A few years ago, while training for rowing in college, I realized that one corner of campus had pretty much everything you would ever need to complete really hard workouts of almost any variety. And every grueling workout that I performed in school took place in one spot (or multiple spots) on this corner. Naturally, one part of this corner was the boathouse—a room filled with over fifty rowing machines, a weight room, and, of course, all the boats. Across the street was a half-mile hill; this is my favorite hill in the world—it is a perfect distance and perfect incline in my mind. Not too long but long enough to make it an aerobic effort and not too steep that you can’t run decently fast the whole time. Five times up this hill and your legs are jello. I’ve never biked up this hill just for the sake of a workout (unfortunately I did have to bike up to campus this way when I definitely I had no interest in another workout), but the cycling club would do it ten times as fast as they could.
The last area of this corner was always my favorite cross training workout: the stadium. We would usually head over as a team to run up all the steps of all the sections once a week in the fall. It is one of the best ways I know to get in a really good workout in a very short amount of time. Not that tired? Go faster. We always recorded the time it took for us to go up and down each section (there were 18 full ones and 6 half ones) and tried to beat it each week. At the top of every section, your lungs burn and your legs start feeling a bit numb. But then you recover as you go down and are ready to go again—or at least feeling a little better than you were at the top of the previous section. Another twist is to do pushups, situps, squats, or some other core exercise in between sections. You will definitely feel that the next day. I still try to do stadiums once a week and usually manage to drag some friends or family members with me. Brunch afterwards always feels well deserved! Sometimes it takes a little while for you to get hungry and for your legs to stop shaking…
If hills sprints, rowing, or stadiums alone aren’t a hard enough workout, here are some of the hardest workouts I have ever done in my life:
Erg + stadium run: My team did this workout the week before the big 2000m erg competition that we trained for all winter. Don’t plan to do anything productive for the rest of the day after this one. I remember attempting to do schoolwork later in the day and being forced to give up and take a nap, or at least lie in bed for a good two hours until dinner.
-1500m erg, then 500m erg with 5 minutes rest in between. Go as fast as possible, but try and hold even splits throughout the workout (this is not a “fly and die” erg workout). If anything, do the 500m at a faster split than the 1500, like a final sprint.
-1.5 or 2 times around the stadium. Also as fast as you can, although you will have to pace yourself for this one. Our stadium took a little over 20 minutes to go around once (it was pretty small for a stadium), so this ended up being 30-45 minutes of stadium running. If you are running up stairs or your stadium has single steps (like ours did), take the steps two at a time. Push as hard as you can on the way up and then go slower on the way down to get the best workout.
Triathlon – boathouse style: The entire boathouse (men and women) did this workout every year, the last day before everyone left for winter break. It always one of my favorite workouts, but I don’t think too many people shared that sentiment… Part of what made this workout so fun was that so many people did it at the same time. We had about 150 people on the rowing teams, so we even had to have two waves of the triathlon. If you attempt it, try and gather friends to join. Friendly competition is always fun as well. Try and make the transitions as quickly as possible! Coaches and coxswains would keep track of everyone’s times and then send out the results by the end of the day.
-400yd swim. If I were to do this workout again, I might make the swim a little longer. We had very few lanes in the pool and there were often 12+ people swimming at different speeds, so it always got very chaotic.
-Stadium run. We ran from the pool to the stadium next door, often pulling on clothes along the way. Once again, this is a smaller stadium, so if yours is bigger, you don’t have to do every single section.
–5000m erg. This was a short run back to the boathouse (about 5 minutes) and a sprint up the stairs into the erg room. All the ergs would be set to time a 5000 meter test, so we would just sit down and go.
I am visiting family in the area for a few days and took advantage of all the workout options! Hill sprints yesterday and stadiums this morning. I might have to take it a bit easier tomorrow…