Hi! So I recently started rowing not to long ago, as I just did two weeks of long skinny boat camp. But as I was rowing I kept getting told not to over compress at the catch. Also to relax my shoulders. I am short, only 4’11 and I talked to the coach about coxing(my sister is a captain) in high school and he wants me to row first. Do you have any tips I can take from the rowing? Also how not to over compress at the catch? Thanks! I love your blog!
I’m 4’11” too and while I never actually rowed, our coaches did take the coxswains out for a spin a few times to give us a chance to see what it was like. One of the things they told me before we even got started was since I was the shortest one it was going to be important that I not try to match the length of the other coxswains by lunging or over-compressing at the catch. That’s the first thing I’d recommend – don’t try to be as long as the other people in the boat because you’re not gonna be. Over-compressing means that instead of stopping with your shins in line with your ankles and your butt a couple inches away from your heels, you’re catching with your knees out over your toes and your butt as close to your heels as it can get.
Another way to think of it is instead of your hips/butt being behind your shoulders, they’re under them. One way to break the habit of over-compressing is to teach yourself what the proper catch position feels like. This tends to be a lot more effective when you’ve got another person to watch your form so grab your sister and have her watch you take a couple strokes on the erg. Sit in the proper catch position for a couple seconds and memorize what it feels like – where are your legs, arms, back, etc. Flip between that and an over-compressed position so you can feel the difference between the two, then take a couple strokes, making sure you’re staying super conscious of where your body’s at as you come up the slide. If you find you’re still having problems though, you can put a piece or two of tape on the tracks and then if you feel the seat run over them you’ll know that you’re coming too far up.
With relaxing your shoulders, you’ve just gotta remember that when you’re holding tension in your muscles like that everything is going to move slower and not be as fluid. Every so often, take a deep breath and just let your upper body relax. Make sure you keep your grip on the oar loose too. Use your common sense – you want to find a happy medium between a death grip and no grip at all. The tighter your grip, the tenser your shoulders are going to be.
As far as things to take away … don’t focus on trying to perfect your stroke, rather just work on getting the basics down as far as the proper motions and body positions go. From there, just listen to everything the coach is saying (to you and whoever else is in the boat) with regards to technical critiques (since those are things you’ll need to be able to once you start coxing) and make sure you understand why he’s saying that, what part of the stroke it applies to, and how the boat changes (aka how does it feel) after the correction is made.
I talked about the whole “coxswains rowing before they cox” debate in the post linked above so make sure to check it out as well. It might also give you some ideas for how you can apply your time rowing to coxing.