Question of the Day

Hi! I rowed for four years of high school but the college I’m going to has a very strong D1 women’s team and at my height and 2k score (5’4″, 8:11, plateaued junior year) there’s no way I’d be competitive on it. The men’s team is club but they’re pretty competitive so I’m going to join as a coxswain. I’ve emailed the coach and went to a practice last fall, and they even said I wouldn’t have to try out. Problem is, I told them I weigh 125, when in actuality I weigh 133 on a good week, but normally 135-138. I didn’t worry about it during my senior year, I was mostly focused on staying strong to have a good season as a rower, but now I’m leaving for school in a little over a month and I’m worried this will hurt me. Despite my lack of experience, I think I’d make a pretty good cox. I’ve spent a lot of time as bow in quads, I was captain and generally a leader on my team, and I have a lot of experience with the sport that I believe will help me – I’ve rowed every type of boat, I’ve been in very winning and very losing crews, and I went from having horrible technique to one of the best on my team. When I went to a week-long summer camp as a cox I was quickly put in the top men’s boat and I got a lot of positive feedback from the coaches. I’m just worried that my weight combined with my lack of coxing experience will prevent me from making a good boat. What is your experience with the importance of weight and what can I do to get it down while still staying healthy? Thanks!

Any reasonable coach would choose a coxswain with solid skills, good rapport with their teammates, and who they can trust over a coxswain who weighs 110lbs or 125lbs but lacks every other important component of what makes a good coxswain. In that same vein though, it is important that you’re at or within range of racing weight (for a men’s coxswain I’d say 127-130lbs would be a reasonable cutoff). It’s a pretty big part of being a coxswain and it’s well within the coach’s right to point that out.

Related: What do coaches look for in a coxswain?

It sounds like you’ve got a lot of potential given all the various experiences you had. The only way that I can think that your weight would come to the forefront is if there is another coxswain of equal skill who weighs closer to the minimum that you’re competing against for a boat. In that instance I would choose the lighter coxswain simply because it makes more sense. Most likely though you’ll be coxing a novice boat your first season anyways so unless you’ve got multiple novice boats, there’s a slim chance of you being kept out of one.

As far as getting it down while staying healthy, the first thing for you to determine is what exactly is a healthy weight for you. It’s been awhile since I’ve looked at height-weight charts but I think the “average” weight for a 5’4″ female is something like 124 to 130lbs or something like that. That might not be “normal” for you though so that’s important to figure out before you start doing anything drastic. Ideally you should talk to your doctor about it and discuss it with them since they know you better than I do. Plus, you’ve got to ask yourself if you’re willing to make that commitment. I’m gonna go ahead and assume that you’re pretty healthy and in shape given the fact that you were a rower but still, losing weight is a commitment regardless of how many pounds in total it is.

Related: National eating disorder awareness week: Coxswains

My suggestions are the same as they always are – simple lifestyle changes. You don’t have to change everything and suddenly go all “Biggest Loser” on yourself, just make small changes to what you’re already doing. Try to replace two or three things you each with healthier options, drink lots of water, and add in 2-3 days of solid exercise a week to start. Find something fun so it won’t feel like working out and you’ll be more likely to stick with it. There’s TONS of options out there, you’ve just gotta search them out. It’s better than just aimlessly going to the gym and being bored with what you’re doing.

Don’t obsess over your weight but be mindful of it. Fall season isn’t as important as spring season when it comes to being close to racing weight (it is, but less so) so you’ve got plenty of time. For now just focus on learning as much as you can.

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