BY VOLKER NOLTE
PHOTO BY ED MORAN
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The first to promote year-round training consistently was the famous German coach Karl Adam way back in the 1950s. His motto was “Technique brings seconds; physiology, minutes!” So he focused on improving the physical fitness of his athletes.
The way to achieve that goal, he believed, was year-round training that included periods of specific focus on overall fitness. To that end, he emphasized strength-training and other forms of indoor training during the preparation period. The success of his approach was proved by his crews, which, in 1960, became the first ever to beat an American men’s eight in an Olympic final.
Although such practices are now standard, it’s worth citing the benefits of year-round training. A continuous training load is better for the body than alternating between heavy training and no training. Training adaptation takes time, and gains recede quickly when the training stimulus is removed. It takes a considerable amount of time also for training to result in improved performance, especially in the realm of endurance, and that improvement vanishes when training ceases. The aim of training always is to improve performance, building on previously achieved fitness.
Rowers who train five times a week all year will perform better than those who train 12 times a week for only six months, as long as the training methods and loads are chosen correctly. Similarly, a person exercising for health is better off doing something for 15 minutes every day than exercising for two hours only on weekends.
In rowing, this applies crucially because performance is based primarily on endurance. About 70 percent to 75 percent of the energy required to complete a 1,000-meter race is generated aerobically. In longer races, athletes expend even more aerobic energy, and building that enormous aerobic capacity requires long training sessions over long periods of time. For optimal training, endurance gains are achieved most effectively through low-intensity sessions of 20 to 120 minutes, with duration increasing as the rower develops.
Rather than performing the training mindlessly, rowers should execute movements deliberately at an intensity that’s controlled precisely. This will enable rowers to get the most out of the long hours they spend repeating the same motion, thus enhancing not only speed and stamina but also balance and a sense of the boat.