Month: December 2012

College Novice Q&A

Question of the Day

How hard is it to just start rowing in college, especially at a D1 or Ivy League school?

It’s hard but the degree to which it’s hard is largely determined by you. The biggest adjustments don’t come from learning a new sport, because regardless of what sport you try to pick up, it’s always going to be tough at first. The hard part is adjusting to waking up early several days a week, having practice six days a week (sometimes twice a day), and just learning how to manage your time better. Even if you’re a rock star at time management and self-discipline, joining the team will seriously test those skills.

If you have a demanding course load, it can be tough finding a good balance, especially if you fall behind earlier and have to spend a few weeks/months playing catch up. Once you find the balance though, it gets easier. You learn where your time needs to go and personally, I think, makes you a better overall student. If you have a hard time managing your time and/or you’re not very disciplined when it comes to getting things done, rowing probably isn’t the sport for you.

A lot of rowers pick the sport up in college – just look at the number of people on the national team that were walk-ons as college freshmen. It can be done but like I said, how tough it is is going to be determined by you and how disciplined you are at managing everything else in addition to crew.

College Coxing Novice Q&A Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

I’m 5’2 and weigh 153lbs. I can pull 1:58/500 m for a 30 minute test. I’ve been trying to lose weight but the nutritionist has essentially told me that my only option is to lose muscle (because of weight) or actually get bone removed through surgery (which I think is against NCAA rules). I was a walk-on to the crew team and want to row or cox but I have no idea what to do. My coach has told me I would make an excellent cox but I don’t know how to lose weight/approach this situation. Thank you!

One of your two “only” options is to have bone removed? That’s your nutritionist’s weight loss suggestion? Um…

The only way you would lose muscle is if you started starving yourself, which obviously no sane person recommends. You’re a good height to be a coxswain but maybe too short to row depending on how competitive your team is. The minimum for coxswains is 110lbs if you’re coxing women and 120lbs if your coxing men. You typically want to be as close to the minimum as possible (while still being healthy) to avoid adding unnecessary weight and drag to the boat. Coaches will typically give you some leeway though as to how far you can be over before they start nagging you about your weight (and nag they will). The best way to lose weight is pretty simple – diet and exercise. Substituting unhealthy foods for healthier options, eating several small meals a day, and adding in at least 30-45 minutes of exercise 3-4 times a week is a good way to get started.

Related: I’m a novice rower in my third season. I’m one of the strongest novice rowers, but also the heaviest (female) novice. This hasn’t seemed to be a problem before, I’m very healthy and strong, but when we did weight-adjusted pieces I began to realize it was a bit of a problem. I’m 5 7 and about 178 pounds, and about 20 pounds heavier than the other girls. I’m not self conscious about my weight, although according to my BMI I am slightly over weight, and now I’m realizing I could perform better if I was slightly lighter. I’ve tried dieting before, but I’ve always felt weak and worried about my strength while working out three hours every day. Do you have any tips about losing weight healthily as rower?

Just something to keep in mind too … 153lbs is a pretty high starting point if you want to cox. If you’re at a competitive program that expects their coxswains to be right at or very close to racing weight, you’re looking at having to lose 25lbs at least. Not that that’s not possible but just be realistic with what you decide to do.

I would search the “weight loss” or “weight” tags on here because I know I’ve answered similar questions from both rowers and coxswains that will probably help you out.

Sprint races vs. Head races

Racing Rowing

Sprint races vs. Head races

Winter training is slowly trudging along but before you know it, the spring racing season will be upon us. If you coxed or rowed in the fall but haven’t done a spring season yet, you’re probably wondering what the differences are.

Head races

Head races are run over a course an average distance of 3 miles. Instead of being a distance race, it’s raced against the clock, with the goal being to have the fastest overall time with as few penalties as possible. Crews are started 10-15 seconds apart, allowing for faster crews to overtake slower ones along the course. Due to the length of the race, the cadence is much lower when compared to a sprint race. Head races are aptly nicknamed “the coxswain’s race” due to the winding turns along that river. Navigating these turns as efficiently as possible aids the crew in achieving a fast overall time. In comparison to the spring season, the fall season is usually shorter in duration – crews might only do two to four races starting in late September and ending in early November.

Sprint races

Spring season is the best season. In college races, rowers cover a course of 2000m whereas in most high school races, rowers cover 1500m. They’re rowed somewhere between five and a half and eight minutes and at a much higher stroke rate than head races. Anywhere from 4-8 boats are lined up at the starting line, either through a floating start or on stake boats, after which the starting marshal will utilize one of the various starting calls followed by “Attention, GO” to begin the race. The end of the race (250-300m) is an all out, balls to the wall sprint.

The season itself lasts from late March or early April until the beginning of June, and crews will typically race in seven to ten races during that period. The training is much more intense and unlike fall racing, begins a few months before the actual season starts, a period classified as winter training where the athletes primarily train indoors on the erg.

Coxswains employ a different strategy with these races compared to head races because there is less distance to cover, which translates to the amount of time you have to make move running out very quickly. It is imperative for coxswains to have good control over the steering of the shell to ensure it travels the straightest line possible. If he/she is slaloming down the course, it can cost their crew a win. The intensity of the race overall is also heightened – it’s pure adrenaline from start to finish, which is an experience you can’t really comprehend until you experience it.

Image via // @rowingcelebration

Coxing How To Novice Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

So I’m going to begin coxing this coming spring season, and I am constantly reading about experienced coxes getting annoyed with the newbies. Any recommendations for things I should do to avoid pissing everyone off?

It’s impossible to avoid pissing people off though because no matter what you do, someone will be annoyed by what you’re doing. So instead, I’ll give you some general advice.

Pay attention

Soak in the information. Listen intently to the coaches and listen to the varsity coxswains when they’re telling you how to do something or what to do.


Separate yourself from your friendships and realize that you’re now in a leadership position and favoritism is not something many people appreciate. When you’re on the water, focus on accomplishing the task at hand and not the fact that your friends are in the boat with you. Practice time is not synonymous with sleepovers…you can talk about school, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc. AFTER practice.

Do something

When you’re not on the water and you can see the varsity coxswains and coaches working on something, ask if you can help. If you see things out of place, put them back where they belong. Wipe down the ergs after people get off them, take down times, splits, etc. when they’re doing pieces, etc. Never just be standing around. Crew is not the place to be a wallflower.

Make an effort

Educate yourself. Do research. Coxswains are in the unfortunate position of being expected to do a million things but we’re very rarely ever instructed on HOW to do those things. If there’s something you don’t know or understand, talk with your coach about it and ask them to explain it further, then go home and Google whatever it is and see what else you can find. Ask questions – the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.

Be enthusiastic

Don’t mope around and make it obvious that you’re bored or unhappy with your role on the team. If you’re actually unhappy about something, talk with your coach or a varsity coxswain before or after practice. During practice, keep the rowers engaged and on point. If the rowers aren’t looking forward to something, get them excited. Be THAT coxswain that always has a smile on their face and can make their teammates smile too.

Rest assured, varsity coxswains piss off novices coxswains just as much as novices piss them off. There’s a learning curve when you first start coxing that varsity coxswains forget about, which is why most of them tend to get annoyed. What I said up above is the bare minimum of what you should be doing but it’s a good place to start.

College High School How To Q&A Recruiting Rowing

Question of the Day

What’s a good way to get the attention of college coaches? Everyone keeps telling me that with my times and progress “the offers will roll in”. I really just want to be proactive in my college search to be sure that I’m choosing the right school. Is it as simple as shooting coaches an email saying that I’m interested or is there some secret step that I’ve been missing?

Rowing isn’t like football and basketball … the offers don’t just “roll in”.

First thing I’d suggest is checking out and making a beRecruited profile. This will allow coaches to get a general idea of who you are as a rower and what you’ve accomplished so far. Second, attend camps at universities you’re considering and get to know the coaches. This can be a good initial way to figure out if this is a coach you might be interested in rowing for.

Related: Hey I’m currently a sophomore & I’m interested in rowing in college. An older teammate suggested I make a beRecruited account. What are your thoughts on the website? Is it helpful? If so, what are your suggestions about keeping it updated? I feel weird writing about myself! Should I list any regatta my boat has placed in or just major races?

Third, fill out the recruiting forms on the athletic websites of the schools you’re looking at. Coaches are gonna ask you to do this anyways so you might as well ski the step of them asking you to do it and just get it done on your own. Fourth, go to CRASH-Bs (and do well) or ID camps if you can. They look great on your rowing resume and let coaches know that you have the potential to be an asset to their program. Fifth, visit the schools and see if you can meet up with the coach to tour the boathouse and learn a little bit about the team.

Check out the recruiting tag as well as the “contacting coaches” tag too. There’s lots of questions and information in there that might help you out.

Q&A Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

For winter training we have to do about 5 erg work outs, both as cardio (3 or 4x 10′) and distances (multiples of 500m/1k/2k). We can also substitute these by runs/biking/swimming, and specific times/distance for those are written down. I was just wondering what kind of balance would be good? So far I’ve pretty much only done the erg option (except for today) but I don’t know if that’s really beneficial. What would you advise? Or could you do half erg half run for example?

If I understand this correctly, I would do something like this:

Monday: Cardio erg + short run (one in the AM, one in the PM)

Tuesday: Long run

Wednesday: Distance erg + short run

Thursday: Bike or swim

Friday: Cardio OR distance + short run

Saturday & Sunday: OFF

It’s more beneficial to cross train by adding in some biking, swimming, and running vs. only training on the erg. The variety and increased workload force your body to do more, which means it has no choice but to adapt and get stronger. It also helps with injury prevention. If you’re constantly working your muscles and joints in the same way (i.e. by only erging), they’re being put under a large amount of stress via the same continuous, repetitive movements, which can eventually lead to overuse. Adding in some different training modes gives your overworked muscles a chance to rest and the underworked ones a chance to get stronger and get on the same level as the overworked ones. Plus, a psychological benefit is that the variety helps prevent you from becoming bored and burned out.

Ergs Q&A Technique Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

I have an erg at home. I’ve been using to train over the holidays like our coaches told us to, but I feel it’s making my technique get worse. I really want to train and do well on our erg test when we return from holidays, what should I do?

Over the winter when you’re training, there’s typically no one to correct your technique as you progress through a steady state piece so bad habits become ingrained pretty quickly. If you can, have a teammate come over and watch you erg. Have them point out any technique issues they notice and make note of it. The next day when you get on the erg, tape your list to the monitor and make a conscious effort to pay attention to each part of the stroke. Pause drills, technique rows, etc. would be good things to add into your workouts.

If having someone watch you isn’t an option, set your laptop webcam up to record you while you erg. You can either do it for 1-2 minutes or for the entire duration of your row if you don’t wanna get up and mess with the camera, that way you can see where your technique starts to deteriorate in relation to the amount of time you’ve spent on the erg. Another thing you can do is cut out a short (short) clip and email it to your coach to get some feedback.

Don’t spend ALL your time on the erg though. Having one readily available like that is awesome, but make sure the convenience isn’t guilt-tripping you into using it. Cross train and try to work in other workouts 2-3x a week that don’t involve erging, that way you don’t get burned out.

Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

It’s summer holidays where I am, I have this problem and I was wondering if you could give me some advice. So my coaches for my squad are all ex-rowing students of my school and they are between 19-20 year old, who can be a bit intimidating. So my problem is about completing exercises/not stopping for a break etc. which one of coaches have helped me with earlier on in the season. As a coach would you think It would be better to ask her via email or Facebook before it gets worse or becomes a habit OR should I not bother her on holidays and just ask someone (like you) and explain in as much detail as possible even if they don’t know me personally. Secondly as a coach would you be willing to help someone via email during your holiday? Would I be better off asking the head coach even if they can be very very scary at times?

19-20 year olds are never as intimidating as they seem, trust me. They’re goofballs that technically fall under the label of “adult”. That’s about it. If your coach has a fairly open-door communication policy or you have a good relationship with her, I don’t see why it’d be a big deal to send her a short email. I think it only becomes annoying and a problem if you’re messaging her on an overly-regular basis for no reason. If you just have a simple question, especially about something that she already knows about, I don’t think she’ll mind.

As a coach, I wouldn’t mind emailing with a kid over break if it was just a one-off thing, otherwise I’d say wait until we were back and can talk in person. If you know your coach is traveling or out of the country, that’d probably be the only time when they’re actually unwillingly to help. If you don’t hear from your coach after you email her, you can try emailing your head coach. Or, to save time, you can CC your head coach on the email to your other coach, that way they get it too. Don’t be intimidated by your coaches – they’re there to help you out, not to make you feel scared to talk to them. A coach whose athletes are afraid to interact with him/her is not a very good coach.

College Coxing Q&A

Question of the Day

Are there any summer programs you’d recommend for collegiate coxswains?

Check out places like Vesper, Penn AC, Riverside, etc. They all have summer U23/high performance programs that race at the big summer regattas. I’d also talk with your coach and see if they know of anything. Sometimes they have the inside track on that kind of stuff and it can come in pretty handy when they can make a call on your behalf. If all else fails, start coaching. I can’t tell you how much more heightened my coxing senses have become since I started coaching. Email high school coaches or clubs in the area you’ll be in over the summer and ask if they could use a hand.