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Training, Intensity and Olympic Gold by Kevin Light - CrossFit Journal

In Rowing, Videos

May 26, 2010

Video Article

Kevin Light of B.C., Canada, gave up hockey at 17, and more than a decade later he was rewarded with an Olympic gold medal in the men’s eights rowing event in Beijing, China.

In this video shot at CrossFit East Sacramento during a training session with the Rowing Canada team, Light talks about how he got into rowing, what he eats and how he trains.

Light also talks about intensity and how top rowers have to push their bodies past their limits to achieve new levels of strength, power and endurance. Light may not do CrossFit, but he certainly understands the CrossFit idea that intensity is essential to athletic success.

10min 22sec

Additional reading: What Is an Erg? by Judy Geer, published Aug. 1, 2008.

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20 Comments on “Training, Intensity and Olympic Gold”


wrote …

I just learned a new stretch, sweet.


wrote …

so where do i get the man fights bear tshirt? chocolate milk?


wrote …

Did not seem like his diet was all that great, I am guessing he is not following the Zone.


wrote …


and look...he still won an Olympic Gold!

I'm not a hater, but don't believe in my own (part educated way) that the zone is the only way to athletic excellence.

I once saw a weekly diet for Matt Pinsent, one of the greatest Olympians of all tiem and one of the top two rowers (4 golds in 4 Games). He ate gigantic quantities of bad carbs, including snickers bars, bread, bananas etc.

thanks for the video Crossfit - love hearing how the very top athletes train


wrote …

I'm with you Nick - the Zone is an awesome approach, but not a magic athleticism bullet. Would be an interesting test though - how would it impact Michael Phelps if he shifted from his massively carbohydrated 12,000 kcal/day diet (going by memory) and shifted to an athlete's zone? We'll never know but short term, long term, I'll bet he would recover faster and last longer ...


wrote …

I am extremely part educated, just found it interesting that he based his diet around chocolate milk. If I did that I would look like a cow...LOL
I would guess when you are at his level and train as much and as often as he does that you need to just get as many calories in as you can. If he has nutritionist I am sure he know what he is doing.

Very interesting interview though, that stretch looked tough. What was he stretching?


wrote …

I agree Steve - I think that's it. If you're training 4 times a day, maybe your body forgives the intake and there's an element of just consuming the calories. I remember the sprinter Michael Johnson saying he ate a burger and fries most days and always as his pre race meal.

I follow a pseudo paleo diet (a little dairy and red wine most nights!) and there's no way I could get close to the required energy levels without eating about 500 nuts a day.

In counter to my earlier point about Pinsent, his rowing partner Steve Redgrave, THE greatest rower and maybe greatest Olympian of all time - 5 games, 5 events, 5 golds - now is a diabetic so maybe that many bad calories over 20+ years has damaged him - although maybe it's training 18 times a week for so long that did it?

Steve, that stretch did look super tough didn't it?

either way, love listening and learning from truly elite sportspeople.


wrote …

It appears the only fruit he consumes are bananas and not a single vegetable.


wrote …

How many calories do you think one utilizes with a Crossfit warmup and say a Fran WOD? Big difference I believe than the type of workouts these guys or Michael Phelps are doing. Paleo diet would not work for them.


wrote …

There was an article the other day in the newspaper about chocolate milk. They did studies on a swimming team that where doing 2 swimming workout a day and one conditioning workout. They figured out that the performance of the athletes increased in the afternoon when they were taking chocolate milk after the first swim in the morning. The ratio of carbohydrate and protein in the chocolate milk is really well balance. It's also a very easy and tasteful way to get energy and protein.

Like nick said, Zone and Paleo are not the only diet in the world that works. I'm pretty sure that most of the Olympic athletes don’t even know Zone diet.


wrote …

Quads, hip flexors eventually if you can sit up high enough...he is pretty tight...the super flexible can sit up with their backs completely against the wall...


replied to comment from Aushion Chatman

Agreed on the quad tightness, but he is a specialist that does insane amounts of quad contraction/leg extension. Same issue with diet as is with the lack of quad/hip flexor ROM... serves his situation well, but he may pay for it later on if he keeps the same habits minus the training.


wrote …

Didn't it mention in the zone book that some olympic swimmers in '92 and '96 were on the zone?

If chocolate milk does wonders, imagine what balanced sugar free snack would do!!

Instead of bumping your calories with sugar, would things like egg whites+milk+oil work? Wouldn't taste as good, so perhaps its also a mental thing. A positive and happy athlete will train/compete better


wrote …

So....shall we all try a Gallon of Chocolate Milk a Day diet?


wrote …

I too am a Canadian and former Olympian (volleyball 1992). When I was playing I ate about 6,000 calories per day and about 75% of it was from pasta or rice. Now I follow a paleo + dairy diet and at 48 years old I am stronger in many ways than I was at 25. I don't get sick and my blood pressure and blood chemistry are like a child's. If I could change one thing about the past it would be my diet. I met a number of athletes from different sports over the years and I always thought we trained as hard or harder than anybody, but when I met our rowers in 1992 I knew they were the fittest people I had ever met.


wrote …

Says this is part 3, are we going to get the 2 parts that come before?


wrote …


Thanks for sharing a unique perspective.

From your experience, do you think you could have pulled off a paleo type diet back then? Were you on your own for food, or was it provided/regimented by the team?


thanks for a great series giving a peek into the elite levels of the great sport of rowing.


wrote …

Sorry about unqualified link above,

It is a WFS promo clip of Canadian Rowing. There are some great shots on water and on land.


wrote …

Hey Sean #1 you didn't learn a new stretch ! and as a personal trainer I would have been mortified to have one of my athletes on camera contorting himself like that trying to stretch his hip flexor's.
Im sure he has got stiff hips but he has obviosly not been taught the stretch correctly.
To do it porperly his back foot should be on a short box or med ball with the front foot out in front in a lunge position, then you slowly raise your body upright trying to keep the hips forward and trying to squeeze the glute on the kneeling side.
What was the team doing in a crossfit gym anyway ? It would have been much more interesting to see them doing a wod than the lame routine their trainer was putting them through. After all crossfit is perfect for eleite rowers.

Also why would we expect to see anything less from their eating habits. They all have mainstream nutritionists pushing the low fat high carb approach so they don't know any better and if any one of them did suggest the team taking on a paleo or even a zone diet their nutrtionist would be immediatly be into brainwashing them with the usual 'you will die of a heart attack on that diet' nonsense.

Never assume, just because they are elite athletes that they are getting the best advise or are on optimal programming. Unfortunatly crossfits ideas on nutrition are far from mainsteam yet, lets hope for their benifit we can have an impact sooner rather than later.


replied to comment from Kevin B Sandberg

Kevin - I ate at home. I ate well for the time, but it was very high carb. We trained 6 hours per day so I needed to eat a great deal of food to get through the day. It always seemed like it was not enough. I believe that had I eaten more fat and protein I might not have been on the verge of illness all the time. While I can not go back and relive that experience using a different diet, my children are eating paleo and I suspect they will be very good athletes. Their experience will be a good test.


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