Secrets of Success – How To Make The Most Of YOUR Training

Eat, sleep, row repeat. Is this really the mantra of our sport or purely the clichéd t-shirt slogan bought for us for Christmas?

In a sport where races can be won by mere bow balls, every advantage you can get against your opponent is one you need to take.  You train full on from September to July, go through thousands of kilometres on and off the water, plank for countless minutes and lift tonnes of weights, literally, only to lose the race you have been thinking about all year by the smallest of margins. This leaves you asking the question, ‘what if?’. What if I had finished that erg with a bit more of a sprint, or stopped looking at that tree that is identical to every other one along the bank and concentrated more, or even told the cox that another call would be more effective. So, here are some tips for what to do to maximise the most out of your training.

I’m not here to tell you to get more sleep or that you cannot eat your favourite peanut butter cups – those do make a difference – but it is during training hours where the most progress is made.

Before a session: Make sure you are well warmed up and stretch enough. Everybody has their preference for how to feel best prepared for training. If you do get injured during a session and warmed up properly, you should have no excuses. Research has shown that holding a stretch for only fifteen seconds changes mobility insignificantly – a quick reach down and touch of the toes is inadequate.

During a session: Concentrate. As well as rowing to beat other schools, I see it as a way of unwinding and distracting myself from school work. You are there to improve at rowing, not to recite your French vocabulary in your head ready for tomorrow’s test. Hydration is also key. Water on its own will not be enough. Make sure there are electrolytes in your bottle so you do not over hydrate. It goes without saying that you should always have a bottle with you.

After a session: When off the water, you may just want to have your de-brief, get your bags and leave. Instead have a quick stretch, cool down and get some protein in you quickly. As every biology student knows, protein aids growth and repair of tissue cells (which make up muscle). Although protein shakes are used by some, supplements are not encouraged by British Rowing: ‘You can get everything you need to help recover after training from food at a third of the price of a supplement’ (Nutrition Guide).

Keeping a record of your session can also help. Just a quick note of what went well in the session and where you can improve to look over before the next one can cement in your mind where the differences lie.

It is clear that in the week leading up to race day there are some basics: keep away from the alcohol, stay hydrated, sleep better, stock up on the carbs and cut down on red meat. Being well rested does not have to just be a case of catching more Zs, that clearly helps, but also something just as simple as putting the phone away earlier can help your sleep pattern.

Music during a session: Some coaches prefer to run erg sessions in silence, after all, you will not have it during a race. Other people may think that if music makes you faster, why not then use it to its advantage? Of course, no playlist is the same, but have you ever wanted to know what one of the best listens to? We spoke to Oxford Brookes and Great Britain cox Harry Brightmore at Henley Royal Regatta:

‘At the moment I’ve been listening to From the Ritz to the Rubble by Arctic Monkeys, a high-paced track to get people going, GarageSkankFREESTYLE by Kano, and Split (Only U) by Tiësto.’

There is some truth to the phrase ‘eat, sleep, row repeat’, what we do away from the sessions can also impact our performance. Even the slightest change made could mean you are the bow ball that crosses the line inches ahead of your opponent. Who will be the crew asking the question ‘what if?’ then?