Jonathan Burns remembers the soul-sucking pain of a 2-kilo-meter ergometer test.
His best score in his rowing prime was 5:56—an all-out effort that left him in a physical shambles, he said.
“I would be lying there recovering for two days after a 2-kilometer test,” said the former college and national-team rower and current owner of CrossFit Coeur D’Alene in Idaho.
“We would taper before them, and then you couldn’t do anything after. We’d be shot. Maybe we’d go for a light paddle the next morning, but that was it.”
All high-level rowers can relate to Burns’ experience. It’s incredibly difficult to recover from a 100 percent rowing effort, Burns explained, which is why most training days are spent working at intensity levels below an athlete’s capacity.
Burns remembers doing a common workout in training: three 2-kilometer pieces on the ergometer with approximately five minutes of rest between each. Burns said he would usually hold somewhere between 6:03 and 6:10 on the pieces. While the workout is challenging, it wasn’t that difficult to recover, he said. Often, it was even followed by a second row later in the day, he added.
Think about that: A 2-kilometer row in 5:56 left Burns a physical mess for two days, yet he could maintain a pace seven to 14 seconds slower for three consecutive pieces. And he could recover to train a second time that day.
If about 10 seconds is the difference between life and the edge of death on the rower, what does that mean for CrossFit workouts? Consider Jackie: a 1-kilometer row followed by 50 thrusters and 30 pull-ups. Do you hit the row hard and risk imploding to be first on the barbell? Or do you sandbag the row and come off fresh knowing you can make up time on the thrusters and pull-ups?
And does the strategy change if the workout requires calories rather than meters?