Our Cross-Training Secret Weapon

Our Cross-Training Secret Weapon

What do you usually fill your off season with? A crazy amount of time pedaling indoors on the trainer? A winter marathon? Most triathletes I know definitely aren’t swimming unless they have to!

There are a lot of ways to approach the winter months and we want to throw one more into the mix you may have not considered. 


Over the last couple of years rowing has become my go-to for training in the winter. Sure I’ll still run and ride. Maybe I was speaking of myself when I said, “most triathletes aren’t swimming.” And will certainly spend time lifting weights. 

It was even a big part of IRONMAN Tulsa training, for the reasons discussed below. 

I’ve found rowing to have a big bang for your buck when it comes to cross-training. Here’s why…

Full Body Workout

One of the reasons I’ve come to love it is the full body aspect of rowing. Everything gets worked from your toes to your neck. 

When rowing normally you are exerting a pretty even amount of effort across the whole of your body. If you want to specifically work the legs (for biking and running) just focus on stronger pushes.

Want a good arm workout (swimming)? Minimize the push and intentionally pull hard. 

Focus on the core (for every sport) with an exaggerated lean back. 

While these may not be “proper technique” for rowing, it’s a great way to use the rower as a tool for what you want to accomplish. 

Rowing is always a great pair to cycling because it essentially puts you in an opposite position from cycling. Going from the forward lean of aero on the bike to a backward lean of rowing helps rebalance the body and spine alignment.

Low Impact, High Correlation

Like cycling and swimming, rowing is a low impact sport which means the amount you can do before injury is pretty high. 

It’s often said if you want to run well in a triathlon you need to be strong on the bike. I believe rowing is just yet another way to ensure your muscles have the strength they need to push the bike and still run well. 

Rowing can help you build the power you need to climb hills and stay strong on the back half of the run. 

Fitness Through the Burnout

Oftentimes in triathlon because we swim, bike and run so much during the season, by the time winter comes we are done. 

We just want to hang up the bike, throw the shoes away and never swim again. 

Some of this burnout comes from not having an off season and swimming, biking and/or running during the winter. 

Adding rowing into the mix as a winter activity can possibly even prevent the burn out. It gives your mind a break from swim, bike and run. But the correlation, as previously mentioned, being so high means when you come back to triathlon in the spring, the transition will be really easy. 

You will have spent all winter not only staying fit, but continuing to work the primary muscles you use in our sport. 

So, what about you? Have you ever spent time on the rower? Is it something you are ready to try this winter?

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