Question of the Day

Hey! I’m a freshman first year varsity female rower at a high school club team. All fall we’ve really only have done 2 land workouts that we do on a weekly basis. Workout #1 is a longer workout that involves running and erging for about an hour and I almost always throw up on this workout no matter how I try to change what I eat/how much fluids I consume. Our practice starts at 3:30 so its not like I’m working out right after a meal. Workout #2 is a shorter interval/SS workout on the erg and I usually don’t throw up or feel that bad on these workouts. I haven’t actually done that many land workouts since I was part of a boat training for HOCR but since, I always feel really nauseous during/after the workout. Recently, I started feeling sick on the shorter workout #2 and we just did a new 1min sprint interval workout and I felt so bad after. My stomach/throat just felt really acidic and I ended up doing really bad. I never really thought my vomiting was something too serious since it was usually just some water/air and I never threw up last year when we did harder workouts. But now I think it might be something more since it occurs so often. I know that stomach acid is really bad for the throat and I was wondering what foods I should avoid eating, when I should eat/what snacks to eat before practice, and how I should bring it up to my coaches. I’ve already told my parents and I think I’m going to see my doctor during break. Thank you so much! I love your blog it helped me sooo much my novice year.

I would definitely check in with your doctor because they’ll obviously be able to give you much better advice than I can. One of my friends in college had a similar problem and eventually found out it was the result of a peptic ulcer so the doctors he was seeing put him on a pretty rigid diet of super bland foods and medication to control the acid reflux. Luckily the foods he ate were still rowing friendly – oatmeal, toast, chicken, salad, fish, fruit, etc. – but it did get pretty boring after awhile and it took awhile for him to figure out how to get the necessary number of calories each day.

He had everything under control for awhile but then our senior year he finally had surgery for it because the ulcer wasn’t healing properly and the doctors were worried about it perforating. He was told to stop rowing numerous times and just kinda ignored them because the pain and discomfort wasn’t any more than what he was already experiencing when he was training and things seemed to be under control with his diet and the meds. Once it got to the point where they recommended surgery he realized he probably should have taken more time off to recuperate though so … just keep that in mind if your doctor gives you a similar recommendation.

As far as telling your coaches goes, just be straightforward with them. Obviously this is something out of your control so it’s not like they can be pissed at you for needing to modify the workouts or take time off. It sucks but your health is more important.

I’d stick to basic foods like oatmeal (those little single cup things are great), a bagel, toast … one of my friends eats an avocado every day before practice so you could try that too, along with maybe some nuts, fruit, etc. I’d stay away from spicy stuff, alcohol (…duh?), and anything that’s heavy on the citric acid, like grapefruits, tomatoes, oranges, etc. Avoiding dairy might be worth trying too. This was how another of my friends found out her previously unknown dairy allergy was causing her to throw up regularly at practice – she started eating a cup of yogurt before practice each day and didn’t make the connection until her doctor suggested cutting it out for a week. Assuming you do have an ulcer of some kind though, dairy can also exacerbate the problem by increasing the amount of stomach acid you’re producing (despite the fact that it initially makes you feel better by coating the stomach lining).

It might be worth keeping a food diary for a week or two so you can track what you’re eating, how you feel before/after practice, what workout(s) you did that day, etc. Most doctors/nutritionists will suggest doing this anyways as a way to narrow down what might be causing the problem so consider doing that before you see your doctor, that way you can hopefully expedite the process of figuring out what’s wrong.

Question of the Day

Hi! I have been told by a collegiate rower that I’m good friends with, that if I want to cox in college I will probably have to lose about 10 to 12 pounds. And I was told I probably won’t be able to row in college unless I grow because I am only 5 foot three. As of now I weigh between 125 and 130 depending on the day and I know it’s not really a problem for me to lose weight. I know I can do it healthily without becoming too thin or anything. Do you have any suggestions on workouts I can do and ways to start eating healthier?

Workouts = Run, bike, or swim for at least 45 minutes 3-4x a week at pace that’s hard enough to get your HR up but still allows you to hold a conversation. If you don’t consistently workout already maybe start with three days a week for 30 minutes and work your way up from there.

Eating healthier = Just make smart(er) decisions about what you put into your body. Eat breakfast every day, even if it’s something small (Chobani + 1/3 cup of granola is my go-to) and make sure you’re drinking a decent amount of water each day too. I have a 32oz Nalgene that I try to empty by the end of the day so you could do something similar if you aren’t normally a big water drinker (like me). Don’t overload your plate, eat appropriate servings of veggies, fruits, etc. and be mindful of your sweet tooth, if you have one. You don’t have to cut anything out but you do have to keep your goals in mind and exert some self-control (which admittedly will be hard over the next month).

Video of the Week: What it takes to fuel a Blue

Having been to the grocery store and out to dinner with my guys many times over the last year, I’m well aware of how much rowers (especially male rowers) eat. Two (or three) entrees at restaurants, seven eggs for breakfast, gallons of whole milk, etc.  – at this point it doesn’t even shock me anymore. Luckily for them though, I don’t think their weekly grocery bills total $600+.

“Do you really need that?”

Over the last few days I’ve been emailing with a coxswain who initially wanted some advice on what to do over the summer to make sure they’re in shape for the upcoming fall season. As most of you who have asked me the same or similar questions over the last few weeks know, my response was and has been to just make sure you’re within a healthy range (which gives you plenty of leeway) of your respective racing weight by being smart about your diet and doing something  like running, cycling, etc. a couple times a week. Really simple stuff, nothing too crazy.

Related: I know it’s silly but staying a lightweight is consuming me. Literally every moment of the day I’m thinking of ways to be smaller and I hate myself for even worrying about this so much, like 123 is a FINE weight but at the same time … I hate being like this. It’s really worrying and I’m not eating as much anymore and I just need advice. 

Now, as most of you know, I have zero patience when it comes to coaches and rowers who openly disrespect coxswains and make unnecessary (and often times, pretty hurtful) comments about their weight when their weight isn’t an issue. I totally get being pissed when your coxswain is far, far over the minimum but seriously, speaking in general here, you guys have got to stop doing this. Below are some excerpts of the emails this coxswain sent me after our initial ones where we talked about getting in shape for the fall (shared with their permission).

“…Our coach is generally just impatient with us while we’re on the water and they complain about it more than I do. And to top it off, whenever we went to a meal during races, our coach would scrutinize what I ate and tell me things like. “Hey you need to fit in the seat…” Or “Do you really need that” but then tell me that she would prefer I didn’t starve myself.  She mentioned me losing weight before going into summer and said that “then we can actually go fast”.”

They told me that they’re a vegetarian so a lot of what they eat when they’re traveling is fruit or something else light.

“… I honestly have never had an eating disorder, like EVER. But after being treated like that I have been so vulnerable and not confident and it is so horrible because it made me not confident in other things too, so much that when I came home I asked my mum if I could talk to a therapist about it, like I’ve been struggling to bring myself back to the person I know I am, which yeah, is completely shitty.”

Making comments like that is not cool, it’s not funny, and it’s not appropriate. There’s a difference between playfully ragging on a friend (which you can really only get away with if you have a solid relationship with the person and even then, there are limits…) and being a jerk. I don’t want to get too into this because I’ve talked about all of it numerous times on here before but consider this another reminder/plea to just think before you say anything like what’s posted above to your coxswain(s). You don’t know how it’s going to affect them and if an eating disorder is something they’re already struggling with (which you most likely wouldn’t know about), hearing someone say “you need to find in the seat” or “do you really need that” can be pretty damaging. For more on that you can check out the posts in the link below.

Related: National eating disorder awareness week

I would also stop for a sec and consider this: I get a lot of emails from coxswains and when I find them serious enough to post on here I keep the details as vague as possible so as to not give away who they are or who they cox for. There are obvious reasons for doing that but I also do it because I want everyone who reads this to assume that it was your athlete and your coxswain that emailed me because, for all you know, it was. So … if you’re reading this and are thinking “wow…that sounds like something I said to my coxswain this year…”, this post is probably about you.

Question of the Day

Hey! I love your blog. I have a couple of quick questions.

1) I have been rowing bow (port) in our starboard stroked bow-loader four boat. When ever we start to row and get to the drive part of the stroke my left ankle keeps cramping up and I was wondering if you had any way to stop this from happening?

2) Like I said before, I row bow and because our coxswain doesn’t have a cox box, nobody but me can hear her when she is facing forward (the way she is supposed to be looking) so she often turns towards us and the coach keeps telling her to turn around, but then the problem is that nobody can hear her. The girl who coxed this boat last season was really good at projecting her voice but the new cox is not. Do you have any advice for her?

3) I was looking at your what to wear blog posts and I was wondering what you think rowers should wear in the rain?

4) I hate running, I always cramp up two steps in and can’t breathe by the thirty second mark. My coach is really into running and running stairs. I don’t want to be that person who doesn’t run with everybody else because I don’t like it, but do you have any advice about making running less painful?

5) What is a good snack to have right before practice if it starts at 3 or 4 and goes till 6, but lunch is at 11:30? I always get so hungry right in the middle of pieces!

Sorry this is so long! Thanks!

The only thing that I can think of that could be causing this is the position of your foot stretchers. If the angle is too steep or too shallow then that could be putting a weird amount of stress on your tendons, causing your ankle to cramp up. I’d mention it to your coach and see if he can look at the stretchers to see if that’s the problem. If it’s not then it’s probably a flexibility issue. You should be stretching before practice for at least 10 minutes so if you’re not I’d start doing that, even if it means doing it on your own. Ankle pushes are a stretch our guys do that might help – it’s basically a mini-squat where you stand on one leg and bend your knee about 30 degrees or so until you feel a stretch up through your Achilles before pushing back up. (If you don’t have very good balance you can find a wall to put your hand(s) on to help keep you stable.)

Your coxswain needs a cox box. Obviously it’s not your responsibility to make that happen but seriously, I really don’t understand how coaches can send coxswains out without one and think they’re going to have a worthwhile and effective practice, let alone a safe one. Telling everyone to just listen is all well and good until you factor in the noise from the oarlocks, the boat moving through the water, the slides, the launch, the wind, car traffic, etc. Being in a bowloader also presents the issue of the coxswain’s voice not going straight at the rowers (like it does in an eight) which makes it even harder for them to hear what they’re saying. Even a perfectly silent crew would have a hard time hearing their coxswain in that situation. It’s not safe being out without one, plain and simple. To answer your question, the only advice I have is to find a cox box. I know that’s not the most helpful answer but that’s really the only solution to the problem.

When you’re rowing in the rain you’ve basically gotta accept that you and your clothes are going to get wet no matter what (which really isn’t that much different than a normal day on the water…). As long as you’re not wearing cotton, which is pretty much the worst thing you can wear while rowing regardless of the weather, you can pretty much wear exactly what you’d wear on an otherwise “dry” day. If you’ve got a splash jacket that you can throw on to at least keep your core warm and mostly dry(ish) then that’s a good thing to do if you know it’s going to be raining during practice. Like I said though, unless it’s just sprinkling it’s not a matter of if you’ll get wet but when.

It sounds like you’re just out of shape. It’s just like steady state on the erg, the better developed your cardio system gets the “easier” it is. You’ve just gotta push through it and keep going. Feeling winded is obviously a natural side effect of being out of shape (even people who are incredibly fit get winded at the start if they haven’t worked out for a week or two) but it could also be a result of asthma (speaking from experience, this is the worst…). Even if this isn’t something you’ve been diagnosed with before it’s worth checking in with your doctor just to be sure you haven’t developed it. I had several friends in high school who were all incredible athletes but all developed some form of asthma that wasn’t diagnosed by their doctors until they started training for crew.

I used to always leave a box of granola bars in my car that I could grab before practice so if you’re a fan of Clif bars then I’d definitely recommend buying a box or two and stashing them in your car, your locker, etc. so you can grab one before you leave school or on your way to practice. Bananas, PB + apples, a bagel, yogurt + fruit + granola, etc. are all tasty options too.