, too, is something which will improve your rowing many-fold over the coming months.

Do you remember that funny feeling you got at the bottom of your rib cage and lower back about 600 meters into your third 5k row of the week? Remember how you thought this was some sort of aerobic limiting factor and surely you just had to slow your pace a bit to soldier on? Well don’t be disheartened at the fact your 500 interval time had to drop below 2:45 because this was actually your body coaching you! That’s right, that funny feeling was your core asking you to help with your rowing. Those pesky hollow holds and rocks are the exact position your body should be in at the top of your rowing motion. In fact, holding it there for a second before returning the handle is a great place to take a breath and begin the next row.

Now, about that aerobic capacity…

I am sure your rowing has you absolutely exciting to get into some of those catastrophically heart-pounding CrossFit WODs of old. You know, the ones named passive-aggressively for jilted ex-girlfriends and the like?

Well, your timing couldn’t be better! For the CrossFit Open season is upon us.

Yes, I know many of you are annual contributors to the Greg Glassman Retirement Fund and this year will naturally be no different. In fact, rowing is often a staple of an Open WOD or two, so… well wait, that’s usually rowing for calories. Hmm… and Open WODs are usually in that short/intense domain that isn’t exactly stimulated unless you were trying to PR that 50 minute 10k by 5 seconds in the last 100 meters.

Well, cheer up and look at it this way: with your new found rowing addiction, it wouldn’t be fair or reasonable to compare yourself with last year’s results. You can attack this year’s Open as a new and fresh-faced athlete. It’s always a PR when you’ve never tried it!

It will be good to have you all back into the swing of things. Just remember, if you’re sweating, you’re still living.

Best regards and PRs,


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