Question of the Day

How do you fight the winter blues? I know it’s different between rowers and coxswains but I’ve just been getting so frustrated with myself and with workouts. I’m in a perpetual state of soreness (that’s a given) and it’s getting to the point that I struggle to maintain the splits that my coaches are asking me to hold. Spending one more day on the erg might drive me nuts and my team still has 2-3 weeks indoors. HELP!

Sounds like you’re getting close to being seriously burned out. I would spend some time first figuring out why you’re frustrated. Is it just because you’ve been inside for so long that you’ve got cabin fever or is it something else (coach problems, teammate problems, coxswain problems, life problems, school problems, etc.)? What’s frustrating you about the workouts? Are they getting predictable and boring? If that’s it, you’re probably not the only one who feels like that.

Related: How to survive winter training, pt. 3

Also figure out why you’re frustrated with yourself. Is it because you’re not putting forth the effort you know you’re capable of or is it something else? If you can’t physically take a break from practice, do something each night after practice (as soon as you get home, after your homework is done, before you go to sleep … whatever works for you) to relax yourself. If you can tolerate doing yoga, try and do 20 minutes of that. Or grab a foam roller or a tennis ball and stretch out for the duration of an episode of something on Netflix. Just do something to take your mind off of everything that is stressing you out.

Related: How do you fight off the stress of rowing? I can’t just stop because it helps me ease school stuff but at the same time it makes everything pile up and I can’t hold everything in anymore.

To an extent it’s inevitable to have a little residual soreness but you shouldn’t be painfully sore all the time. Are you stretching before and after your workouts? Are you eating the right foods before and after practice? Are you staying hydrated? Stretching, eating properly, and drinking water are all crucial to repairing your muscles after a workout. Even if you do stretch before and after practice, stretching when you get home while you watch TV or read your history notes is still a good idea. You can even stretch while you’re in the shower. The hot water and steam works wonders on sore muscles.

Related: How to survive winter training, pt. 1

It’s easy to get discouraged so there’s no point in saying “don’t do it”. It’s not that simple. Instead, when you are feeling down or you want to smash the erg monitor with a sledgehammer, look at the bigger picture. What are you training for? What are your goals? What are you trying to accomplish? Then ask yourself is any of that is going to be achievable if you quit or give up. What’s going to get you what you want – pushing yourself, mentally and physically, or taking the easy road out? Take your frustration and use it to motivate you instead of bringing you down.

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Question of the Day

Best advice you have for a novice cox seat racing aiming for a varsity boat?

Focus. Be determined. Keep your nerves in check. Make your calls strong and your actions aggressive. Be smart. Be safe. Do what you’ve practiced and what you know how to do. ACT like how you think a varsity coxswain should act. Conduct yourself accordingly on the water. Be a good sport, win or lose. Give feedback and accept it in return. Be confident in your decisions and commit to executing them.

Question of the Day

Can you explain what a scrimmage is like? If it’s different, how is it different from other races? Preseason kind of race, right (like other sports)?

Scrimmages in crew are basically like scrimmages in any other sport. They’re a test run to see how what kind of impact your training has had thus far and what kinks, if any, still need to be worked out. (That’s how we always approached them in high school/college, other teams might look at them differently.)

Related: Hi! I will be doing a 2000m race with my crew tomorrow. I’m my team’s coxswain. It will be my second race, but my first 2000m race. I understand steering and such, and I know what calls to make for technique, and I know our starts, but my coach hasn’t really gone over the race itself, I guess. What I’m trying to say is that I need some guidance on how the race should go. Also, stake boats terrify me. Any help you can give me would be amazing!

They’re about 98% the same as a regular regatta. How they’re run individually is up to the teams racing but for the most part things are usually pretty lax. Some of the scrimmages I’ve participated in were run specifically for the races, not so much everything else (getting lined up, following a time schedule, etc.). There were never any hard and fast rules on “this is when this race will start, this is when you need to launch”, etc. – whenever you and the crew you were racing got to the start would be when the race would begin. Other races were very strict, just like at a regular regatta. There were official start times, official starting procedures, etc.

Related: I’m a novice rower and I’m racing in my 1st head race this weekend, any tips? I’m freaking out!

For rowers, there isn’t much of a difference between a scrimmage and an actual regatta – you’ve still got to row 1500m or 2000m. The coxswains will be the ones that notice the subtle differences because they’ll be the ones who have to deal with them. How things are done though should be explained at the coxswain meeting (if you have one) but if they’re not, just talk to your coach. He/she will have all the information you’ll need.

Question of the Day

Part of coxswain selections are how safe you are and if you can keep the boat safe in different situations. How would coaches determine your safety-ness?

In no particular order, I’d look at:

Whether or not you follow the traffic patterns (and before that, if you know what the traffic patterns are)

What your steering is like (are you a straight shooter or a drunk driver?)

Related: How to steer an eight or four

How you handle high-volume days on the water when there’s a lot of traffic (i.e. on any given day you’ll encounter numerous other crews, launches, sailboats, tour boats, duck boats, kayakers, SUP-ers, etc.)

Are you calm in stressful situations or do you easily lose your composure

Do you follow instructions (this is huge)

Are you trustworthy (can I send you off by yourself for a few minutes without supervision and trust that you’ll execute practice accordingly, keep the crew safe, etc.)

Are you careful with the equipment

How well you handle inclement weather situations

Whether or not you used basic common sense

The last one is big for me personally and is probably the number one thing I would like at if I were evaluating how safe a coxswain is. Being aware of potentially dangerous, unsafe, or atypical situations and doing everything you can to avoid putting your crew in harm’s way is one of, if not the most, important responsibility of a coxswain. Common sense can and will keep you and your crew safe 98% of the time but being able to master everything I listed above will be of great use to you. Better safe than sorry, every time, all the time.

Question of the Day

What do you mean by “calling things with a purpose?” I took it to mean call things you know will be effective to the speed of the boat. Is that what you meant? I’m still confused about what to say during race calls.

Basically what I mean is that everything you say to your crew should be said with the goal of achieving some kind of result in return. You shouldn’t be talking just to talk because you assume that’s what a coxswain’s job is. You want to make calls that are going to get something out of your crew.

Think about when you’re writing a paper. There’s two ways to write it. The first is when you know nothing about the topic or it’s something that you’re completely uninterested in but you’ve got to find some way to meet that five page minimum. What do you end up doing? Rambling, dragging things out, and sounding like you have no clue what is even coming out of your mouth. The second way is when you understand the topic you’re writing about. Your sentences are clear and concise, your arguments are well thought out, and the delivery is confident and assertive. You sound like you know what you’re talking about. That’s how coxing should be.

Related: I know a coxswain’s number one job is to steer straight but one of my fellow rowers decided that sounding aggressive and making good calls is what MAKES a cox. There’s a girl who she says “just sounds like a cox” but hasn’t perfected steering/navigating yet. The view is that you can teach a cox to go straight/proper channels with time but you can’t teach them to sound passionate, aggressive, motivating, etc. What do you think?

Everyone can interpret it how they want but in essence you’re correct in that part of making purposeful calls is to say things that will help the boat move. “10 to walk two seats…” has more meaning that “power 10” because you’re attaching a specific, tangible goal to it. “I want to see us move on that crew” means absolutely nothing if you don’t tell them how you want to see them move. “Set the boat” is another one. Set the boat … how? Why is it unset? Where is it unset? What side is it leaning to? Who needs to do what? The bottom line is this: the more vague you are, the less you’re helping your crew. The more specific you are with what you want, the more of an asset you are to them.