Run to improve your rowing
So we know just how great the benefits are of using a rowing machine - but remember, there are other activities that will do things a rower can't. For one, rowing is not a full weight-bearing exercise so cannot help with maintaining bone density in a way that walking or running can.
So I recommend running at least twice a week to complement your rowing workout routine.
I've written much about running technique in my book, The Peak Performance Zone, but here I'll focus on one aspect - heel vs ball of foot.
It's the question I get asked more than any other: Should I land on my heel on the forefoot (ball)?
I'm surprised this is still up for debate in the running world, as far as I'm concerned it's obvious!
It has to be the... THE FOREFOOT - or at the very least, much further up the foot than the heel. The actual part of the foot that lands first depends on your speed, running shoe, size of your foot, and the terrain.
So why am I so sure, when there are still many coaches that will say heel strike is best.
a) Is the front of your foot lower?
If your lower leg is relaxed, your forefoot will be lower than your heel. So when running and your foot comes off the ground, a relaxed lower leg will mean your foot will come back down in this position and therefore land on the forefoot.
I'll come to the benefits from both a performance and physiological viewpoint in a moment.
b) Is your foot level?
If your foot is level, your calf muscles are contracting and holding your foot in the horizontal position. Now imagine landing with a level foot and tight calf - wouldn't be too comfortable would it.
c) If your heel is lower - you really need to learn to relax :0)
Heel vs Forefoot Test
If I asked you to jump off a chair and land on both feet - which position of the foot would you choose? It has to be on the ball of the foot - imagine landing on the heels, ouch!
You may say that when running, you don't land from the same height - and of course you'll be right. But you can place anything from two times, to ten times your body weight through the landing foot.
Heel Strike? No, no, no!
To land on the heel, you first have to tighten the calf muscles, and then land with the foot in front of your body with a straight leg. The result?
The only time I'd consider landing on the heel is during a long run. If you suffer from cramp in the leg muscles, there seems to be some benefit in alternating to a heel strike for a few strides every mile or so. The theory goes, by changing the rhythm and muscles used, can prevent cramping for distance runners.
But I stress, it's just for short periods!
Advantages of the Forefoot
Basically, this is the reverse of all the disadvantages of the heel mentioned above. But don't try to land on the ball by pointing your foot down - this only adds tension where it's not needed.
To land on the ball, just keep your ankles relaxed - when your foot comes up from the floor it will naturally tilt forward (as in the 'TRY THIS' example above). You'll then land in the right place.
In the case of (3) above, you'll also hear the argument that landing on the heel will increase stride length. The idea is that by kicking out you leg, it will land further in front and therefore be a longer step. This is true, but then you'll land heavily on your heel and suffer all the disadvantages mentioned earlier - you may take fewer strides over distance, but at a greater cost to your joints.
Well that's my view - have your say below.
Roy Palmer is an athletics coach, teacher of The Alexander Technique and a rowing fanatic.