2016 Concept2 Skeleton Crew Challenge

Skeleton Crew Challenge today through Halloween

skeleton-2016webJoin me today, October 25, in the seat of your Concept2 Indoor Rower or standing astride your SkiErg, through Halloween October 31st, as we pull 31,000 meters in honor of all the candy and alcohol you’ll be consuming at all the Halloween parties and hand-outs you’ll be attending over the next six days.  

While 31 kilometers on their erg is nothing, the Skeleton Crew Challenge is an awesome first step towards rowing for distance and rowing for meters instead of rowing for power or speed.

Rowing for meters can even allow you to knock out meters while you’re knocking out your Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix queue.

If you think about it, it’s really only 19.2625 miles, divided by 6, only 3.21041666667 miles/day or 5166.66666667 meters/day.

Easy peasy.  

Good luck and here are all the deets!

Sharita Jennings joins ROWViGOR as coach of the Express class

Sharita Jennings joins ROWViGOR as indoor rowing coach

Here’s the latest update from pop-up indoor rowing studio, ROWViGOR:

ROWViGOR Indoor Rowing Coach Sharita Jennings

Coach Sharita Jennings

“I would like to introduce our newest Coach Sharita!  Sharita will be teaching a special Express Class in the mornings at 7:15.  Express is a 30 minute workout that combines upbeat movements with our signature erg-based exercises designed to get your heart pumping for those with limited time before work.  We will be releasing the weekday schedule for the Express Class soon but in the meantime here is a little bit about the newest member of our team:”

“Sharita is a self-proclaimed “fitness extraordinaire” dedicated to motivating everyone to get active and coming up with endless ways to make fitness fun! Sharita teaches everything from strength conditioning to high intensity interval training classes. She’s also a trainer with The North Face Mountain Athletics, helping people prepare for their next big adventure through community workouts. On top of all that, Sharita runs a fitness blog at GetFitLikeThat.com and she contributes to various online fitness publications like ActiveLifeDC and BlackDoctor.org.”

“Help us in welcoming Sharita to the team!”

Row Vigor Logo“Your ROWViGOR Team”

“Web: http://www.rowvigor.com/
“Email: support@rowvigor.com
“Phone: (877) 410-2481

Coach Morgan McGovern ROWViGOR

ROWViGOR adds US National Rowing Team member Morgan McGovern as trainer through October

Row Vigor LogoI just received this note from my friends at ROWViGOR:

It is our pleasure to introduce you to our newest Coach Morgan McGovern. Morgan is perhaps the coolest person we know – she is a member of the US National Rowing Team, a graduate of Georgetown, All-American and  oh yeah she speaks Somali.  

Morgan will be teaching our most challenging class yet called ‘The Guantlet’.  This class will be focused on those who are, or have been, competitive rowers or those just looking for a challenge.  Unfortunately Morgan will only be with us until the end of October so book your class with this superstar Coach now!

2016 Concept2 Fall Team Challenge

Fall Team Challenge day two of 30

I have fallen off the horse big time. In fact, in Reddit’s Fitness subreddit, redditors are so sick of people like me. I’ve had a terrible failure to launch.  Joining 9Round, XSport Express, and even Concept 2 Rowing Plan by Fitness Matters, didn’t do the trick so far. My excuse? I’m too weak! I’ve gone to ground!

slowrowSo, my plan is as follows: row as many slow meters as I can over the rest of the Concept2 Fall Team Challenge. So, last night, while I was watching so many hours of Captain America: Civil War, I pulled a slow 2:45 to 2:50 or so row for as long as I wanted, then stopped, relaxed, drank some water, and then sat down and got back to it.

I don’t have any more to report because I would like to spend more of my time rowing than writing blog posts about rowing. I’ll report more on my CSA, my diet, my changes, my goals, and my lifestyle in general.


I just walked across the African Continent

28381183844_653b45e294_bSo, I had been really slowing down on steps in my constant war towards defeating sedentarism towards my 10,000 steps-per-day but I blame my FitBit Surge. So, I figured out if you can run two FitBit devices concurrently. The answer is yes so I bought a cheap FitBit Zip from eBay for like $35 and set it up and now the steps are coming back like crazy. Even though I feel like my Surge is seriously glitching all over the place with its shitty interpretation of my sleep and my treadmill steps, I understand that my arms are pretty stable as I work from my treadmill desk (as I am doing right now as I write this). So, the steps are returning en masse and I was almost instantly rewarded by FitBit Mail with an email entitled Congrats on earning your Africa badge!, ”

Staggering! You’ve earned the Africa badge

It’s a jungle out there, but that’s not stopping you—because at 5,000 lifetime miles, you’ve walked the entire length of Africa! If that’s not a reason to go bananas, we don’t know what is.


It’s the simple things in life, I tell ya!

FitBit Surge Plus FitBit Zip

FitBit Surge gypped me on steps so I added a Zip

14251534834_f80b6f9c4f_oI do most of all of my daily steps on my LifeSpan Treadmill Desk DT-5. Since I am working on this desk all day, I am oftentimes leaning over a little, putting pressure on the built-in arms pads with my arms, and typing, typing, typing, isolating my movements so that I can focus on writing emails, contracts, proposals and hours client service work.  

9296076444_5191c574e5_oIt all used to work just fine, until recently. In the last months my FitBit Surge stopped logging my sleep accurately and it also never recorded more than 1,700-4,500 or so steps-day even though I’ve been working on the treadmill for hours all day long.

So, I assumed that FitBit changed its algorithm.

28895504532_5e42239b11_bFor a while these updates were good as my FitBit stopped recording my motorcycle trips as steps.

But now, my wrist-mounted FitBit Surge doesn’t record my treadmill steps well at all.

28381183844_653b45e294_bSo, I went onto eBay and bought a brand new FitBit Zip for super-cheap, added it to my FitBit devices (apparently the FitBit app can support multiple devices now — great news!), and all of a sudden I have so many more steps (and it’s not even ten AM this morning).  

So, I have things sorted.

PS: if FitBit reads this, yes, I have already done a couple hard restarts on the Surge it and it hasn’t helped the surge at all. 

Row Vigor popup Indoor Rowing classes in Arlington, Virginia

RowVigor drives me harder than I can myself

I'm the dude rowing

I’m the dude rowing

I own a Concept2 Model C indoor rower and I love it . . . though I only seem to be using it during official Concept2 Online Challenges. When I am responsible to my virtual team, Team Grotto, or to a challenge certificate and mug, then I put in time on the erg. But other than that, it just sits there. 

Last week, I heard about a pop up indoor rowing class called Row Vigor that uses the Concept2 rowing ergometer that opened up over at Saffron Dance on Wilson.

I not only signed up for a free class to try it out but also paid to take a class with my friend Betsy, someone who thinks indoor rowing is the most stultifying thing in the world (spoiler: she still does).

Fola Awosika is an awesome rowing coach, though he’s from a football background rather than from rowing, college crew, or whatnot. That said, he’s form’s perfect, even in a world where CrossFit rowers have given up perfect form for quick 500 meter times. 

Head coach Fola Awosika

Head coach Fola Awosika

If you have ever spent any time on the Concept2 or have rowed at any point in the past and feel confident with your form then you should skip the Foundations class and go straight for the To the Core class if you want to mix up a ladder workout on the erg with some serious core work on the supplied mat. That’s the class that Betsy and I took and while I enjoyed it, I surely would have preferred an all-rowing workout, maybe Erg Flow, described as “stroke form and rhythm are key to an efficient rower whether on the water or on the erg. Increase muscular strength, stamina and mobility while perfecting you optimal form and cadence using erg flow.”

Even though I own my own Model B Concept2 Indoor Rower with a PM4 upgrade, even though I receive the Concept2 WOD every morning, and even though I have so much incentive to spend as much time as possible on my rowing machine in order to drop the 68 pounds separating me from Potomac Boat Club‘s Maas 24s and the 83 pounds between me and my carbon fiber Hudson heavyweight single, I am still a terrible coach to myself and need the extra push from accountability, from being driven, from pleasing a community or a coach. 

And between Concept2 Online Challenges, especially during the Summer months, without the support of the challenges’ goals or the expectations of my virtual team, Team Grotto, I don’t spend any time on the rower. 

Row Vigor Logo

So, I will keep on attending Fola Awosika’s classes as often as I can afford (they’re expensive at $30.00 per class, 5 classes for $140.00, or 10 classes for $260.00, with no all-you-can-eat member levels or other promotions so far).

Fitness Matters Indoor Rowing LogoUntil then I am looking at taking my casual relationship with the Concept 2 Rowing Hub by Fitness Matters to a more formal relationship with subscribing to their £21.50/month Fitness Matters Rowing Plan. When you pay, you get a weekly custom workout plan and access to a community of indoor rowers. And, since you need to log all your workouts, you’re accountable to both coach Sam Blythe and the 61 members of the closed Facebook GroupConcept 2 Rowing Plan by Fitness Matters.

I’ll let you know how it goes. I am feeling like the combination of Xsport Fitness, 9Round, Row Vigor, some Pacers Running 5ks, Concept2 Online Challenges, my treadmill desk, and the Fitness Matters Rowing Plan, I should be covered! Oh, yes, and my kettlebells and better nutrition and portion control, of course. 

9Round Penrose Studio Gym

9Round is for everyone — I need to remember that

Chris Abraham at 9Round Fitness GymI had been under the weather for upwards of two months with Sinusitis. Even before that, I had been suffering from some sciatica and lumbago back pain. As a result. I started to avoid 9Round. And once I started not spending a measly 30-minutes-a-day doing the rounds at 9Round Penrose, I stopped.

The exact thing that made 9Round so wonderful to me: its convenience to where I live, its efficiency in that I always get a full-body HIIT workout in only 30-minutes, that I never have to schedule for a workout as can always cycle-in to a 9Round after waiting for a max of only 3-minutes, and the fact that every 9Round has a dedicated personal trainer to cover a maximum of nine people at any one time — and sometimes, if you come in off-hours, you can share your 9Round trainer with only a couple other 9Rounders.

So, I forgot everything!

Chris Abraham with wrist wraps at 9Round PenroseI started to become intimidated and afraid of 9Round, forgetting that no matter where I am health- or fitness-wise, my 9Round coach can always adapt my workout so that I can get through at least a few really  awesome rounds — all without making it a big deal in front of the other 9Rounders, who are all actually just paying attention to their own ass-kicking but well-adapted-to-them workouts.

I don’t know what happened but I forgot all of that until I recently read this Facebook post from 9Round NOVA that reminded me what 9Round is all about:

Do I need to be in shape before I start 9Round?
“Absolutely not. We love taking clients that have never worked out and getting them in the best shape of their life. Our trainers will customize your workout to fit for your fitness level. Some members start by doing 4 or 5 rounds and work up to all 9.”

Do I need any Kickboxing experience?
“No. In fact, we love teaching new members. That’s our job. Our trainers will stay with you every step of the way to ensure you are doing the techniques properly.”

Cleto Reyes professional training gloves for 9Round9Round might be totally kickass and allow me to kick, punch, elbow, and knee kickboxing bags while sporting bright red wrist wraps and bright yellow Cleto Reyes bag gloves, but it’s only as hard, complex, difficult, or challenging as you need at the moment. Are your knees sort today?

Your 9Round coach with adapt. Having inner-ear issues? Your 9Round coach will try to minimize your dizziness, vertigo or imbalance — seriously, coach and 9Round Nova and 9Round Penrose owner Rob Graveline was my trainer last night and, after I told him about my two-month chronic sinusitis journey, he did a diagnosis on me and even wanted to tailor my workout to try to keep me from messing with my inner-ear.

I really needed the reminder even though I knew and know better.

Rowing with ryan reynoldsI used to be a high school wrestler, a college rower, and ran, lifted weights, bicycled, and sculled a lot over the last 23-years. So, I feel so much debilitating shame and embarrassment when I am upwards of 80-lbs too heavy, when my knees and back and neck have cricks in them, when my trusty kettlebells, erg, TRX straps, and treadmill desk go underused. 

And so those feelings just beget more of those feelings that result in even more degrading of my mobility, flexibility, agility, and capability. 

And I should never blame 9Round for any of that because they’re more than willing to work with me no matter what my state. They know, for a fact, that the more weight I lose the less my knees will hurt, the higher I can get my heart rate over time the healthier my heart will be, the stronger the muscles around my knees and back and shoulders and abs are the less likely those kinks will flare into sciatica.

Chris Abraham at 9Round PenroseAnd yes, there are always sports injuries, but I can deal with those. And, even if and when I suffer from those, I know that Rob “Big Daddy Thunder” Graveline and his team will even make sure I get a pretty sweet workout even around my injury.

I am sorry it’s taken me months to remember something that I knew from the very beginning but it’s an essential thing to remember about why I chose 9Round instead of CrossFit or classes or the gym: the 9Round touch. Let me remind both of us again:

9Round loves taking clients that have never worked out and getting them in the best shape of their life. Our trainers will customize your workout to fit for your fitness level.

My lovely friends, please remind me of this every time I forget. Thanks in advance!

Coach Fola Awosika Row Vigor

Arlington now has RowVigor studio

rowing in green shoes on my concept2 indoor rowerThis morning I met with coach Fola Awosika of Row Vigor for my Foundations class. I was the only one in the class so I got to spend some great time chatting with Fola about Row Vigor. Fola quickly discovered that I have been rowing and erging since 1988 so he gave me back my free credit for another class such as To The Core, Heart-to-Heart, or Erg Flow. Currently, RowVigor is a pop up studio attached to the Saffron Dance studio at 3260 Wilson Blvd in North Arlington, VA.  


To the Core: Keep your abdominals in beach-ready form all year around. Sculpt, shape, shred with these hardcore functional movements. Reduce lower back pain and stiffness and tighten up your core simultaneously.

Heart-to-Heart: This is the ultimate in cardiovascular fitness. An array of cutting-edge rowing concepts produce an extremely challenging, calorie burning, kick butt class. Prepare to be totally drenched and exhilarated all while training the most important muscle of all, your heart.

Erg Flow: Stroke form and rhythm are key to an efficient rower whether on the water or on the erg. Increase muscular strength, stamina and mobility while perfecting you optimal form and cadence using erg flow.

Foundations: This is a required first class for any student new to ROWViGOR™. ‘Foundations’ introduces new students to the indoor erg with proper form. This class will help you gain confidence to create your most effective and efficient workout.

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chris Abraham Lat Pulldowns

Building muscle for rowing

2016-07-31 21.20.51I’ve actually worked How to Build Muscle for Rowing Review into my workout.  The workout is very simple: seven machine-based workouts, four on one day, skip a day, three on the other. I started out with Betsy at the King Street XSport Fitness so that I could get my max weight sorted out as a baseline: leg press: 240lbs, chest press: 110lbs, lat pulldown: 120lbs, ab crunch machine: 70lbs; then, shoulder press: 55lbs, bicep curls: 90lbs, and triceps extensions: 70lbs. So, that’s the baseline.  I’m starting slow as I haven’t been weight training a lot in a couple-few years. But I am recovering quickly — very quickly.

Here are my numbers so far — I’m working out at my local XSport Express:

Date Exercise Weight Reps Sets
Leg Chest Lats Abs Day
7/26/2016 Leg Press 240 8 3
7/26/2016 Chest Press 110 8 3
7/26/2016 Lat Pulldown 120 8 3
7/26/2016 Crunch Machine 70 8 3
Shoulder Bicep Triceps Day
7/29/2016 Shoulder Press 55 8 3
7/29/2016 Bicep Curls 90 8 3
7/29/2016 Triceps Extension 70 8 3
Leg Chest Lats Abs Day
7/31/2016 Leg Press 240 10 3
7/31/2016 Chest Press 110 10 3
7/31/2016 Lat Pulldown 120 10 3
7/31/2016 Crunch Machine 70 10 3

How to Build Muscle for Rowing Book CoverThe program is interesting: 6 weeks of the Build Phase, 4 weeks of the Fail Phase, and then 2 weeks of recovery. The Build Phase should have 12 sessions and a maximum of 18 workouts. Each session is defined by the book: first session, 8 reps of max weight for three sets.

Session 2, the one I am in, says, “using your ten repetition maximum, complete 3 sets of 8. But this time, try to exceed 8 repetitions per set and stop when you reach failure. Rest for 60-seconds between each set.”

Session 3 will be even weirder, “using your ten repetition maximum, complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions. But this time, try to exceed 10 repetitions per set and stop when you reach failure. Rest for 60-seconds between each set.” 

To move on from session 2 — which I feel like I can already do — I need to do 30 reps total per each exercise and to move on from session 3 I need to complete a total of 36 reps for per each exercise set. Get it? It’s incrementally progressive.  I feel like when I did my max weight last week my muscles weren’t warmed up so the lifting is easy this week; however, the way the system works, it speeds up if the weight’s not challenging enough, and it backs off if you’re struggling. 

And if you fail to “pass” your session, you repeat it again until you pass, which means this system isn’t going to hockey-stick, where the weight gets added and compounds until you’re lifting the equivalent density of a collapsed star or white dwarf. 

Once you hit the Fail Phase, you no longer track your track your sets and reps. Instead, you lift until you can no longer move the weight. Then you’ll decrease the weight and keep on lifting until you can move almost no weight at all. Total spaghetti arms and legs those four weeks!

Then, the Rest Phase is simple: do no resistance training at all for two weeks (this phase is not optional, though keep up with protein supplementation)

2016-07-29 21.26.38Believe it or not, the workout includes drink 20-25 grams of protein or more within a half-hour of the workout, so I have been doing that with Muscle Milk that I get at the XSport Fitness fridge; that said, I will be moving over to a milk+whey protein+creatine mix right after I pick up some sort of milk. I’ll vary between soy, almond, rich, and cow’s milk. 

Now that I am no longer sort after these very short weightlifting sessions, I shall add some serious cardio to the mix, adding rows in my Concept2 Indoor Rower, adding runs around the neighborhood to see if I can get my mad-slow but reliable 3-5-mile jogs back into the mix (at an aspiration 12:00-13:00 pace, especially in this heat).

2016-07-26 20.14.01I will also start today with the kettlebell swinging I had promised myself and you I would be doing, taken from the pages of Get Fit, Get Fierce with Kettlebell Swings: swinging a kettlebell for 90-seconds every 60-minutes all day long.  

Starting with a blue 12kg bell I will set my GymBoss MiniMax for the workout and then stop what I’m doing every hour to two hand swings for a minute.  One mistake I did make before that I won’t make again: don’t swing your kettlebells without stretching your body.

Even though you’re only doing work for 60-seconds, you really should cool down and stretch for a couple minutes out of the hour. So, give yourself a good 5-7 minutes around that 60-seconds of intense kettlebell work to cool down gracefully so that you don’t seize up — it’s happened to me.