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Winter Training Challenges

BY RICH DAVIS
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER

Finding ways to make rowers stronger and faster while keeping spirits high is always a challenge during the dark days of winter. The following suggestions are not all applicable during pandemic restrictions, so obviously some apply to future winter seasons.

The schedule for indoor work provides a good opportunity to introduce variety into your program. The ergometer remains our sport’s main winter-training tool. Find imaginative ways to use the machine to build fitness and enhance technique. The erg can improve rowing for both novice and experienced rowers by returning their focus to the basics. Coaches can stand close by and direct proper body positions.

Rowing alongside or on sliders is a way to demonstrate proper timing and slide control on the recovery. Mirrors in the erg room enable rowers to see what they’re doing and to compare their movements to other rowers.

The erg is a great teaching tool. Many problems are easier to fix on the erg than on the water. Raising the shoulders on the drive, for instance, can be difficult to correct because rowers don’t feel it when they engage those muscles.

On the erg, however, they should be able to see their shoulders rise at the catch. Catching with the arms is another fault that is easier to correct on the erg. The erg will allow you to teach your rowers how to properly hang on the handle without fear of flipping. Also, by holding the erg handle and having your rower concentrate on standing on the foot stretcher, you can effectively teach the initial leg drive that begins each stroke. It is critical that your rowers have a clear picture of what good rowing looks like.

Over the winter, show videos from world championships or Olympics as a way to convey what the proper stroke looks like as well as the different ways there are to achieve speed. This leads not only to better technique but also to an appreciation of how power and strength can override technical faults. No one is perfect– even those striving to be the best in the world.

The erg also affords you the opportunity to teach drills you will use on the water. It can help you teach your rowers how to break through the pain barrier and row hard. Before assigning long or hard pieces, talk with your athletes about how they can approach the workout and how they can deal with the pain. Interval training calls for rowers to push as hard as they can followed by rest phases in which they can find the will to push harder at the next piece.

Finally, with the pressure of racing removed during indoor training, your athletes should feel free to concentrate on the many aspects of good rowing. Help them by sending encouraging messages about technique, the importance of sleep, good eating habits, and other relevant topics.

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