Question of the Day

Hi! I’m a coxswain who just finished my second season (as in I’ll be varsity next season). My novice 8 did very well, placing at Midwest Youth Championships! I’m so proud of them, and I really love coxing, but as the season goes out, I’m wondering, is it the best thing for me? I feel a lot of pressure to be at the 110-pound minimum, and so when the Tuesday before the race I weighed in at 116, I was devastated. I spent the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of that week living only of multivitamins and one bottle of water a day. The Saturday and Sunday of racing, it was virtually the same, except I ate one clementine each day as well. I did meet minimum as I hoped I would, and was actually under, being sandbagged for 0.8 pounds, but I recognize this is incredibly unhealthy, and unfortunately, it falls in line with other unhealthy behaviors I’ve had a tendency to engage in for a few years now. I truly love coxing but I’m not so sure my mental health would do at all well if I continue. Thoughts/advice?

Eating Twix bars and pizza for a week is unhealthy. A single bottle of water and a multivitamin for five straight days is stupid and dangerous. I don’t say that to be an asshole either, I just really hope you recognize that there’s a big difference between the two.

The simplest and most straightforward piece of advice I can offer is that you’ve gotta do what’s best for you. And I get that that probably seems like a vague non-answer but it really is the only thing you have to consider here. If you notice yourself involuntarily (or even voluntarily) falling back into self-destructive habits then I think you need to take a step back and reevaluate what you’re taking away from the sport vs. what the sport is taking away from you.

Being around your friends and “having fun” is great and all but way too many people use that as an excuse to stick with sports when it’s clearly not a good thing for them as an individual. That’s my other piece of advice – forget your friends, teammates, coaches, parents, whoever you think will be pissed if you stop coxing. (They won’t be.) Whatever decision you come to has to be made for youby you and not influenced by what you think other people would want.

I don’t wanna get into all the reasons why you feel pressured to be at 110lbs (especially since you were coxing novices…) because it just makes me very rage-y but I will say this: if you stick with coxing and feel similar pressure going forward, the kind that makes you want to go on a water + multivitamin diet for a week, you really need to stop and ask what’s going to allow you to be the most effective coxswain on race day. Being 116lbs, clearheaded, and energetic or 109lbs, stressed, and lethargic? Don’t let the “boat servant” etymology get in your way here. Yea, you’re there to do XYZ for the team but you can’t do any of that if you’re not in the right frame of mind to begin with. Been there, done that and trust me, it’s hard as hell trying to focus on getting your boat out of racks, let alone down the race course, when you’re dehydrated, dizzy, and exhausted from not eating all week just for the sake of being able to say you’re under 110lbs.

If you haven’t, check out the video below. It’s from a camp I was at two years ago and there’s a good anecdote/wake up call at the end from Marcus about a coxswain who took similarly drastic measures to cut weight over the same period of time as you. Also check out this article from ESPNW that came out a few weeks ago. It’s no secret how much issues like this get under my skin so I was thankful they asked me to be a part of it. It’s a good read and an eye-opening one at that so definitely check it out when you’ve got a sec.

Question of the Day

Hi! I currently am a female rising junior in high school, and I am hoping to be recruited for college for coxing. My normal weight floats between 105-110lbs without me doing anything special or extra to hold it there (ex. dieting, working out, etc). However, I am very tall at 5’7″ and I am worried that coaches will overlook me because of how tall I am. Do you think that it is possible for me to cox in college knowing that I can healthily maintain sub the minimum weight, but am really tall for a coxswain, and that I don’t fit the short 5′ coxswain stereotype? I have been a girls’ coxswain for the past two years. This summer I am doing two coxswain camps and am coxing the men’s’ team (they do not have enough girls to fill a boat) for a club that practices in the same boathouse that my school does for about half of the summer.

Shortest/simplest answer ever – nobody cares how tall you are as long as you can make weight.

Coxswains + Weight Management

Given that it’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week I thought this was an appropriate video to share. It’s from a talk on weight management that was given during the Sparks coxswain camp this past December. It’s only about nine minutes long so I encourage you to set aside some time to watch it (in addition to sharing it with the other coxswains on your team). There’s some great info, advice, and anecdotes in here but beyond that, at the very least I hope this serves as a wake-up call for those of you who are or are considering employing unsafe methods of losing weight.

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).

Question of the Day

Hi! I’m in my 3rd season of crew, seasons 1 and 2 were spent as a rower. I’m 5’3″, 132lbs, and my erg score was 8:43.6 at the end of last season. Over the summer, I learned how to cox, and we needed an extra coxswain this season so that’s what I’m doing. I ended up really enjoying it, and I definitely want to stick with it. The problem is, when I’m in a bow loader (which is my usual boat it seems) I don’t completely fit in the seat- my legs are too wide. I know over the summer I gained weight, because at the end of last season I weighed closer to 120lbs/125lbs. Do you have any advice for workouts I can do/foods to help me (healthily) lose a few pounds? Also know that NO ONE on the team has said anything about my weight – I’d like to do this for my personal body image as well as comfort in the already uncomfortable coxswain seat. Thank you so much!

I totally feel you on trying to find a way to be comfortable in an uncomfortable coxswain seat. I’ve been in some boats where I can barely fit into the seats because they’re so narrow (which made me freak out thinking I’d gained a ton of weight or something) and then I’ll get into another boat where I’ll have two inches or more on either side of my hips. It’s very strange.

This question has come up a lot in emails lately so to anyone that’s already asked, this response will sound familiar. Losing weight itself is a two-part process. The first step is making smarter choices when it comes to what you’re eating. There’s obviously the “eat less” part of it but people tend to think that you can just cut out 500 calories and that’s all it takes but if you’re still eating like crap then you’re not really making that much of a difference. Swapping out less healthy stuff a few times a week for healthier options is a smarter way of approaching it – i.e. instead of going out to Chipotle (for the third time this week), stay home, grill some salmon, and throw it on a salad (I’ve been doing this lately and it’s so good). As long as the portion size is appropriate, not only are you saving calories but you’re also eating a relatively healthier meal overall.

The second part is making sure you’re getting some form of physical activity in a few times a week. If your team is doing a land workout, do it with them. If they’re erging, go for a run or hop on the bike (as long as it’s cool with your coach). If you don’t mind waking up early, go for a couple-mile long run before school. You can also download an app like Nike Training Center and do that if you’re having a tough timing coming up with your own stuff to do. Sometimes it’s easier to do all this with a friend so try to get the other coxswains involved too. One of our coxswains has started running in the mornings since our practices are in the afternoon and I’m kinda hoping the other two (freshmen) coxswains get in on it since it could be a good “bonding” experience for all of them. Shoot for 45 minutes at least 3-4x a week of quality – key word, QUALITY – exercise though and you should be good.

“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

Hi! I just started coxing a novice summer competitive program after rowing for one year at a different club. There are four coxswains, and it was originally three with the girls coach and one with the boys coach, because there are three girl coxswains and one boy coxswain. The team usually has boys cox boys and girls cox girls, but the boys coach has recently been having me cox the boys too and he keeps implying that he would want me to cox boys in the fall. Problem is, I weigh in between 99 and 103lbs depending on the day, so I’m a bit too far under the boys’ weight minimum. I’m comfortable at my weight, but should I consider putting on a bit of weight to cox in general or is that weight usually fine for coaches? Thanks so much!

Coaches very rarely ever care if you’re under the minimum because it’s one less thing they (and you) have to worry about. Obviously putting on muscle is never a bad thing but unless it’s something that gets brought up by the coaches, I wouldn’t worry about it (especially since you’re a novice coxswain too). If you feel like you need to gain some weight then you can explore that avenue if necessary but I wouldn’t do it just because of where you are compared to the 120lb minimum.