by CRAIG MORGAN
In terms of training value for time spent, there is little that comes close to rowing. It is cardio, it is anaerobic, and it is strengthening. By building rowing in to your CrossFit workout instead of running, you will be increasing the intensity and effectiveness of your training session several fold.
To understand why this is the case, it would be helpful to take a bit of a look at the body’s energy pathways and how they are used in a CrossFit training session.
Understanding Energy Pathways
So the processes by which ATP is recycled are what we are talking about when we refer to energy pathways.
In order for the body to be able to reuse this chemical reaction, the phosphate molecule that was released to produce energy needs to be reattached to the ADP to form ATP again. This chemical process is done in two basic ways, with a third concerned only with energy release.
1) The Anaerobic System:
As the name suggests, this is the chemical process that takes place in the absence of oxygen. “An” meaning without and “aero” meaning air. Most of us have heard of aerobic because of the type of training often offered in gyms. Many of us also will have heard of anaerobic training — particularly body builders and athletes.
Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple! We still have to split anaerobic respiration into two separate types: The ATP-PC System and the Glycolytic System.
1a) The Anaerobic ATP-PC System
is at the opposite end of the scale to Aerobic respiration. It is responsible for short burst activity such as jumping up onto a box or swinging a kettle bell up to vertical. During the first few seconds of an activity, ATP supplies the energy. It is immediate and can last approximately 12 seconds. For a few seconds after that, the rapid decline of ATP is cushioned by phosphocreatine (PC) before the cell turns to another energy pathway, namely the glycolytic system.
1b) The Anaerobic Glycolytic System
The process of glycolysis comes in two flavors – fast and slow. Essentially, the fast version can run for up to 30 seconds, resulting in acid lactic acid accumulation, a drop in power, and subsequent fatigue. Slow glycolysis doesn’t produce as much power, but extreme fatigue is avoided for longer. Here, the pyruvic acid is converted to acetyl coenzyme A, run through the oxidative Krebs cycle (see below), which produces more ATP, which delays fatigue.
For example, a 400m sprinter would come out of the blocks using the ATP-PC system and run most of the first bend on it. After that, ATP stored in the cells would run out and the fast glycolysis system would kick in. As the lactic acid starts to build up half way round the second bend, the runner grits his teeth whilst the cells desperately start reproducing ATP through slow glycolysis.