Altering the adrenalin buzz; from rowing to CrossFit training
Fabiana Beltrame is Brazil’s most successful rower ever. She rowed at the international level for over a decade before retiring. Fitness has remained at the core of her life, especially the indoor rowing machine and a room full of heavy duty equipment.
Between 2010 and 2015, Beltrame won a series of World Cup medals (three golds, two bronzes and one silver) in the lightweight women’s single sculls. The 2011 World Championship title in the lightweight single was undoubtedly the highlight of her career.
Beltrame rowed for nearly 20 years and became a three-time Olympian. Every day it was only “rowing, rowing, rowing” she says. “I was tired of training a lot. I was getting tired of training six to seven hours per day.”
Beltrame also wanted to spend more time with her family. “My daughter asked me many times to quit. When she would wake up I would already be training and she wouldn’t see me in the morning. After training I was always tired so didn’t have much energy to play with her,” explains Beltrame. “I loved the rowing life but it was time for me to stop and see life after rowing.”
So Beltrame began the process of transitioning from the life of an elite athlete to one of a normal citizen. “It has been a difficult transition,” she admits. “I always enjoyed competing and traveling to the different events. What I miss most is competing.”
Having a plan for life after rowing is what Beltrame considers most important. “You have to be pretty sure (like I was) that you want to retire. Sometimes people have doubts. You have to be sure you want it. You need to have a goal and go for it. Unfortunately there are a lot of athletes that get depressed, so it is important to have a plan.”
Initially, Beltrame did not have a plan. She did not know what to do or where to work. But one month after giving up rowing, she began to look for a sport that would give her the same adrenaline surge that she got at rowing competitions. “I found CrossFit. Once I started, I fell in love. You get an adrenaline rush every time,” she says.
And what are the CrossFit characteristics that make her so enthusiastic? “It is a very complete activity,” she says. “In CrossFit there are many different movements and training variations, so I love it. I have learnt how to rope climb and do a lot of different things that I was not able to do before.”
Beltrame thinks that if she had discovered CrossFit before, it would have helped her with her rowing. “It has given me a lot of strength and coordination,” she says.
Now, Beltrame is running a CrossFit ‘Box’, or gym, with three other rowers. Together, they named their Box ‘CrossFitFour (CF4x)’. “We are all ex-rowers,” explains Beltrame. “We love rowing and it is part of our history so we wanted to make the connection with rowing and CrossFit. Here in Brazil the ‘four’ is the ‘quadruple sculls’.”
Beltrame has come to see how her past as an elite rower is supporting her in her new life with CrossFit. “As an elite athlete we give our soul in training. We know how to push our bodies to the limit. It is different from a person who doesn’t come from elite sport as they do some exercises and tire very quickly. I come here and give my maximum in order to reach my goals. On the business side I can apply the discipline and the focus that I learnt through rowing.”
And, of course, the indoor rowing machine is a big part of the programme. “We use the ergometer at least once or twice per week,” says Beltrame. “In CrossFit there are a lot of different exercises so we have to vary the workouts. However, all these exercises help rowing on the ergometer. The movements are connected. When I stopped rowing last year I didn’t go on the ergometer for one month but did CrossFit instead.” And as a result she improved her time on the ergometer.
Beltrame has also noticed the difference in how non-rowers approach the indoor rowing machine compared to elite rowers. “For us rowers it is easy to know how to push and put down the power whether the workout distance is 100m, 150m or 1000m. People who come from only CrossFit do not know how to pace the distance and sometimes they push too hard at the beginning and die. Rowers know how to put and maintain the power over the distance/time and repetitions required.”
Instead of six to seven hours of daily training, Beltrame now does one hour of CrossFit six times per week. “I feel good and it is OK. If I don’t do one training session I miss it,” she explains. “Training has been a habit from many years.”
And what about rowing? “My last rowing competition was in November 2016. Since then I have not rowed on the water. Someday, I will again,” she says. In the meantime, she competed and won at a CrossFit indoor rowing race and plans to continue with CrossFit competitions.
Find Beltrame at: http://crossfitfour.com/