I love eyes-closed rowing. It brings a different sense of calm and focus to the boat that you can’t really achieve when your eyes are open and there’s 20 different things all begging you to steal a quick glance at them. There were two years in particular where my crews did a lot of rowing like this … my freshman/novice year of high school and my freshman year of college. I think this was because we were either learning to row from scratch or adapting to a style that was different than what we’d all been rowing for the previous four years. Like they said in the video, it taught us – all of us – how to really feel the boat and not react to every little wobble.
On days when the set would be really off or we just weren’t having a good row, we would try to turn it around and salvage the latter half of practice by pushing pause on the workout and doing some eyes-closed steady state rowing for 3-5 minutes. This helped us re-concentrate our focus and reestablish that trust within the boat, which in turn led to an improved second half of the row. (Not always but most of the time, even if the gains were marginal.) If we knew we had a hard practice in store, we’d do our entire warmup with eyes closed to emphasize, again, trusting the guy in front and behind you, and to force us to make sure our technique was on point and we weren’t just muscling the blades through the water. It’s definitely a drill worth incorporating whenever the opportunity presents itself.