Justin Farina is a high school physical education teacher from Sarnia, Ontario, Canada with a Bachelor of Science degree from Miami University (Ohio) and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Windsor (Ontario). He played Division I baseball while at Miami and competed in shot put at Windsor. Justin is a multiple SkiErg world record holder in the men’s 30-39 division and participates in virtual competitions and challenges on both the Concept2 Indoor Rower and SkiErg. He runs an online coaching platform GARAGEATHLETE using all three Concept2 products.
When did you first hear the name Concept2 or try one of our products?
I started CrossFit in 2005, and that is probably the first time I ever heard mention of the Concept2 indoor rowing machine. I think I remember reading about it in the early CrossFit Journal article “The Garage Gym" by Coach Greg Glassman.
Do you remember your first workout on a Concept2 machine?
My earliest memory of a workout involving the indoor rower was the following CrossFit main site WOD: 10 rounds for time of 250m row and 25 bench press reps at 95 lbs. The rowing machine at my gym at the time was located on the second floor, so walking up and down the stairs to the free weight area to bench was not enjoyable, and I remember the bench being the easy part of the workout!
Which Concept2 products do you use? How do they enhance your training?
In 2015, I started focusing more of my training towards improving performance on the indoor rower. Cam Nichol (Rowing WOD) had just launched his programme, and it got me hooked. All of a sudden I started using the machine as an engine-building tool instead of just an occasional calorie counter in a WOD. Cam really opened my eyes to just how powerful a machine it truly is. It was the numbers that really got me. Understanding the relationship between stroke rate and pace, chasing split targets, analyzing session results... it is so motivating!
After that, I discovered an entire online community. Victoria Ashton-Taylor (Team ESPRIT) introduced me to the Cross Team Challenge. And as a member of Fitness Matters, I have had an opportunity to learn from another experienced coach, Sam Blythe. Since then, I have added the SkiErg (in 2017), and now the BikeErg as well. Although I row most often, the SkiErg is my favourite.
My training has changed dramatically since shifting my focus to specializing on the ergs. I was never an endurance athlete growing up, but I guess now it’s safe to say I have become one. These machines allow me to train AND compete without leaving home, allowing me to balance my athletic life with a busy family and work life.
How do you incorporate Concept2 equipment into your training?
It’s a balancing act. The bulk of my training is done on the rowing machine and SkiErg, as those two machines are used in online competitions. When I am in peak training mode, I’ll be on the indoor rower 4-5x/week, the SkiErg 3-4x/week, and the BikeErg 2-3x/week. Most of these sessions are focused efforts on each machine, and a few times a week I’ll incorporate one (or more) machines in a mixed-modal GPP (General Physical Preparedness) training session. I still try and add in some strength work and classic CrossFit workouts as well.
What’s your go-to workout?
I love a good stroke rate ladder or stroke rate pyramid. Something simple like a 5000m ski with rate changes every 1000m as follows: 40/42/44/42/40. With a start target around 2k pace +18-20 seconds, the goal is to increase pace by 2-3 seconds with each rate increase up, and then reverse going back down the pyramid.
I also love variable intervals. One of my favourites is:
Start ~2k pace and try and increase speed on each rep.
We’d love to hear a quick story that involves Concept2 equipment–a motivational, funny, or learning moment...
I happen to teach at a school with a lot of special needs students, some of whom lack the motivation to get involved in PE class. I was able to purchase two indoor rowing machines and a SkiErg this past year and I introduced them to the Fish Game. Some of the “laziest” students all of a sudden became all-stars! It’s hard to keep them off the ergs now.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone hopping on Concept2 equipment for the first time?
There are no shortcuts. Be patient. The movements can feel complicated at first, and the monitor looks overwhelmingly complex. Take your time developing proper technique. Use the resources available online (Concept2 website, YouTube, various Instagram athlete and coach accounts) in conjunction with some play/practice until you get a feel for how the machine and monitor function, and how to get the most out of your training.
What trainers or athletes do you look up to?
Two individuals immediately stand out: Graham Benton and Jonas Nielsen. Graham is an athlete I have admired since I first got involved in indoor rowing. I saw a clip of one of his many World Championships, and some of his training session screenshots, and was immediately a fan. Jonas is the only man to go sub 16 on a SkiErg for 5k, and a huge influence on the ski technique I use and teach.
Coaches that I look up to and that inspire my own coaching include Cam Nichol, Sam Blythe, Rob Carson, Jane Erbacher and Shane Farmer.
And of course, all of my GARAGEATHLETE online athletes! They inspire and motivate me every single day.
What or who inspires you to keep going?
Competing in the C2CTC, chasing records, the challenge of online competitions like Row’d Royalty or the Tour De SkiErg. Concept2 has given me a sport, so the motivation to win keeps me going.
My three young sons (Noah, Isaiah, and River) inspire me as well. Seeing them play around on the machines is a great reminder that the work I put in every day is worth it, as it is having a positive impact on their growth and development.
What’s your favorite workout music?
Electronic music improves performance on the ergs, so EDM always.