October 11, 2012

5 Tips for Success in Collegiate Rowing: Open Women

Our blog feature this week is "5 Tips for Success in Collegiate Rowing" from Oklahoma City Training Center athletes. Each weekday, our athletes will give pointers on how to get the most out of your collegiate rowing experience. If you have any specific categories of interest, tweet your ideas to @RowOKC_HP !
Today's tips for Open Women are from Kelly Pierce.
Kelly Pierce is a 2012 graduate of Princeton University. While competing for Princeton, she contributed to a 2010-2011 undefeated season, which was capped off with winning the 2011 NCAA Championship. She won a bronze medal in the Women's Eight at the 2011 U23 World Rowing Championships. You can follow Kelly on twitter at twitter.com/kellpossible
5 Tips for Success in Collegiate Rowing: Open Women

Now an NCAA-backed sport, the world of Openweight Women's rowing is expanding at a rapid rate, adding tremendous depth and competition to the sport. Here are some tried-and-true tips on how to dramatically improve your performance and gain that crucial edge over your competitors.
1.Timing Your Meals
Though you might not hear it said as often, the timing of your eating is almost as important as what you eat. Eating as close to practice as possible and as soon as possible afterwards will not only keep you from feeling dead-legged during practice, but will also prevent your body from cannibalizing your muscles to refill its glycogen stores. For me, the biggest difference in my training came after I started having a snack or drinking some Gatorade about 2 hours before my workout; I felt noticeably fresher during practice and far less dead-legged after practice.
PRO-TIP: If you are eating a light lunch (or no lunch at all) because of class schedules or a late breakfast, reconsider. Making time to eat a decent lunch will help your performance considerably, and will also make you far less likely to consume everything in sight after your evening practice.
2. Extra Work Pays Dividends
Every program operates differently, but for those programs that tend toward one-a-days, adding in extra steady-state work on the erg in low heart rate zones (140-150s) can make a world of difference in your fitness. If your team workouts are concentrated into one, higher-intensity practice per day, low heart rate steady state on the side can help tremendously to improve your aerobic base without tiring you out. The frequency and volume of extra work should depend on your team's schedule. Assuming 6 team practices a week (not counting weights) , I would recommend adding in 2-3 steady state sessions of around 60 minutes, broken up however you like but into segments no shorter than 15 minutes. Sacrificing the quality of team practices or burning yourself out is not the goal here -- ease into the extra work if your team schedule allows it. Always check with your coach first before adding anything supplemental to your training plan.
PRO-TIP: If your team does not provide them already, purchase and use a basic heart rate monitor. It's value as a training tool cannot be overstated! Use it to make sure your supplemental work is in the correct zone. Over time, it also provides feedback as to how your fitness is progressing.
3. Keeping a Fitness Log
If you haven't already, purchase a small notebook to keep track of the workouts you're doing, the splits you're pulling, and the volume you are racking up. You can even write a couple words about how you were feeling that day, how seat-racing went, what your technical focus was, etc. This is something that most elite rowers do, and it's invaluable if you aim to improve your consistency. What's more, it's incredibly motivating to have written proof of your improvements. Crazy as it sounds, keeping track of my workouts over my collegiate career helped me go from absolutely dreading Winter Training to genuinely enjoying it-- all because I could see my progress and know for a fact the training was helpful.
PRO-TIP: Find time at the end of each month to transfer your workouts from your notebook to a spreadsheet or GoogleDoc. Not only will all your workouts be backed up in the event of a notebook calamity (which is especially likely if your notebook is your phone), but you will be able to access years worth of data very easily and draw more meaningful, long-term comparisons!
4. Creating Routines
A lot of collegiate rowing is about rolling with the punches, but creating routines where you can in life will improve your recovery and consistency tremendously. Getting enough sleep is obviously an important component in training, but establishing a consistent bedtime and wake up-time is nearly as important. This also applies to many other aspects of training not restricted to a time schedule: hydration, pre- and post-workout stretching, and (as mentioned above) eating will all help your performance immensely if enforced with consistency and ingrained into routine.
PRO-TIP: If you know the start time of an important race or erg piece in advance, practice waking up for that piece several days before the actual day. For example, if you have a 6k at 9:00 am on Saturday morning, practice waking up at 6:00 am on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
5. Find Something That Fires You Up
When it comes to the daily grind, finding something in the sport of rowing to pursue outside of winning a particular season-ending race can be incredibly motivating. It can be something as large as "I want to do well at the U-23 ID camp and get invited to U-23 National Team Selection", or as small as "I found a bunch of awesome songs, I can't wait to steady state to them." Finding larger, personal goals (U23s) will give you some extra 'oomph' during your hard workouts or when cumulative fatigue builds up. Smaller, day-to-day things (new music) will keep your routine fresh, fun, and make it that much easier to wake up every day and put in the hard work. 
PRO-TIP: Find that music-lover on your team and get them to scour music blogs for new music. Nothing energizes that last leg of a piece or long steady state workout like a new favorite song.

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