row2k Features
Best Winter Workouts: Central Catholic High School's Dan Wisniewski
February 3, 2015
Amanda Milad

Zack Weinberg; flickr

Whether it's the notorious Harvard Stadium, a dark stairwell or rickety bleachers (yikes!), stair workouts are practically religion in rowing. In Pittsburgh, the boys of Central Catholic high school are getting their first taste of these brutal workouts in the stairwell of a 42-story building. Junior Dan Wisniewski shares the story of this workout that bonds the team in the winter months.

row2k: What is your favorite winter workout?

Dan Wisniewski: One of the teams' favorite workouts is what we call the "Assault on the Cathedral." This workout begins with our whole team running a quarter mile from our school to the Cathedral of Learning, a 42-story tall campus building at the University of Pittsburgh, with beautiful gothic architecture.

Once we reach the building, we strip down to our running attire, and separate into two groups (the slower and faster guys). We then start running in the narrow stairwells of The Cathedral. It is quite a scene for a college student pulling an all night study session to see 30 high school boys in spandex, running full throttle, drenched in sweat up stairs at 5:30 in the morning.

Our coach, Jay Hammond created a vigorous workout that consists of running three stories up, and two stories down until we reach the top of the building. Then we run four stories down and 3 stories up. This is designed to make the workout as efficient as possible. This part of the workout lasts for 60'.

After we finish the running, the team sprints back to the school and completes the workout with what we call "blasters." These are done in teams of three - varsity rowers mixed with JV and freshmen. We get on the ergs and each member of the team completes 6x(1 min on; 2:45 off) with each rower does 1' on, sharing the erg their two teammates, with a 15" break between each person. The blasters are at full pressure, faster than 2k pace, at a recommended 34 strokes per minute. This part of the workout adds an extra sprint portion in preparation for 2k season after a long steady cardio workout run on the stairs.

row2k: What about this workout makes it a favorite?

DW: This is a tremendous workout as it provides a fantastic chance to get fit. As a team we do a lot of running to give some variety from regular steady state erg pieces. This high-intensity activity is helpful because the body is continuously being lifted upward with every step taken.  This engages far more leg muscles than just running, which makes this quad workout very beneficial for rowers. The following days in school, we can feel the burn with every step we take walking up and down stairs between classes.

Another reason why this workout is so great is because it shows our freshmen what our rowing team is all about. During Saturday practices in the winter, the freshmen join the varsity to work out as one whole squad. We are encouraged to record how far we make it each workout, so that we can try to break our Cathedral Of Learning PR each time we run. This shows the freshmen they are expected to try and break their personal best time/distance every time they start a workout, whether it's running or erging. If the freshmen understand this mindset earlier on they will be a more successful rower.

Additionally it allows the freshmen to meet and build bonds with the whole team. We believe it is important to have a strong and healthy team atmosphere. As rowers get to know each other they learn to trust their boat-mates, and when it comes to the last leg of a race every rower can have full faith in every other oarsman in their boat that they will be sprinting all out in the final 300m.

row2k: How long have you been doing this workout and who introduced it to you - is it an old favorite or new to your repertoire?

DW: I have been doing this workout for three years. Before joining the team I would have never imagined challenging myself to get up in the wee hours of the morning to attack The Cathedral in the pursuit of fitness. I am fortunate enough to have taken full advantage of this wonderful stair running exercise as it was initiated my freshmen year (winter of 2012-2013). Our coaches thought it would be a great idea for stairs to be incorporated into our winter training schedule - and they were absolutely right! The past three years have been some of the most accomplished seasons yet.

row2k: If you could stay fit during the winter by only doing one type of non-erg cross training, what would it be and why?

DW: It would be this workout – it's available all year long!

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