How to Survive Winter Training: Rowers

Winter training is rarely something rowers look forward to. To them it means four to five months of running, erging, pain, burnout, stress, boredom, monotony, and frequent questioning of why you participate in a sport that makes you so damn miserable. Unless you live in a warm and sunny locale, you’ve most likely started the process of closing up your boathouse for the winter and begun the transition indoors. The question that now arises is “how am I going to survive until March?”

Have a positive attitude

I will be the first to admit that when someone tells me to be or stay positive, I want to hit them with the nearest blunt object within arms reach. It sounds SO cliche, right? “Be positive!” What is there to be positive about? Well … that’s up to you. Going into winter training you can either have a negative attitude and drudge through everything because “it’s what you’re supposed to do” or you can look at things positively. Find out what makes you look on the bright side and make that your focus. Attitude is everything. Your attitude at the beginning of the winter training season is going to decide how successful you are over the next several months. Besides, what did being negative ever get anyone?

Set goals

You’ve got at least four months of running, lifting, and erging ahead of you – having goals for each aspect of your winter training is going to give you something to work towards besides the umbrella goal of getting stronger for the spring season. When setting your goals, think about the short term and the long term. Think of things you want to accomplish by the end of the week, by the end of two weeks, by the end of the month, in two months, in three months, and by the end of winter training. Write them down and keep them somewhere visible – either on the mirror in your bathroom, as the background on your phone or laptop, on your refrigerator, etc.

Take some time off

Everybody needs a break. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or not as “into it” as everyone else. Be your own advocate and know when you’re putting too much stress on your body. If you can, don’t jump straight into winter training from the fall season. Take a week off to relax, recover, get caught up on school work, make that doctor’s appointment you haven’t had time to make, etc.

The key to taking time off though is knowing when that time is up. If you say you’re going to take a three day break, make sure it’s three days and not four. Plan ahead! If your team’s winter training starts on November 26th, circle it on your calendar and be ready for it.

Do something fun with your team

What better way to start off your winter training season than with a team activity? Something like a triathlon, perhaps? Remember what #1 said … attitude is everything. If you go into winter training pumped and excited with the rest of your teammates, that enthusiasm is going to carry over throughout the season. Come up with something fun that your team can do together – not just the men, not just the women, not just the varsity, and not just the novices – the WHOLE team. Think of it as one big team bonding smorgasbord of fun. Some ideas include a team triathlon, an ergathon, a team dinner or potluck, a rowing related scavenger hunt, etc. Let your minds run wild.


Most coaches will give their teams some kind of workout plan/schedule to follow throughout the winter. Sometimes they tell you to just make sure you do something over the winter that doesn’t involve Xbox or Food Network marathons. Regardless of whether or not you’re given a strict schedule, you need a plan. What is your schedule like during the winter? When do you have midterms, finals, study days, doctors appointments, family get togethers, holiday parties, etc.? Figure out your personal life first then work your training schedule around that. Remember, it’s not about finding the time, it’s about making the time. Come up with your schedule and stick to it.

Strategizing, part 2 – erg tests. You’ll do plenty over the course of the winter and assuming you want to improve each time, you’ll need a plan on how to approach them. Just sitting down at the erg, popping in your earbuds, and hauling ass for however many meters isn’t going to cut it. Think about the race plans your coxswains have for races – you should approach your erg tests the same way. With a plan.

Next week: Coxswains and winter training


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