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Improving Your Rowing Technique On Water – Ease In!

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rowing technique on water (Fastermasters.com)

Hello rowers! This is Rebecca Caroe, and today I want to talk about easing back into your training after winter break. I bet you are bored of erging and longing to hear the water again, feel a real oar in your hands, and get your body back into real rowing motion.

In today’s article, you will find some pointers to avoid injuries and get the most out of your rowing program, even if it means erging indoors for just a bit longer.

I know that some of you are already mapping out your spring and summer logs- how many meters you’ll reach by a certain date, which races you would like to enter, and who you might be rowing with this year.

Rowing feels so glorious at the beginning of the season, before the blisters, sore butt, and blade work problems show up. So before getting back in the water, I like to take to heart the motto of Scandinavian cross-country skiers, “Hurry slowly.”

I’ll explain more about how to hurry slowly as we go on.

Getting Back on the Water

lady showing on water rowing technique

As much as you might feel like diving in and picking up where you left off, I suggest that you take a bit more laid-back approach, if you will.

1. Give Yourself Time

If you spend a few weeks easing back into rowing, rather than going straight to early regattas, the dividends are well worth the effort.

If all you’ve been able to do is erg, then your hands are probably going to be the first to feel the effects. Check that your grips are in good shape, and if they aren’t, buy some new ones.

Give your hands time to become accustomed to the new grips.

man rowing technique

You also haven’t feathered an oar in a few months, so you might be out of practice. Sweep rowers will need to remember that the inside hand feathers the oar while the outside hand controls the height of the oar.

If you’re a sculler, you need to practice keeping your hand at the end of the handle and resist that urge to palm smaller handles.

For both rowers, your forearms need to be level with the water, and your wrists are kept flat to minimize unwanted extra motion.

Practice makes perfect, mates, so now is the time to get in the practice that you haven’t been able to do on the erg.

2. Grow Muscular Strength

Keep in mind that your shell is a reactive environment, so all those smaller muscles in your trunk are going to be tired before the larger muscle groups are.

At the beginning of the season, your training sessions are going to be limited by the endurance of your stabilizing muscles.

ladies rowing technique

If you should find yourself balancing the boat by moving your knees, it’s time to call it a day.

The one thing you want to avoid at the start of the season is any overuse injuries. If you should develop an overuse injury now, imagine how bad this injury will become in the next 3 months.

It is far better to slowly get back into rowing and improve your strength and endurance over a couple of weeks than to go all out, do 15K a day, and then need to take off 6-8 weeks or more due to an injury.

3. Hurry Slowly

man showing rowing tips on water

I recommend spending the next 4 weeks placing an emphasis on balance and blade work, not speed. Here are some tips to help you hurry slowly:

  • You might think that you’ll go mad holding back, but you should stay focused on the above two items (balance and blade work) while doing 16-20 SPM. As the old saying goes, “If you can’t do it slowly, you can’t do it fast.”
  • You should also work on exercises for the entry and release, such as pausing at half-slide, one-quarter slide rowing, or legs-only.
  • And, yes, if you feel that you have too much pent-up energy to do this for 4 weeks, take out that energy on the erg. Go 15K and you will feel like you’re making progress, and you know what? You are!

Improving Technique and Quality

While you are working on your rowing technique, you can use the erg to not only burn off some of that pent-up energy but also keep you in good aerobic condition.

You’ve probably heard people tell beginners to focus on the quality of their technique over and over again. Now, if you are saying, “I’m not a beginner, I know the technique”, then perhaps you are missing the point.

team of rowers

It’s not that you don’t know what to do. It’s not that you aren’t a master of technique. It’s that you are out of practice.

Yes, you are going to come out a winner, stronger and better than ever, but for the moment, you should focus on your technique and getting your body back to the movement that it knows so well, as you increase your endurance levels.

Taking the time to practice good blade work now means that you will have more boat speed when you ramp up those cadences later on.

Early Regattas

While everyone likes to think that early regattas will define them for the remainder of the season, this isn’t necessarily true.

Rather than focus on wins or losses, why not focus on your (or your crew’s) race plan? Crews and scullers are all at different levels of development at this stage. Make a plan based on how you perform during a practice session.

Have you ever seen a crew or scull win in an early regatta, only to be near the bottom of the races they are doing in June?

Don’t let the early season regattas distract you from doing your best technique and performance.

Use those early regattas for learning and to create a great race plan for next time. I love to focus on success and how to reach it, rather than focus on failures.

Achieve a Balance in Your Training

It’s easy to get lost in the training schedule, so much so that you actually neglect your health.

Yes, you want to improve and become a stronger, better sculler, but that won’t happen if you only use your time for training and neglect your physical health.

Remember to get plenty of sleep and give your body the fuel it needs to do what you are demanding of it. If you’ve been out on the water for 60 or 90 minutes and had only water, your carb stores have taken a huge hit. Eat smart and your body will respond with a positive impact.

Get the most out of every training session, yes, but when you are tired, sleep. When you are hungry, eat something healthy. When your brain is fuddled and you feel like snapping at a teammate over nothing, take a day or two off.

Rest, recovery, and refueling are all you need to get out on the water and give it your best.

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