Sitting Ready! Attention Row! The Boat Master’s words alerted John’s ears as he catapulted off the catch to take his first stroke during the last regatta of spring season. John couldn’t help but think his crew didn’t stand a chance of moving on to Grand Finals. The boat raced down the course. John’s boat neared the last five hundred meters trailing behind with poor technique and little power. The boat never recovered and finished last. Rowing is a sport where fractions of a second usually separate first from last place. John could not help but be disappointed in his boat finishing a full minute behind every other boat in the heat. As stroke of the eight it was John’s responsibility to lead the boat to victory. The team slowly carried the boat back to the trailer in silence. John walked with his head hung low and vowed to himself that his boat would never be ill prepared for a race again.
What to do
Spring season is now in the past. UConn’s boathouse is closed up and waiting for the approaching fall season. John could blame UConn’s poor performance on the lack of funding to acquire better equipment, the coach’s lack of experience or the last minute changes made to the lineup due to teammates quitting. These are all valid contributions. But John admits that both his and the team’s overall power and technique were lacking behind each pull of the oar. John regrets not taking winter training seriously. Summer training has begun but instead of repeating past mistakes, John wakes up with the drive and determination to improve as a rower.
John starts everyday the same way, already dressed having slept in his spandex. Up at 4:30, out the door 4:45, on Rogers Lake in Old Lyme CT by 5:10. Jacob a rower from Drexel is John’s rowing buddy. The two take out a nameless faded red Hudson double that they have nicknamed “Huddy”. The practice consists of a warm up on water by doing a lap around the L shaped lake. Then a progression drill: arms only, arms and back, half slide, full slide. Depending on the day, they switch off from a low rate steady state and high rate sprint pieces.
Building on Routine
John believes consistency is the key to rowing. Having the same boat everyday rigged to his height and weight and the same lineup has made all the difference. John is no longer distracted from adjusting to changes and focuses solely on technique. Rowing in a double helps John feel the boat’s reaction to his stroke. This is something he could never isolate in an eight at UConn. He finds using a speed coach helpful to make up for not having a coxswain or coach to know the strokes per minute and stroke rating. This keeps John in check to get the most out of each stroke and keeps him from slacking off and developing bad habits. John attaches a GOPRO to the boat, which records every row. At night John reviews the footage noting where to make changes. The change John is currently focusing on is a crisp finish having a sharp tap down, to pop the blade out of the water keeping the momentum of the boat propelling forward.
Power of Reward
By seven John is at work but not before his reward of sausage, egg and cheese on a bagel with a medium iced caramel coffee. John laughs that sometimes when he wants to end a row early, he thinks of this treat from Dunkin and he pushes through. John wishes he had the time and energy for strength training. For now, the heavy lifting on his job will have to do. John is majoring in Landscape Architecture. So, he fits his summer rowing into his summer schedule of cutting lawns and landscape design. Being in the hot sun all day is exhausting enough. Add planting, weeding, pruning, trimming, etc., and you’ve got cross endurance training. John hopes to add more weight lifting and erg workouts as the summer season progresses. This is something that John has always shied away from, an important routine that will make a powerful difference in his water performance.
John’s summer routine is to get out on the water every day. He plans to row for two hours followed by backbreaking work. He consistently works to get faster and stronger. John is now developing a winner’s attitude towards a sport he has engaged in for six years. John is no longer a participant but a competitor. He now looks at rowing as a way to relieve stress and be a part of something greater than oneself. Like a cog in a machine, John is getting lost in the rhythm of each stroke.
Determination and Goal
Determining his goal ahead of time gives John the ability to change. It took the embarrassment of losing for John to realize his potential. No longer does he hit the snooze on his alarm. And no longer does he give up when the pain sets in. His new motto is “Medals are not earned during races they are earned during practice.” John is dedicated in making every day over the summer count. With this new found determination John now sees fall season as a waiting opportunity to push his limits and take gold.