Question of the Day

I had the shittiest practice ever today … I was so offset and I’m the slowest rower on the team and my coach won’t even follow me with his launch, that’s how far behind I get. I thought I had good technique but there’s a few basic things I don’t do properly and when I get corrections it’s so fucking hard for me to make those corrections and I can feel my coach giving up. I hate feeling so stupid after working so hard and idk like why the hell am I doing this, I’m not even strong. UGH I need a hug.

I’ve had shitty practices like that too – they’re the worst because you know you’re trying or you can see the people in your boat trying and for whatever reason things just aren’t clicking. It’s more mentally exhausting than anything else.

When we’ve fallen behind our coach or the other boats sometimes I would end up running my own practice. More often than not our coaches would make me push them to stay with the other boats, which is a good thing, you need to push yourself and be pushed like that, but other times I think they recognized that the neurons just weren’t firing that day so trying to push them to keep up would have only made things worse.

We’d usually stop rowing for at least two or three minutes, just to give everyone a mental break. We’d talk about whatever wasn’t feeling right and begrudgingly we would start over from the very beginning except much slower. If we were doing a drill or something, we’d break it down even further or if we couldn’t do that, we’d start off by pairs instead of fours or fours instead of sixes. We’d go through everything much slower until we had it down at that stroke rate, then we’d bump it up a beat or two and do it again, from the beginning, until we had it down at that stroke rate.

From there we’d cycle through all the pairs/6s before taking another break for a minute to figure out what went better that time and what we need to take away from it so we can keep doing it that way in the future. I don’t think there was ever time where doing it this way made things worse. Granted it took up a lot of time and sometimes we didn’t accomplish whatever the actual goal of practice was that day but the stuff we did accomplish from taking things slower and focusing more on our issues tended to, in some small way or another, be more helpful to us than whatever else we had planned on doing.

Related: What do you like to do to cheer yourself up after a lost race or tough practice?

Talk to your coach when you’re on land, preferably when you’ve cooled down, and explain the problems you’re having. Tell him how you’re frustrated because you’re having problems grasping the technical changes that you need to make and that you feel like he’s giving up on you because you either don’t understand what you’re being asked to do or are having trouble making the changes. Ask him, either then or before your next practice, if he can get on an erg with you and explain exactly what the changes are that he wants to see you make, what they should look like, and how what it should look/feel like compares to what you’re doing right now. If you don’t know or understand why something you’re doing is wrong, ask.

Also talk to him about what happens if you fall too far off the pace and end up further behind everyone else. Tell him that it’s frustrating for you but you don’t want the rest of practice to be wasted so does he have any suggestions of things you can do on your own (drills, steady state pieces, etc.). Also ask him if he’d be able to double back every so often to check in. It’s not safe for you to be completely without a coach, especially if you haven’t been rowing that long and/or are out there by yourself (I’m assuming you were in a single), so asking him to check on you for safety purposes alone is the least he can do.

You shouldn’t feel stupid after having a bad work out. Weaker people than you have gone through the same things and quit because it’s too hard so just by being persistent you’re already doing better than most. Bad practices happen. Are they infuriating as hell? Of course they are. The thing is though, you can almost always take something away from them that will ultimately make you a better, stronger rower in the long run. For me I’ve found that the best way to avoid letting crew mess with my head is to leave everything that happened on the water on the water until I’m calmed down enough to look at the situation from a more logical and objective perspective. When you’re pissed off you never see things how they actually are.

After a few hours, think back to practice for a few minutes and try to figure out what went wrong. What were you having trouble with, why was the technique stuff so hard today, etc. Jot down two or three things (and only two or three things so as to not overwhelm yourself) that were particularly difficult and come up with a plan to combat those things over the course of your next two practices or so. Whether it’s giving yourself a two minute break to take a deep breath and clear your head when you find yourself getting flustered or focusing all your energy on moving the legs and arms together on the drive so that it’s more powerful and consistent, give yourself a plan. If you’ve got something to work towards you’ll be able to focus more when you’re out instead of going out and trying to just blindly accomplish things to the point where you get so frustrated because nothing is working that you start doubting yourself.

Don’t use not being strong as an excuse. You can always get stronger, either by going to the gym or by pushing yourself to do better right at the point where you want to give up the most. If you do a 1000m piece and your brain starts telling you to quit at 800m but you push through it, sprint hard, and finish the piece, you got stronger. If you do 8x500m and you decide to quit after seven because you’re tired, you got weaker. If you make lifting a priority, you will get stronger. If you start thinking about the stuff you’re doing well and committing yourself to working harder to improve the things you’re not doing so well, you will get stronger. Any time you unnecessarily beat yourself up over something you’re backtracking on any progress you’d made up to that point. Sometimes you do have to kick your own ass and that’s fine, but know when it’s appropriate and when it’s not.

You’re not the first person to have a bad practice or feel like this and you’re definitely not going to be the last. Something to remember: you’re not defined as an athlete by how well or poorly you perform at one practice – what defines you is whether you show up the next day clear headed, focused, and ready to do work, regardless of how the previous day went.



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