I was wondering if you had any suggestions of some drills I could run to help me develop a constant race pace. I’ve been rowing since September last year and have been made stroke of the 2nd boat. I can keep a good steady pace at low rates but I think I tend to flag a bit when it gets kicked up a notch (which throws off the rhythm of the other lads). So any advice on how to develop of constant race pace?
When you’re rowing at higher rates, that’s when your body has to be the most relaxed. Here are some drills that my coaches have always done to help with that during practice. In turn, it’s helped the stroke stay more consistent with his slide speed.
Half slide rowing. This is just what it says, rowing half slide. This teaches you to be quick on the slide, getting the oar right in at the catch, and getting the hands away quick from the body.
Quarter slide rowing. Same as half slide, except you’re only using the first few inches of the slide. Really focus on the legs and quick hands.
Count. This was only something that we did on the ergs a lot when I was a novice to get everyone used to rowing the same consistent pace. Basically you just count how many seconds it takes to get from the finish to the catch – one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand catch. (Either do it in your head or have your coxswain do it if you’re doing it with a group.) This will be pretty slow (18-20spm) so if you’re good at controlling the slide at a slow speed, this should be easy for you. Do this for a minute or so and when you’re confident that you can maintain that speed, bump the rate up to a 22, then 26, then 30spm. Slowly build it up until you’re at race pace.
One of the best things you can do is just go for long, steady-state rows (30-60 minutes) and every 2-3 minutes or so add in 20 strokes at a high rate. When you’re hitting those higher rates, use the time at that pace to start developing your muscle memory so you can remember what it feels like to row at 30, 32, 35, 37spm, that way when the coxswain says “Ok, let’s bring it up to a 36” you know exactly what a 36 feels like.
Also, make sure you aren’t pausing at the catch or finish … have your coxswain watch for this. Even if you’re not making a deliberate pause (say like, during a pause drill) you might be pausing for the most miniscule of seconds, which is throwing off everyone behind you and making your stroke rate inconsistent because the bow 7 will get ahead and start rushing you, to which you’ll try and speed up to match them and then the cycle starts again. Focus on making the stroke one fluid motion. I had this problem with my stroke today – I told him to imagine that he’s drawing an oval with his oar. When you draw an oval you don’t stop at the top, then the bottom, and then start again … the pencil moves all the way around in one quick motion. Hope that makes sense!