How to train when you’re sick … as a coxswain

Previously: Steer an eight/four || Call a pick drill and reverse pick drill ||  Avoid getting sick || Make improvement as a novice || Protect your voice || Pass crews during a head race || Be useful during winter training || Train when you’re sick (as a rower)

Coxing while sick is pretty damn unpleasant. If you’re not going through practice in a fog then you’re spending half of it hacking into the mic, which leaves you really sore and the rowers really irritated. I usually try to avoid coxing when I’m sick and I’ve been lucky that most of the coaches I’ve had were cool about giving us a break when we needed it but here are my three top tips for how to handle practice when you’re feeling under the weather.

Related: How to train when you’re sick (as a rower)

Turn the volume on your cox box up

I usually have it at about ⅓ volume but when I’m sick I turn the knob about ⅔ of the way up. If you’re losing your voice, have a sore throat, or your chest/torso is sore from coughing (this tends to be my problem) turning the volume up will continue amplifying your voice while letting you talk a little quieter and with less force than you normally do. This can be a life saver if you’re treading the line between having a voice and losing it. Just make sure you tell your crew you’re doing this since getting blasted by the speakers isn’t the most enjoyable way to go through practice.

Related: What coxswains can do to protect their voice

Be aware of the meds you’re taking

Cough suppressants, nasal decongestants, etc. are usually fine to take but just be aware if you start to feel loopy or anything before practice or while you’re on the water. If this happens, tell your coach or a teammate immediately. This really isn’t the time to wonder or care if someone’s going to be pissed at you. My freshman year of college I made the mistake of grabbing the wrong box (because I was in a hurry and not feeling well) and taking the “pop these if you want to fall asleep ASAP” meds before practice, which I realized while on the bus to the boathouse. I told my coach and our assistant drove me back to my dorm but after that I made sure everything was very clearly labelled “drowsy” and “non-drowsy” since reading boxes while sick and rushing out the door wasn’t always my top priority.

Similarly, if you go to the doctor and they give you medicine (and clear you to continue practicing), be aware of any side effects that come with it. It is really hard to cox when internally you’re freaking out because you’re experiencing the shortness of breath side effect that supposedly only a very small fraction of patients experience with the new meds you just started taking. Had that happen (also in college, also during the same week as the drowsy drugs incident) while coxing a race piece and it was just a straight up awful experience.

Switch out with another coxswain (if one’s available) and ride in the launch

If you’re not sick enough to miss practice but you’re not feeling 100% either, this is your equivalent to the rowers biking instead of going on the water to give their bodies a break. If I or any of the other coxswains were ever at this point my coach would have us ride in the launch and take video for him. It was an easy way to keep us engaged in what was going on, which we all definitely appreciated since getting sick can be a guilt trip-inducing experience for coxswains.

If there are no other coxswains that can rotate in for you, you pretty much just have to suck it up and do the best you can. Presumably if you’re at practice to begin with, even if you’re planning on riding in the launch, you’re OK enough to cox so this shouldn’t be too difficult to do but just communicate with your coach and crew so they know you’re not feeling great and can take that into account if you’re not up to your usual standards.

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