You are not just rowers. You are athletes. What makes you different from other sports? All the rest just play games. No athletes are as physically fit as rowers. You train harder than participants in any other sport. You complete full body workouts. You can endure pain and embrace satisfaction simultaneously.
Rowers can be coached, have nutrition programs, and some even have sports psychologists. Some are elite athletes who have been naturally gifted. But nothing can compare to the benefits achieved by proper training. There are some common themes.
Have you bought a bag of popcorn for $7.00 at a movie theatre and mindlessly ate it all to the last kernel and never really gave it a single thought about its relative taste or value? Whether you are on the water or on the erg, stop daydreaming about other things. Shut out thoughts of what you are doing tonight, what time are we finished, who’s picking us up? These thoughts have no consequence right now. Instead, focus on what you have been trained to do.
Am I reaching out at the catch, is my chin up, am I keeping my arms straight and my hands level on every drive, am I rolling the blades as my hands pass my knees, am I snapping my hands into my chest, do I have the proper angle of layback? Count out 10 reps of each facet of the stroke, one facet at a time, and then move on to the next one. Simply putting in thousands of metres is not the way to reach your potential. Concentrate every moment of the practice on your training. Think about the words your coach has used in training. Follow them. Say them over and over. To improve yourself, you must stay focused.
THE ENERGY CLOCK
There are only 60 equal minutes on a clock face. Think of this clock face as the total amount of energy you have. Place on this clock a calculation of what percentage of your energy is spent on training, nutrition, family, friends, education, and sleep. Eight hours of sleep is 20 minutes. Two hours of training is 5 minutes of the energy clock. Six hours of education is 15 minutes of the 60 minute Energy Clock. Stay committed to whatever training portion you have calculated as a percentage of your day. If you must deviate, only allow give and take in the other portions of that clock.
IT’S GOING TO HURT A BIT
As you get into a race, look for the closest rower or crew that is ahead of you. Do what it takes to get ahead of that rower or crew. Then look for the next closest rowers ahead of you. Take them on, one at a time. Get ahead and stay ahead. And he surges, you surge. Do whatever it takes. Will it cause you pain? Probably, but the other guy is hurting too. If he wasn’t, he’d be pulling ahead of you.
How do you prepare for this? The more fit you become during training, the higher becomes your threshold of pain. Interval training is key. What is the highest level of effort you think is possible for yourself? Is it 500 metres at full strength? Is there agonizing pain? Forget it and push yourself another 200 meters. It’s only 25 more strokes. Do it twice, and suddenly 700 metres becomes your new threshold of pain. With each increased interval level achieved, comes the confidence you and your crew can ultimately row 2000 metres and maintain the competitive pressure needed to win.
The famous football coach of the Chicago Bears once said: “There are certain qualities you look for in people, whether you are on a football team or in business. You look for people who are committed, devoted, and doing the best job. Talent isn’t going to matter either. I’ll take the guy who is out breaking his butt over a guy with talent in a close situation every time. I may get my butt beat a few times, but in the long run, I’ll win, because I have a guy with more character.” This same psychological approach speaks well for rowing coaches too.
Eliminate any self-doubts you may have about your strength, your struggle to keep up. You have trained hard, and trained well. Row your best race each time. You will get the job done.