Question of the Day

Okay I’m a lightweight rower and I’m also a coxswain and I love doing both. But I know that lightweight in college is super slim and it doesn’t help that I’m 5’2 and naturally under 132. So what should I do about college, should I become a full time cox or a lightweight rower? Also do you know any good lightweight colleges? I have as much experience rowing and coxing since I row and cox during the same season.

Schools with good lightweight women’s programs – Radcliffe, Stanford, BU, Princeton, and Wisco are probably the top five (not necessarily in that order) in any given year. If you’re thinking of rowing then I’d start off by looking at those schools if you’ve got the academics and erg scores (or email the coaches and say you’re interested in walking on…).

As far as coxing, if you wanted to do that then I’d look into pretty much any men’s program (since your weight is closer to men’s racing weight than women’s). Like you said, there aren’t a ton of schools with lightweight teams so if you coxed full-time you might have more/better opportunities to contend for a good boat.

Question of the Day

Hey! I’m currently a sophomore in high school and I really want to get recruited into a D1 or D2 college rowing program. I’ve been rowing for 3 years and the only problem is my height. I’m 5’3-5’4. My best 2k time is 7:44.2 and I plan on dropping about 14 seconds by senior year. My coach said that I have really long reach. How much is my height going to hinder me from getting recruited? Will I be better off switching to coxing?

I’d look into lightweight programs since you could definitely get some looks with that 2k time, even more probably if you go below 7:40. If that’s the route you go then I don’t think your height will really be that much of an issue. Just thinking about the lightweight women on our team, I feel like the ones I see most often around the boathouse are in the 5’3″ to 5’6″ish range. Obviously your height can be a disadvantage (especially if you’re rowing in a heavy/openweight program as a shorter person) but since lightweights are naturally shorter than heavyweights it’s not as big a deal to be a few inches shorter. I definitely wouldn’t switch to coxing though since you’ve already got a really good 2k and could potentially make for a good lightweight recruit.

Question of the Day

I’m a junior in high school and I am starting to look at colleges. I am 5’3 and around 125 pounds. I currently row and would like to continue into college. Is it more realistic for me to try to row lightweight or maybe cox for a men’s team? Thanks!

This is one of the rare cases where one option isn’t necessarily more realistic than the other. They’re both equal in that respect but my initial thought is to say look into coxing because I think you’d have more opportunities (and options) if you pursued that over rowing (and you’re the perfect size for it). I spent some time though going through the roster lists of a couple of the lightweight programs across the country and just based on that small sample size, you could probably row lightweight if you wanted since your height matches (or in some cases, is taller than…) some of the rowers already on the team.

If the schools you’re interested in have a lightweight program or have at least fielded a lightweight 8+ in the last 2-3 years (with decent results), contact the coach. Same goes for men’s programs as well. Like I said, I think you’ll have more options if you choose to cox for a men’s team but you could easily do both depending on what the schools you’re looking at offer.

Question of the Day

Hi! I’m a high school rower and am in my team’s LW V4. We’re going to SE Regionals this weekend and have a shot to place for nationals, so I’m really excited! The whole season I have been naturally under 130, ranging from 127-130ish. At the beginning of this week my weight was up a little (I know it fluctuates day to day), but we don’t have practice after Wednesday and I was just wondering if you had any advice for how I should keep my weight in control for this weekend. I’ve heard different things like do cardio (obviously) and eat fibrous foods until the day before when you should eat energy dense food that doesn’t weigh you down. I love your blog and love to relate to other rowers during my spring season! Thanks!

The best thing you can do between now and this weekend is make sure you’re drinking water and watching what you eat. By that I mean just make sure you’re eating sensibly (five small meals a day) and not eating foods that are super calorie-dense, high in salt, etc. Salads, greek yogurt, fruit, chicken breast, steamed veggies, etc. are all solid options. If you’re not practicing on Thursday or Friday I’d recommend going for a medium to long-ish easy run (enough to get your heart rate up but not so much that you’re going to feel the effects in the following days) just so you can get a workout or two in before you weigh-in. If you’ve naturally been under though, you’ll most likely be fine. Remember, you can be 130lbs on the dot and still make weight. Just be smart about what you’re eating.

Question of the Day

Hi! I have been a competitive rower for the last three years (lightweight), and I have been trying to get my coach to let me learn how to cox for the last two. I always have been in bow seat and have even bowed a straight four and every time I try to talk to her about coxing she has given me the runaround. The men’s team at my club is in need of a cox, but she still won’t let me try. I just don’t know what to do anymore because I keep getting injuries when trying to continue to row, but love my teammates and want to stay for them. Is there any way that I can convince her to let me cox? Our current coxswain is taller than me, and I only weigh more because of weight lifting.

This is my take on this, which I’ve said on here several times before: if you want to cox for another team, you don’t need your coach’s permission. All you need to do is give them the proper notice (2-3 days sounds reasonable) and say “I heard the men’s team needs a coxswain, I’ve spoken to their coach and they’re interested in having me join the team so I’m going to go to their practice on Thursday.”

I only really advocate doing this in situations where you’re not happy with your current team (and have made that known to your parents/coach) or are trying to cox but aren’t being given the chance. If your team has plenty of coxswains and the other team doesn’t or you feel that you’d get a better shot at coxing the boats you want with them, that’s also legitimate I think. It’s really a case-by-case thing. Randomly just up and saying “Yea so I’m going to cox the boys today and maybe for the rest of the season” doesn’t fly and your coach is well within their right to be pissed at you.

Although bowing a four/quad is a little different than coxing, it’s pretty similar and something that I think would probably be a could indicator to see how well someone could handle the coxswain role if they were to switch from rowing. If you’re rowing though and consistently being injured, that’s a different story. I’m assuming from what you said about being a lightweight and rowing bow seat that you’re probably pretty small, so I’m guessing that most of your injuries come from trying to keep up with the other rowers or compensating for height/strength differences. You’re not an effective rower when you’re injured so it seems counter-intuitive to make you keep doing it, especially when you’ve consistently expressed interest.

Assuming your teammates are also your friends, they probably know all the injuries you’ve had and the fact that you’ve been asking to cox for two years now so hopefully they’d be supportive of your decision to cox the guys if that’s ultimately what you decide to do. They don’t have to be happy about it but they should at least respect your decision.

Question of the Day

Out of curiosity – why do lightweights stress and stress about getting so far under the minimum? It makes sense that they would want to have a bit of a cushion to ensure they don’t go over it (e.g., being at 130-132 so that if they eat or drink too much, they’re still under 135), but I don’t understand from a logical perspective why they get so worked up about getting their weight down and down and down. Yes, getting down to weight is extremely mentally and emotionally taxing but why do coaches want such drastic margins between the weight maximum and what they actually weigh? It seems to me that you would want to be as close to the maximum as possible, because the heavier you are, the more powerful your stroke can be, theoretically speaking, no? So you would want to be as big as possible without surpassing the maximum to be better competition. I.E. A 160lb guy can probably pull harder than a 150lb guy, if you’re making that judgment solely based on weight. Right? So what gives with the constant weight loss — other than it being emotionally addictive and unhealthy?

I get what you’re asking and what you’re saying but be careful about phrasing it so … harshly. You sound kind of flippant here and I know several lightweights that would raise an eyebrow at this. It’s a physical thing yes, but for some rowers, more than most people realize, it’s much more of a psychological thing. When people are dismissive about it or talk about it like they’re being illogical or something, it can be pretty damaging.

Related: National eating disorder awareness week: Lightweights

There is no minimum for lightweights – not sure if you meant to put “maximum” in your first sentence or not but only coxswains have minimums. Minimums mean that you cannot be under that weight; maximums mean you can’t be over it. Lightweight women and men have a maximum of 130lbs or 160lbs, respectively.

I don’t think most coaches do want drastic margins between the rowers’ weights and the maximums. If the maximum is 130lbs a coach isn’t going to tell all the women in the boat that they need to weigh 120lbs on race day. A few days beforehand they might want to be 128lbs to provide that cushion, like you said, but I don’t think two pounds constitutes a “drastic margin”.

Related: National eating disorder awareness week: Your experiences

Theoretically yes, I suppose the heavier you are the more brute strength you’ll be able to conjure up but lightweight rowing isn’t all about strength like heavyweight rowing is. OK, technically that’s not completely true. Heavyweight rowing requires good technique, obviously, but since they don’t have weight limits they can be as heavy as they want (within reason, use your common sense) which means they can out-muscle the competition. Lightweights, however, do have weight limits which means their brute strength can only take them so far. Their technical rowing has to be spot on in order to make up for what they lack in strength (compared to heavyweights).

Other than all of that … I don’t know how else to answer your question. I think that most people that compete at the lightweight level are already within a healthy weight range so they don’t need to do much other than maintain their current weight. Others have to do more but if they’re responsible in the off-season they won’t have much weight to lose when racing season rolls around.