October 09, 2012

5 Tips for Success in Collegiate Rowing: Lightweight 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 Lightweight Women, are from Michelle Sechser.

Michelle is a graduate of the University of Tulsa. She competed in the Lightweight Women's Double and Women's Open Quad at the 2011 Pan American Games, winning a bronze medal in each event. In 2012, she finished fourth in the Lightweight Women's Quad at the World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. You can follow Michelle on twitter at @MichelleSechser

5 Tips for Success in Collegiate Rowing: Lightweight Women

1. Think BIG: If you want to run with the big dogs, don’t play with the pups

Destroy the mentality that you are somehow at a disadvantage when competing against openweight teammates. Forget physics. Allowing yourself to make excuses for not beating someone can become a slippery slope that will prevent you from becoming a great racer. On the water or even on the erg, challenge yourself to compete against a teammate who is bigger or stronger than you; this challenge requires the same fearlessness and confidence needed to take down last year’s IRA Ltw 8+ Champion. To be a successful rower, whether lightweight or openweight, teach yourself to stop thinking, ‘She is supposed to be beating me.’

2. Fun Times in the 1x: All the Single Ladies

As a lightweight woman, being a proficient 1x sculler has two amazing benefits. 1. The 1x is an effective method for learning to efficiently move a boat. It will teach you to contribute to boat speed by calling upon clean technique, boat feel and mechanics rather than relying on brute force (as I learned the hard way).  Since you are racing as a lightweight the playing field is leveled with the same size of athletes in each crew; learn to out-row your competition with a more efficient use of your limited body weight.  2.  If you have any dreams of competing for the US National Team, sculling is the only opportunity available. This can be a difficult transition for many women trying to be selected for the U23 or Senior Team after college who are talented athletes and skillful 8’s movers, but have simply never spent time in a small sculling boat. Summer Rowing programs such as Vesper, Penn AC, or OKC are a great place to start.

3. Injury Prevention: Get hardcore!

Intercostal injuries are common among lightweight women.  Having an all-inclusive core routine in place is very helpful in preventing an injury that could keep you off the water for weeks or even an entire season.  If your coach does not already assign one in your training program, (first, reprimand your coach) work with your athletic trainer or weights coach to develop a program that will strengthen your upper and lower abdomen, lower back and hip muscles. Do not wait until you feel soreness or pain in these regions to take care of this. Your core is a link in the transmission of power between the upper and lower body. It needs to be strong enough to transfer all of your force without wreaking havoc on your musculoskeletal system. 

4. Proper Fuel: Don’t put regular gasoline in a Ferrari

If you’re training on a restricted number of calories, it is crucial to be fueling your body with foods that will give you the most bang for your buck.  Though it does require more time and planning, try to stick to unprocessed foods and plan your meals in advance. If you’re going to spend 20+ hours each week training your body to perform well in a race, then you need to put in the time to have meals that will fuel you through practice and help you recover as quickly as possible. Consider your diet to be as crucial to your boat’s speed as weights training, technical rows, and video review session.  I highly recommend the book Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain. I have seen huge improvements in my fitness and recovery speed since I learned to avoid heavily processed foods and began replacing them with huge volumes of ‘real’ food.  This will also leave you a lot less hangry, which I’m sure many people in your life will appreciate. In the spirit of Fall season experiment with Pumpkin (such as a can of puree, not the pie filling).  It’s high in potassium to help you restore electrolytes after a hard workout and also high in fiber.  Get creative by adding cinnamon and your vanilla or chocolate protein powder!

5. The Art of the Weigh In: What to do once you’re off the scale

Though most collegiate regattas do not mimic the FISA 1 hour weigh-in window, the way you fuel your body between your weigh-in and your race is fundamental to your performance. Use your hard practices that involve race pieces to experiment with what works best for you.  Race day is never the time to try a whole new method of preparation. Experiment with a range of foods that will keep you well-fueled and easy to digest.  Avoid large amounts of foods before your race warm up because you will need that blood in your muscles not digesting food in your stomach as you are coming down the race course.

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