Tagrowing mentality

Rowers – Why You Must Always Sprint

Rowers like pulling hard. On the erg and in the boat. It’s what gives us speed and makes us feel good. It makes us feel like we’re doing something honest and playing by the cardinal rule of rowing and erging – pull hard and go faster.

But given that you spend most of your time erging and rowing at a rate below 24 strokes per minute you end up pulling A LOT of hard, slow strokes.

Physiologically that’s fine(and necessary) for lots of reasons. But there is one major problem with it- especially for erging:

You teach yourself to mainly pull slow hard strokes when all the money is at fast hard strokes.

How You Can Fix It.

Always finish your session with a stepped sprint. Whether it’s an hour long erg or a short series of 500 meter intervals, always finish the last work piece flat out. Why? Because you will benefit massively in millions of ways – both physically and mentally.

Your body will adapt and respond to the increased stimulus you heap upon it at a point where you are under a lot of stress and fatigue. It will learn to expect that every rowing session you do will have a sprint to the finish. This is a great weapon to have in your armoury for tight races.

Your mind will also respond in a positive way to finishing the session on a high. You will come away feeling good even if you didn’t have a good row. You will also come to realise that you will always be capable of going harder (and faster) no matter how tired you are coming to the line.

But what about your long steady session?

Yes, even if it’s a long 1 hour row on the erg, you should still sprint to the line.

Here’s an example.

  • From about 3 minutes left, step up your rating and power slightly (1 second per 500).
  • Do the same with 2 minutes left.
  • Then in the last minute start to slowly nail it.
  • Incrementally increase your power and rating so that in the last 20 seconds you are all out – recruiting every muscle fibre and brain power in your possession.

The same goes for shorter rowing workouts.
Over time if you practice a sprint in the long sessions you will develop an ability to sprint for short sessions also. Even if you are only able to reduce your average power by 0.5 seconds per 500 it will be worth it.

Sprinting is a great habit to develop. And it will not affect the general core purpose of a particular rowing session.

Introduce it to your rowing and erging sessions and one day when you find yourself in a dog fight use it to blow your opposition away.

P.S. Read the follow up to this article, where I clarify some interesting questions raised by one of our readers.

2k Erg Mental Toughness – 2 Essential Tips Guaranteed To Prevent Choke

I’m worried.

I keep thinking about that 2k next week.

I keep thinking about the last 2k erg test when I just folded up.

And choked.

I like every other rower who chokes does so because of the pain. Or the expectancy of it  – even 4 minutes before it actually arrives.

But this time it’s different. I have a new plan. I leaned something very important from someone who’s been there before. Someone who overcame mental collapse at 2k erg tests. Many times before he discovered what to do about it.

Here’s what he told me
 

Tip #1. Harden into it

There are 2 main types of fitness. First is physical.

The second is mental fitness. Rowing on the erg trains this also. But not that much.

Ok I hear you say. But what about all those hard rowing sessions, hour long ergs, 10k ergs or the dreaded 3 x 20 minute erg? Yes I admit that those sessions do train you to be tough for that exact type of training.

But 2k erging is different.

You need to get acclimatised to taking pain. Dealing with it. Tolerating it.

So how do you do it?

In a word – Training. Both physically and mentally. Doing repeated hard short rowing physical intensity will train your body. Buy it will train your mind more and you will grow accustomed to hardship. And like all rowing training  you must time it perfectly. Only do it for 2 – 3 weeks max before the 2k test. Otherwise you will get tired and will break down.

I like doing 5 minutes all out. Or 1000 meters flat out. Repeats. A few times a week (2 max). Have a look at my 2k erg race winning plans article, where I describe exactly how to prepare physically (and mentally) for the 2k.

I guarantee you that a hardened mind will not give in easily on race day.
 

Tip # 2. Start Slowly In The 2k

Most mental rowing breakdowns happen because of a fear of what’s to come. Long before the really hard part arrives, you are thinking too far ahead and imagining how bad it’s going to feel. And it never really comes because you fold up.

The mind it a complex machine but by pushing the right buttons it can be manipulated.

If you can begin slower than usual (1 – 2 seconds per 500 split) for a few hundred meters (200 – 400) you will give your mind and body a chance to be fooled. Tricked into believing that it’s a good day at the office and that it will not hurt that much.

Then slowly allow your confidence to grow. Steadily and surely release your shackles. Break free an allow yourself to flow. And ultimately unleash hell on that erg. To the line.

Learn More Insights in the 2K Erg Book

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Successful Rowers – 8 Personality Traits You Must Have

But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep – Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)

1. Stubborn

“I will NOT give in! – No way…” Even in the face of an earth shattering storm, or a length down with 250 meters to go, or being told to go home – you’re not good enough. This is truly a magnificent  personality trait of all great rowers.

Think of times when you did something extraordinary, a time when you continued on into the storm when those all around you fell away.

You kept going, you persevered through night and day despite people firing negative shots at you from the shadows. You kept going despite them and despite… yourself.

And you got there. You stood on that podium, or on that erg room floor, victorious after a life altering, mentally ravaging battle. And you did not even flinch.
 

2. Optimist

Everyone loves an optimist – especially a realistic optimist. Great rowers have this personality trait in spades.

How many times have you been in a dark situation in your rowing or erging life when you stepped forward and offered yourself a glimmer of hope?

A small, instantly realisable task that you can set to work on and learn to row your way out of darkness. And then you cherish that optimism and nurture it and grow it into something tangible. And you row out into the light.
 

3. Obsessive

Do you think about rowing more than 7 times a day? Do you surf the web endlessly searching for new answers to age old rowing problems. Maybe you talk a lot about rowing and your friends do too? That’s ok. You’re probably a rowing obsessive – and that’s exactly what you need to be.

Most of your best ideas and discoveries will come when you occupy at the back of your mind, thoughts of rowing .

Opportunities will arise and new ways of looking at your rowing life will present themselves to you when you are alert and open.
 

4. Dreamer

Sports psychologists and self help gurus talk about visualisation. Which is just a fancy way of describing day dreaming.

I bet that you dream from time to time in broad daylight.

From winning the big race next summer to smashing your P.B. at the CRASH B’s to sitting in the stroke seat of the 2016 Olympic winning 8.

We all do it. Or maybe it’s more immediate dreams like pulling a big score on the erg at your next team workout and impressing your coach.

To be successful at rowing you must dream. And you must dream big – with emotion.

Think about how it will feel when you hit your goal, think of the details – little things like the sounds, smells, environment, the water conditions, air temperature…whatever. If you can dream well then chances are that one day, when your time comes, you’ll take it with both hands.
 

5. Honest

Most rowers have a degree of honesty about them that’s often difficult to come across in ordinary everyday life. Rowers live in the real world – the world of cold, hard early mornings and heavy training late in the evening.

Rowers live in a world where the old cliché (even though we don’t like it) ‘no pain, no gain’ rings cold, hard and true.

Always has, always will.

Be honest with yourself, in your training, in your racing, in your commitment and in who you are. And you will be rewarded with a great honesty back from rowing.
 

6. Realistic

Everyone knows a rowing nut that just keeps talking that they are going to do this and do that. You know the type – the guys who say they are going to be in the top 8 by next summer. It’s hard not to be sceptical of this kinda talk.

And you know what, every rowing group needs one.

But the best rowers are realistic. They know where they’re at and they know where they want to go. And most of the time they have a good plan on how they’re going to get there.

How do you square being realistic with dreaming? Well, most realistic dreamers have realistic dreams – goals that they someday can reach if they believe in hard work.
 

7. Judgemental

Have you rarely, if ever come across a rower who is not a good judge? Every day rowers must make big calls in the boat, on the erg, and in the gym about themselves and about others.

And when a rower is making those big calls they grow into wise, insightful, wonderful people.

Using intuition, experience, intelligence and reason they become like the Oracle at Delphi – a great symbol of ancient and revered knowledge.
 

8. Trustworthy

Imagine you had to go into a life and death battle. And you knew that your life depended on the work ethic, intelligence, bravery and trustworthiness of  the people you choose to go with you.

Who would you choose?

If you had to pick 3  – 5 people that you could honestly trust to fight-the-good-fight with, who would those people be?

You would choose the best rowers you know because they are the kind of people who will fight for you and with you right up to the end and beyond.

Learn More Insights in the 2K Erg Book

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See Book Contents

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