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Picture This

BY JOSH CROSBY
PHOTO BY LISA WORTHY

Lying on a patch of grass outside the St. Paul’s School boathouse, we took a few deep breaths before coach Chip Morgan began our first-ever pre-race visualization session. I don’t remember his exact words, but I do remember how he talked us through the following day’s race, start to finish, in specific detail. He had us see in our minds a strong and speedy start, a smooth settle to our race pace, perfect oar placement on entry and exit, and a powerful, race-winning sprint to the finish. 

More importantly, he had us visualize the not-so-perfect aspects of the race too—obstacles and distractions that we were likely to encounter. Coach Morgan took it a step further still. We also visualized our personal fears on race day. My nightmare? That my forearms would lock up; I wouldn’t be able to hold onto the oar and that would be the sole reason we would lose. My coach had me see the point in the race where I may notice my forearms starting to tense. He taught me that my response would be to focus on a firm, but relaxed, grip on the oar. When my forearms actually tensed up at the 1,200-meter mark in the race the next day, I was ready for it. My forearms stayed strong and we won.

The below erg workout will help you work on both your fitness and visualization skills. 

The Workout:

Warm-Up: 1,500 meters Picture your favorite place to row. Bring in the colors and the details of the surroundings. Imagine yourself pushing off the dock into choppy water. Stay calm, get moving, and focus on technique.

Row 1,000 meters easy at 22-24 strokes per minute, and then the last 500 meters at medium intensity at a 24-26. 

Wave 1: 2,000 meters You’re in a single with just a ripple on the water. A single sculler is paddling alongside you. Not just any sculler—the most competitive person you know.

1,000 meters easy intensity at a 24 focusing on technique. Imagine a bobble or two that you fix right away.

750 meters medium intensity at a 26. The other single is moving on you. Go with her. 

250 meters hard intensity at a 28-30. Make your move here. See her fade off of your stern deck. 

Wave 2: 1,2500 meters Imagine you’re in a coxed four with some of your favorite rowing friends when another four rows up on you. They want to spar. Game on!

250 meters easy at a 22-24. The crew is alongside you now, close enough that you can hear them breathing.

4 x 250 meters hard at a 24, 26, 28, and 30. Visualize losing the first one and the specifics you need to do to change that outcome. See yourself winning the next three.  

Wave 3: 1,000 meters Take it back to the boathouse as the sun sets. See the colors on the water and notice your blade washing out a bit. Then see your blade entering and exiting with perfection. 

500 meters medium at a 24-26

500 meters easy at a 22-24.

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