So this may be more of a personal training journal entry than a blog entry, but I had a really great training session in the single yesterday and thought I would share some of my realizations. Well, mostly the things that Linda told me to think about, because I have been rowing and racing and training in the 1x since my junior year of high school, and I made more effective changes in the 45 minutes I spent with her than I did in the last 5, 6 years of trying to figure things out on my own! Part of me thinks I should be upset about that (think about how many training sessions I have spent working so hard at taking bad strokes!), but instead I am so happy to finally be starting to have a more effective technique that that doesn't even enter the equation. Anyways, here are the 4 things Linda had me focus on:
- Wrapping my hands further around the oar. This feels slightly uncomfortable, because the sensation is one of diminished control over the feathering and squaring of the blade. The goal with this is to have flat wrists when the fingers start to roll the oar out at the finish, so the wrists are actually slightly lifted at the catch and throughout the drive. When this is done properly, the work can be felt as locked on through the arms throughout the drive, and the legs' drive is effectively translated through the lats and then the arms onto the blade.
- Holding my shoulders down and engaging the lats just before the catch. This is tricky because it doesn't feel loose and relaxed, the way it's easy to think a recovery should feel. When I was able to do this, the catch was quicker and the leg drive more effective off of it because my whole body was ready to go as soon as the blade was buried. The feeling is almost like I'd imagine it feels to wear those big football shoulder pads, sort of a solid locked feeling in the shoulders which pushes them down. Then, off the drive, the only feeling in the arms is after the elbows break for the finish, and all of the work is down in the lats--it feels like all the power is in the engaged lats, swinging low back, and the quads as they drive the hips back.
- Transfer of pressure on the hands from drive to release. Linda gave the visualization of the left-hand handle as a clock face as you look along the shaft towards the blade. As you pull in, the pressure is felt in the fingers and is geometrically aligned at "". At the finish, the pressure switches instantaneously to ""--there is no transition through 2 and 1, and no pushing around at 10 or 11 to get the blade out. In order to do this, the stroke has to finish a bit earlier than with maximal layback--essentially a visualization of releasing at almost the shorts line, which results in a finish a couple of inches in front of the shirt. The result is a powerful drive the entire time the blade is in the water, and a quick release that doesn't slow the boat down or wobble the set with an uneven blade extraction. This is helped further by keeping the elbows high during the drive and at the release, which feels kind of like a bench pull into somewhere between your sportsbra line and bellybutton while swinging the elbows out from your sides (I suppose like a narrow-grip bench pull, then).
- Lowering the hands slightly and gradually from release to catch. This results in the blades being high enough off the water to square them cleanly, while also better enabling the lats to pre-engage (1). Thinking about bringing the blades from a fairly high release a few inches in front of the shirt, closer to the toes as the seat starts up the slide, results in more room to square up just before the catch. This is one of the things I need to work on the most, since it feels a bit like I need training wheels once I have that much more space in which to work!
Anyhow, those are a few of the things I am learning and working on...It's kind of difficult to hold all of them in my head at the same time while steering and trying to stay clear of crazy high school crews, so I end up thinking about one or maybe two for twenty strokes at a time, but I feel like a new rower! Hopefully, this extremely helpful coaching will result in me being able to move a boat more effectively…and feel faster and more powerful…which is really what this whole sport is about anyway!