Question of the Day

Do you have any advice on tackling a verrrrry long steady state erg piece without music?

Focus and concentration. Take each stroke one at a time and focus on making each one a little better than the last one. Try not to pay too much attention to the overall meters – when you’re tired and sore, the number of meters you have left just looks like a black hole. If you can, just put the screen up so you don’t have to look at it for awhile. Otherwise, break the piece down in chunks and give yourself a “technical focus” for each 500m or 1000m. For example, the first set’s focus is connection with the feet, second set’s is sitting up tall on the recovery and keeping your core tight, 3rd set’s is a quick turnaround with the hands, 4th set’s is visualizing the stokes your taking on the erg as stokes in the boat, 5th set’s is controlling your breathing, etc. This will give you something to direct your mind towards OTHER than the number of meters you have left.

If you know what you need to work on, spend some time doing that now. Have your coach or coxswain come watch you so that when you’re finished, not only will you have gotten a workout but you’ve also gotten some feedback out of it too. I talked a bit about negative splitting the other day, which is something you can also utilize in situations like this. Instead of bringing your split down every 500m, bring it down every 1500m or something similar. If your steady state is doubling as a test, negative splits are a good strategy to utilize. It gives you something else to focus on, especially as you get closer to the end of the piece. As you get more fatigued, the amount of power your body can produce will start to fall off, which you don’t want, so focusing on staying within a +/- 2-3 second range is another way to keep your mind occupied as you near the finish line.

The one thing you don’t want to do though, like I said, is just focus on the meters. The only thing longer than microwave minute is an erg minute, and when you’re doing steady state pieces, erg minutes last ten times longer than microwave minutes. If you spend your time watching the meters tick down, you’re going to eventually get frustrated because, even though you see them decreasing, it doesn’t feel like you’re going anywhere. Frustration leads to waning focus which leads to mental blocks which can lead to you getting off the erg before you’re ready. Take a couple closed-eyed deep breath before you start and remember: one stroke at a time.

Preventing post-race and practice soreness in coxswains.

Do you ever get really into a practice piece or race and then when the piece or race is over you sit up and realize that your entire body hurts? It happens to me a lot. Shoulders, upper back, lower back, abs, hips, quads … the tension manifests itself anywhere. I’m convinced that there are few things worse than a cramp in your hip muscle during the middle of a race, so here are my tips and tricks for preventing and relieving the muscle pains associated with coxing.

STRETCH || While the rowers are taking the oars down to the dock or when they’re putting them in, spend a quick minute or two stretching. If your crew does a pre-practice stretching routine, do it with them. Try and hit every major muscle group. Most often the tension from coxing is going to present in the shoulders, back, and abs. I tend to carry 98% of the tension in my shoulders, so when I finish a piece I do shoulder rolls. Very slow, controlled shoulder rolls. Every so often I’ll get a cramp in my hip muscles too, almost always during a race, when I can’t straighten my leg out. Stretch out those muscles before you get in the boat but after each piece, sit up on the back of the stern and straighten your legs. Your abs will be another spot that gets sore. If you think about it, we’re essentially doing a crunch every time the rower’s take a stroke. The check of the boat combined with the position we’re sitting in (most often sitting down low and leaning forward) often gives us an involuntary ab workout. 2000m or 3.2 miles worth of crunches combined with actually coxing can make our cores pretty sore, so stretching it out is important. Lateral side stretches are some of the best core stretches you can do when you’re on the water. You can also sit up on the back of the stern and lay back a little. When you get out of the boat, do the post-practice stretching routine with your crew. If you have foam rollers available, use one on your upper body, back, and stomach. (See the video at the bottom of the stretching routine post for information on how to properly use them.) Similar to how lactic acid builds up in the rower’s muscles, the same happens to us, and similar to the rowers, if we don’t take the necessary measures to remove the lactic acid from our system, our bodies will hate us for a few days.

WORKOUT || One of the best ways you can help your crew is to be an athlete, but it’s also one of the best ways to help yourself. One of the reasons why I tell coxswains to at least do the core workouts with the rowers during winter training is because building a strong core can help alleviate us of a lot of low back pain that we incur from sitting in the boat. Pilates and yoga are great for coxswains (and rowers, of course) too because not only do they help build up our muscular strength, but they also help keep the muscles loose and relaxed.

BREATHE || We talk a lot but we very rarely just take a deep breath (both inside and outside of the boat). It seems weird to think that breathing would minimize how sore you are, but it surprisingly actually does help. When we get really into coxing, like, really into it, it’s a lot of short, quick, monosyllabic sentences with lots of sharp, quick intakes of air. When you’re talking to the crew and you make the call to “sit up tall, relax the shoulders, breathe“, do it with them. You don’t realize how hunched over you are until you actually sit UP. You don’t realize how tense your upper body is until you actually RELAX. You don’t realize how out of breath you are until you actually BREATHE. During a race or practice piece, taking a nanosecond to relax can also help you get perspective on what’s happening around you. When you’re tense, what do you people tell you to do to un-tense your body? “Just breathe.” For once, we have to put aside our stubborn tendencies and listen to someone. Luckily, that someone is ourselves, so trust me when I say, coxswain to coxswain, “just…breathe.”