New cross-training techniques for rowing


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"This is tough, Hawkeyes," head coach Mandi Kowal shouted to push the Iowa rowing team as the members ran up and down 10 sections of Kinnick Stadium — from field level all the way to the press box. It was around 7 a.m. on Nov. 12, and the Hawkeyes had already completed their workout on the indoor rowing machines.

Sophomore rower Susie Stralina was one of the first few to finish the stairs, and senior rower and captain Allison Lofthouse also finished at the top of the pack.

"Our legs were definitely shaking when we were done," Stralina said.

The first week the Hawkeyes ran the stairs, they did only seven sections total. Then last week, it was 10. On Friday, they will do 15.

Each section, Stralina said, is 150 stairs up. The bottom half — below the tunnel — which is about midway through each section, is less steep than the top half. The higher they climb, the steeper the stairs get.

And the longer they climb, the more intense the burn in their legs.

"You definitely have to come mentally prepared," Lofthouse said. "The pain definitely comes on really quickly."

The rowers did the math, and on Nov. 12, they ran 3,000 stairs. If every row is 150 stairs to the top, and then 150 back to the bottom, how many stairs are there in all?

"We're building up to do a full house at Kinnick," assistant coach Carrie Callen said.

Stralina said a full "house" is 28 sections. Twenty-eight multiplied by 300 equals 8,400 stairs — all in one workout.

"When we get to 28, we'll have done it so many times that it won't be easy, but it will be attainable," Stralina said. "During it, it's tough, but I like it. It's a good burn on your legs."

Running stairs at Kinnick is only one of the new off-season training techniques the Iowa rowing team is incorporating.

Another change this year is the addition of more cross-training workouts, including swimming at the Campus Wellness & Recreation Center and adding more running to the regimen. This year, the Hawkeyes are focusing their running on treadmills, specifically working on building their running technique and paces.

Lofthouse said swimming is a good cross-training tool to work on lung capacity. It also allows Iowa's injured rowers to work out with the team.

But one thing will remain constant: the rowing.

Callen said the Hawkeyes will continue to work out by using these different planes of motion, such as running and swimming.

Rowing uses the same muscles all the time, so cross-training is beneficial because it strengthens the body in different ways, and it serves as a changeup from the repetition of rowing.

Iowa has revamped its off-season training to become a more mentally tough team, Lofthouse said.

She compared the toughness of running the stairs to races during the spring season. In the spring, the Hawkeyes compete solely in 2K races — a much shorter distance than in the fall season.

"When you're racing a 2K, the hardest part is the third 500 [meters], and you still have a little left," Lofthouse said. "Mentally, that's the hardest part of the race. Being able to push through some of the pain you're experiencing works toward mental toughness."

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