Coxing High School Q&A Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

Hey! I love your blog. I have a couple of quick questions.

1) I have been rowing bow (port) in our starboard stroked bow-loader four boat. When ever we start to row and get to the drive part of the stroke my left ankle keeps cramping up and I was wondering if you had any way to stop this from happening?

2) Like I said before, I row bow and because our coxswain doesn’t have a cox box, nobody but me can hear her when she is facing forward (the way she is supposed to be looking) so she often turns towards us and the coach keeps telling her to turn around, but then the problem is that nobody can hear her. The girl who coxed this boat last season was really good at projecting her voice but the new cox is not. Do you have any advice for her?

3) I was looking at your what to wear blog posts and I was wondering what you think rowers should wear in the rain?

4) I hate running, I always cramp up two steps in and can’t breathe by the thirty second mark. My coach is really into running and running stairs. I don’t want to be that person who doesn’t run with everybody else because I don’t like it, but do you have any advice about making running less painful?

5) What is a good snack to have right before practice if it starts at 3 or 4 and goes till 6, but lunch is at 11:30? I always get so hungry right in the middle of pieces!

Sorry this is so long! Thanks!

The only thing that I can think of that could be causing this is the position of your foot stretchers. If the angle is too steep or too shallow then that could be putting a weird amount of stress on your tendons, causing your ankle to cramp up. I’d mention it to your coach and see if he can look at the stretchers to see if that’s the problem. If it’s not then it’s probably a flexibility issue. You should be stretching before practice for at least 10 minutes so if you’re not I’d start doing that, even if it means doing it on your own. Ankle pushes are a stretch our guys do that might help – it’s basically a mini-squat where you stand on one leg and bend your knee about 30 degrees or so until you feel a stretch up through your Achilles before pushing back up. (If you don’t have very good balance you can find a wall to put your hand(s) on to help keep you stable.)

Your coxswain needs a cox box. Obviously it’s not your responsibility to make that happen but seriously, I really don’t understand how coaches can send coxswains out without one and think they’re going to have a worthwhile and effective practice, let alone a safe one. Telling everyone to just listen is all well and good until you factor in the noise from the oarlocks, the boat moving through the water, the slides, the launch, the wind, car traffic, etc. Being in a bowloader also presents the issue of the coxswain’s voice not going straight at the rowers (like it does in an eight) which makes it even harder for them to hear what they’re saying. Even a perfectly silent crew would have a hard time hearing their coxswain in that situation. It’s not safe being out without one, plain and simple. To answer your question, the only advice I have is to find a cox box. I know that’s not the most helpful answer but that’s really the only solution to the problem.

When you’re rowing in the rain you’ve basically gotta accept that you and your clothes are going to get wet no matter what (which really isn’t that much different than a normal day on the water…). As long as you’re not wearing cotton, which is pretty much the worst thing you can wear while rowing regardless of the weather, you can pretty much wear exactly what you’d wear on an otherwise “dry” day. If you’ve got a splash jacket that you can throw on to at least keep your core warm and mostly dry(ish) then that’s a good thing to do if you know it’s going to be raining during practice. Like I said though, unless it’s just sprinkling it’s not a matter of if you’ll get wet but when.

It sounds like you’re just out of shape. (I only say that because I know I’m out of shape and that’s how I feel too.) It’s just like steady state on the erg though, the better developed your cardio system gets the “easier” it is. You’ve just gotta push through it and keep going. Feeling winded is obviously a natural side effect of being out of shape (even people who are incredibly fit get winded at the start if they haven’t worked out for a week or two) but it could also be a result of asthma (speaking from experience, this is the worst…). Even if this isn’t something you’ve been diagnosed with before it’s worth checking in with your doctor just to be sure you haven’t developed it. I had several friends in high school who were all incredible athletes but all developed some form of asthma that wasn’t diagnosed by their doctors until they started training for crew.

I used to always leave a box of granola bars in my car that I could grab before practice so if you’re a fan of Clif bars then I’d definitely recommend buying a box or two and stashing them in your car, your locker, etc. so you can grab one before you leave school or on your way to practice. Bananas, PB + apples, a bagel, yogurt + fruit + granola, etc. are all tasty options too.

Leave a Comment

Comments (2)

  1. A couple of other thoughts for the ankle cramping: Feel what’s happening on the drive with your feet and ankles. The heels lift off the footboard a little at the catch for most people, but it’s not uncommon to see rowers push through the entire stroke on the toes rather than getting the heels down in the first quarter of the slide and and pushing directly. Some programs coach pushing the heels off again at the finish for more length, and some want them to stay down for stability and set, but holding them off through the drive can cramp calves and feet and doesn’t add power or length.

    And it’s your outside ankle, so check to see if both legs are pushing through the drive fairly equally. It’s easy to let the inside leg just go for a ride, especially if the boat is down to your side.

    I don’t find running easy either. Checking for asthma is a safe idea but running also uses muscles differently, so you could have the same erg as a team mate but different running economy and mechanics that put you in a VERY different work zone at the same running speed. If you’re super tense and breathing only in the ribcage that can lead to cramps and stitches.

    Good Luck!