BY BILL MANNING
PHOTO BY ED MORAN
Hurry up. Fully preparing a crew to race requires more time than is often available. Therefore, we try to adequately prepare crews and athletes using the available time as efficiently as possible. Incorporating dual-purpose practices into the training program makes this more possible.
A dual-purpose practice allows coaches to address two or more aspects of necessary preparation simultaneously, for example, teaching skills in low-intensity training. Usage training prepares athletes physiologically, while instruction improves their running. (One could argue that rowing/sculpting without paying attention to skill is simply building bad habits, and the dual purpose of this training is absolutely necessary.)
It is equally helpful to combine running repetition activities with higher intensity training. Shorter runs at race cadences increase anaerobic capacity, but rather than just repeating 500 meter runs at one pace, incorporate race plans and/or race scenarios. This gives athletes the opportunity to repeatedly perform and improve what they need to do on race day.
Race starts are too often taught separately and dissociated from training. Create a dual purpose practice by including the starting sequence in the practice pieces. No matter how intense the play, just start the shot with the stroke sequence used to level the boat. The pressure may be lower than full, and therefore the start slower, but this allows the crew to practice the initial build shots more frequently, and therefore making them more routine.
The same goes for rate increases (“sprint”). Lifting at the end of a longer piece teaches tired athletes how to increase boat speed by increasing speed. Rather than doing all of the Aerobic Threshold (AT) pieces consistently at one pace, try going up two with 90 seconds to go and two more for the last 10. when we are tired.
Dual-use practices also work on land. When you go out at an assigned pace, designate a shot and ask others to follow it. Ask the team to replicate the pattern of the desired shot rather than just maintaining a rhythm. Linking the dynamic ergs helps considerably. Doing this drives both physiology and sequencing.
Routine competition in practice develops confident and capable athletes, whether on the water or on the erg, while developing their physical fitness. Organize training sessions so that it is not about maintaining a certain division, but rather about going faster than a peer with similar abilities. Athletes with disabilities so those with varying abilities can still compete with each other. If athletes row and run to win, give them the opportunity to repeat to try to win.
If you are doing weight circuits for aerobic endurance, do them at race pace. Make sure the weight is light enough that athletes can perform the activity more than 30 times per minute and their body develops the necessary speed on the water.
The most important element to add to most practices is fun. Always look for ways to make training more enjoyable. Deliberate pleasure makes boats faster.
Time is running out, but we all have exactly the same time before the championships. Incorporate dual-purpose practices into your training plan and you’ll get more done in the time available.