Monday, May 14, 2007


From my experience:

When an athlete is tired from a heavy training load (despite good rest) they will be able to row well and achieve good training speeds at lower rates and intensities but if asked to do high intensity and high rate pieces they will not be able to produce the boat speed required. They may struggle to achieve rates they would normally comfortably row in races.

If they are however tired from not enough rest (such as a late night partying the night before) then they will struggle with the lower intensity paddling as they find it difficult to maintain focus but if asked to do shorter higher intensity pieces can generally achieve good speeds.

Knowing the difference between these two symptoms is important as it can help the coach identify whether the problem is UNDER RECOVERY or OVER TRAINING/OVER REACHING

The link between core stability, strength, endurance, flexibility and posture

The link between core stability, strength, endurance, flexibility and posture -
From Rowing & Regatta Magazine, Jan 2006, pp 26-27
If you took time to sketch a good body-position at the finish of a rowing or sculling stroke it is likely that it will have a perfectly straight back, and can pivot from the hips. Yet rowers in real life are more complicated than this; they have a pelvis that tilts, and a spine that bends!

Whether rowing or coaching, you need to be aware of the movements of the pelvis and spine, particularly the lower back (lumber spine). The degree of bend and development of bend at the lower back vs the pivot of the hips is known as the lumbo-pelvic rhythm.

When looking out for rowing technique, it can help to think of rowers as being like the slightly more complex stick man pictured;

Good body position at the finish
The back is straight and in a strong position. The pelvis and lumber spine are lined up with each other. There is no slumping.

Poor body position at the finish
In this example, the rower is slumped at the finish. Their pelvis is rotated backwards and is not in line with their lumber spine. They will be sitting on the fleshy part of their bottom. They are also bending (flexing) their lumber spine.

Look out for movement in a rower’s lumber spine and pelvis; is their pelvis slumped? Is their lumber spine flexed? Does this happen as they get more tired?

Rowers have muscles!
Unlike stick men, rowers have muscles. They can be big or small, active or inactive, strong or weak, have high or low endurance, be involved in moving or in stabilizing, and be stronger or weaker than opposing muscles. That’s a lot of complexity! When writing a training program coaches often focus on developing muscles strength and endurance rather than considering other ways to training muscles.

For example you need to train your core trunk muscles to be active and to develop their strength and endurance. This involves training both the deep stabilizing muscles and the other abdominal muscles; to better balance your trunk strength and endurance with your back strength and endurance.

Muscular imbalance and weakness affect flexibility, rowing posture and technique. Good examples of this are the hamstring muscles and hip flexors. If rowers neglect to develop the muscles that stabilize the pelvis, the hamstrings and hip flexors will take up the role of stabilizers and be more active which over time, can lead to them shortening. Many rowers have short hamstrings and hip flexors. Freeing these muscles from overwork (by activating and training the stabilizing muscles) means they can stretch and lengthen, which will allow the postures required for good rowing technique to be achieved and maintained. You must train stability, strength and endurance to allow the muscles to be stretched.

What do the hamstrings do?
The hamstrings shorten to extend the thigh and flex the knee, and help to extend the hips so the opposite movements to these can be used as stretches.

What will stretch hamstrings?

Develop core stability, strength and endurance first!
The hamstrings can be lengthened ad stretched by combinations of;
-Pivoting forwards from the hips (trunk flexion)
-Raising the knee (hip flexion)
-Extending the leg at the knee (leg extension)

What to Do in Practice…

1. Learn how to activate the appropriate muscles
Rowers have releatively weak trunk flexors in comparison to their back extensor muscles. Make sure that you develop an ability to activate the deep stabilizing muscles of the spine (core stability) and trunk muscles (flexors and extensors) and then develop their strength and endurance.

2. Look out for the lumbar spine
If you are a coach, think of rowers as being more than complicated stick figures (pictured); observe the amount of pelvic tilt and any bend at their lumbar spine, and note when this occurs in the recovery.

If you are a rower get your coach to video you and to look at the body movement that you obtain; is it pivot from the hips, or are you compensating and bending from the lumbar spine or reaching from the shoulders?

3. Monitor the effects of fatigue!
Rowers might start off with good stickman-esque posture in an outing, but poor core stability, trunk strength and/or endurance may mean that their body positions and sequencing degrades.

Capture some video early in the outing and some towards the end; are there changes in the postures? For how long can the posture be maintained?

With fatigue and at higher rates, rowers tend to tilt their pelvis forward less coming to the catch, and increase the bend at their lower back to compensate, making the spine work through a larger range of motion; look out for changes throughout and outing.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Think about your drills

Think about your drills
From Coach Boat View – Canadian Coaching Newsletter, Fall 2001.
By Carolyn Trono, Coach and Athlete Development Consultant pp 18
Drills play an important role in helping sport participants learn motor skills. Whether the participant is a beginner or an elite athlete, coaches
and instructors are notorious for inventing creative drills to help athletes perfect a motor skill. Normally, coaches and instructors have a good reason for asking rowers to do a drill. Sometimes a drill can help the rower isolate and work on a certain movement pattern. Sometimes, a drill is used to teach skills to a novice rower. And sometimes, the drill is used to help an athlete correct incorrect movement patterns.

Here are a few considerations about drilling that coaches and instructors should be aware of prior to giving athletes drills to do.

You should be able to communicate this to the participants. This is important so that the rower can focus their attention on the correct part of the stroke and the movement pattern that is being refined.

When someone is learning a new skill or changing a motor pattern, they are considered to be in the “early” stage (cognitive stage). At this stage, the participant is concentrating so hard on mastering the skill that any type of distractions (wind, noise, rough water) can interfere with this process. If the boat is rocking and unstable, the rower will have difficulty focusing on the skill that is being taught. Another important consideration at this stage is that the dominant sensory modality is visual. The participant needs to be able to get a visual sense of what is required for the skill. Therefore, demonstrations are helpful and the participant should be encouraged to watch his/her oar when doing drills. As a participant gets more experience, he/she will appreciate more auditory and kinesthetic cues.

The Canadian National Rowing Team may do a drill that is suitable for them and helps these athletes to refine skills. However, this doesn’t mean that all athletes at all levels should do it. For inexperienced rowers, it is important to minimize the variables that the rower has to contend with when doing a drill. Here is an example. The pause drill is used very frequently. I have seen National team rowers do this drill with a double pause every second stroke. For an inexperienced crew, I would suggest having half of the crew, not row and concentrate on holding the boat balanced. The rest of the group would row and do the drill, with one pause every stroke. In this way, the rowers do not have to worry about balance. They only have to pause once and don’t have to worry about counting every second stroke.

Researchers suggest that everyone has a preferred sensory modality - auditory, visual or kinesthetic. By using a variety of modalities in the coaching repertoire, the coach is likely to provide cues for all three modalities. For example, a visual learner learns best by seeing demonstrations, looking at videos and watching his/her oar. A kinesthetic learner learns best by doing. Sometimes this means that the coach must adjust positions to help the rower get the “feeling” of the correct movement pattern. An auditory learner does quite well with verbal cues and feedback. Sometimes listening for the correct sound helps such as the “plop” sound when the blade drops into the water properly.

Go Small Before You Go Big!

Go Small Before You Go Big! - Why the Canadian National Rowing Team trains and selects their crews in small boats by Dr. Volker NOLTE
Considering the resources of the Canadian National Rowing Team (total number of rowers and clubs in Canada, available finances etc.) we certainly have for the last decade the most efficient national team in the world. It even succeeded several times to be the very best team in the world, and consistently produced medals at Olympic Games and World Championships.

Obviously, the success is based on outstanding athletes and a great National team system. One important part of this system is the focus on SMALL BOAT training and racing. We believe, and the experience supports this believe strongly, that the majority of our training should be done in small boats, pairs and singles. Although pairs are the preferred training boats for sweep rowers, the single is considered to be the true basic of the small boat program. Since small boat training has such an outstanding position in our National Team Program, it is worth while to study it in some detail.

The most persuasive answer to this question is: It is the ONLY way to make the Canadian National Team! The whole selection procedure is based on small boats. The vast majority of the training in the National Team training centres and camps is done in small boats and the selection races are held in singles and pairs (Speed Order Regatta or, how it is called in the last few years, Training Centre Trials and seat racing). The outstanding positive experience over the last years shows that this is the best method for training and selection.

It is certainly the FAIREST way to select, because the result of the selection is depending on one's individual performance. You cannot hide in a single or a pair. The results of small boat races give a clear ranking of the athletes, and each athlete has the best chance to show their own capability. This system also offers each athlete more options in selection. In the same race for example, you could try out for the eight, the four and the pair. Therefore, it is imperative to train in small boats, because you should prepare in the boat in which you will be tested.
Small boat training offers also generally the BEST PREPARATION for all kinds of racing. It is PHYSIOLOGICALLY the best training method for the individual athlete. It is known that each person develops the best when training at an individual intensity level. The better rowers can go at a faster speed, so they can improve, while the development athletes can row at their speed without experiencing overloading. This would be impossible for example in an eight, where everyone has to row at the same speed.

Small boat training is also the BEST TECHNIQUE TRAINING. It offers the best way to learn balancing, one of the major challenges in rowing technique. Furthermore, singles and pairs provide the highest level of technical difficulty and react most sensible to the forces applied and the movements of the rowers. Any mistake done becomes immediately visible, can be identified and points to the rower who is the cause of it. Research also shows that small boats teach technique the best, because of the direct feedback for the rowers. Sometimes, it does not even require the input of a coach that an athlete knows what has to be corrected. Small boat training improves the sensitivity of the rowers and often, a proper technique can be found simply through trial and error. A pair also shows very clearly the compatibility of two rowers. This knowledge is important for building larger crews.

In addition, small boat training provides many PSYCHOLOGICAL ADVANTAGES. Rowers learn to be only dependent on their own performance. Consequently, they learn confidence in their own abilities. The individual performance is for every single stroke on the line. You simply cannot hide, but you learn to perform. It is much tougher to train and perform in a small boat, where your own performance has such a large influence and no coxswain is there to keep the spirit up. Training in small boats is also much more competitive. Instead of going out on the water in an eight as a singular boat, you could have four pairs competing with each other. The variation of training sessions improves too, because there are more training exercises or ways to organize workouts through the higher number of boats.

Finally, small boat rowing teaches WATERMANSHIP. The rowers learn much more about the element on which they row, and the environment they train. There is no coxswain who looks after the steering. Therefore, the rowers themselves have to take care for their course and the direction they choose. They feel the water, the wind, the waves and the temperatures more directly, and learn to act much more cautiously. With the experience of small boat rowing, the rowers develop more sensitivity how and where they move on the water. As a simple example, it may not be very dangerous to leave the gate of the oarlock undone in an eight, but in a pair it may be life threatening.
But there are also reasons that go beyond racing. Rowers who were taught to row in small boats will most likely enjoy rowing longer in their life than others. They are capable of rowing all boat classes, in different seats, and will not always be depending on a crew. Especially later on in life when it becomes increasingly difficult to get compatible crews together for training and recreation, a rower who is able to scull will find more often the opportunity to get on the water. Small boat rowers will have more chances to continue life long rowing. They may even choose to purchase their own single to become totally independent from others.

Sure there are! This is why we still have to work on getting even more athletes and clubs hooked on to the small boat philosophy. It is obviously easier to control one eight instead of four pairs, especially since there is a coxswain involved, so to speak in an assistant coach position. In some clubs, there may be even some safety concerns, particularly in cold weather conditions. And finally, you need the boats for this kind of training. If you look into a 'normal' Canadian rowing club, the emphasis lies on the eights. That is the tradition. Therefore, special efforts have to be made to put more small boats in our boathouses. After the small boats are purchased, you will find that you get a lot of good use for them. Rowers will enjoy training in them, and the benefits will be obvious to everybody. Everybody will learn very quickly to handle these boats and safety will be learned from a new angle. Therefore, the disadvantages will actually turn into positive experiences over time.

DREAMSMartin Luther King once said "I have a dream..." when he had a vision of a positive change in society. Why should not we have a dream, too, that with a little bit of understanding what is good for our athletes, and how we should develop our rowing program, small boat training will be used more widely. The advantages of small boat training are so overwhelming and clear that everybody should be excited to get into this kind of training. It is proven so often all over the world, but especially within our highly successful Canadian Team that there should not be any doubt that this is the way to go. The new generation of Canadian rowers will agree and be thankful.

Quote: Dr. Volker Nolte (now 45)Why do I love rowing?I was fascinated by the elegance and the technique involved when I discovered the sport of rowing. This was when I was 13 years old. I still love the sport. I love to go out in my single or with my friends in an eight. I love the feeling of working with my whole body. I love the sense of speed in the water, the noises in the boat, and striving for the perfect stroke. And I love the challenge to teach young athletes these experiences...

The Basis For Training

The Basis For Training –
From the introductory chapter to Periodization: Theory & Methodology of Training
By Tudor Bompa. Published by Human Kinetics 1999.
Most scientific knowledge, whether from experience or research aims to understand and improve the effects of exercise on the body. Exercise is now the focus of sports science. Research from several sciences enriches the theory and methodology of training, which has become a science of its own. The athlete is the subject of the science of training. The athlete presents a vast source of information for the coach and sport scientist.

During training, the athlete reacts to various stimuli, some of which may be predicted more certainly than others. Physiology, biochemical, psychological, social and methodological information is collected from the training process. All this diverse information comes from the athlete and is produced by the training process. The coach who builds the training process, may not always be in a position to evaluate it. However he must evaluate all the feedback from the training process to understand the athletes reactivity to the quality of training and properly plan future programs. In light of this, it becomes clear that coaches require scientific assistance to ensure that they base their programs on objective evaluations.

Theory and methodology of training is a vast area. Closely observing the information available from each science will make coaches more proficient in their training endeavors. The principles of training are the foundation of this complex process. Knowing the training factors will clarify the role each factor plays in training, according to the characteristic of the sport or event

Hip Extensions & Healthy Hamstrings

Hip Extensions & Healthy Hamstrings
From Functional Training for Sports, M. Boyle, Human Kinetics, 2004. pp 73-84
The muscles that extend the hip, primarily the gluteus maximus and hamstring group, are often neglected, even in many functional training programs. Programs frequently place excessive emphasis on the knee extensors and neglect the hip extensors. Even more disturbing, the muscles that extend the hip, especially the hamstrings, are often mistakenly trained as knee flexors. In non functional strength programs, many muscle groups are still trained according to outdated understandings of their functions.

Although some anatomy texts describe the hamstring group as knee flexors, science now tells us that the hamstrings are powerful hip extensors and stabilizers of the knee. Hamstrings are only knee flexors in nonfunctional settings. In running jumping or skating, the function of the hamstrings and glutes is not to flex the knee but to extend the hip. As a result, lying or standing leg curls are generally a waste of time for athletes. Leg curl exercises the muscles in a pattern that is never used in sport. Training the muscles in non functional patterns may explain the frequent recurrence of hamstring strain in athletes who rehabilitate with exercises such as leg curls or isokinetics.

Hip Extension Exercises
There are two distinct types of hip extension movements; straight leg hip extensions and bent leg hip extensions. It is critical to use exercises from both categories to properly train the posterior chain muscles (glutes and hamstrings)…

…It is important to note that knee flexion exercises such as squats and variations affect the glutes and hamstrings only as they relate to knee extensions and hip extensions in achieving a neutral standing position. To more fully involve the glutes and the hamstrings the movements must be centered on the hip and not the knee…

Level 1 Exercises
The hyperextension is possibly the worst named exercise in the functional training toolbox. Hyperextensions may be referred to as back extensions or back raises, but whatever the name, should be included in every beginning strength program. (This exercise is also called Glut-Ham Raises which more accurately describes the exercise – Ed). The hyperextension is a great basic exercise that teaches the athlete to use the glutes and hamstrings as hip extensors. Despite the name the emphasis should not be on hyperextending the lumber spine but rather on using the glutes and hamstrings as hip extensors. The exercise has three major benefits.

It strengthens the posterior aspect of the trunk (spinal erectors); it works the low back extensors in primarily an isometric, rather than concentric or eccentric, fashion. The spinal erectors (low back muscles) are critical for maintaining proper position in all standing exercises.
It strengthens the glutes and hamstrings as hip extensors. Many people view the hyperextension as a lower back exercise but it is actually an excellent exercise for the upper hamstrings and glutes.
It promotes flexibility in the low back and hamstrings. The actions of lowering and raising the weight of the torso stretch the hamstring group.

Level 2 Exercises
Modified Straight Leg Deadlift
The modified Straight Leg Deadlift (SLDL) ranks with the squat among frequently maligned, misunderstood and poorly executed lifts. The squat and deadlift and their variations are often called unsafe and dangerous. In truth, these lifts are extremely safe and beneficial when performed correctly with an appropriate load. However the squat and the SLDL can be dangerous when performed improperly or with too heavy a weight. The modified SLDL is performed with the legs slightly bent and the back arched. The SLDL, like the hyperextension is an isometric exercise for the spinal erectors (lower back muscles) and a concentric exercise for the hamstrings and glutes. It works the lower back musculature similarly to the squat.

Please not that this is an extremely difficult lift to teach and should be learned with a dowel or weight bar prior to loading.
Technique Points
For dumbbell SLDLs, the dumbbells are held with the palms in towards the thighs (neutral grip), and the hands should move down the outside of the thigh to the shin.
For a straight bar use a clean grip. Arms are straight. Wrists are curled under to encourage elbow extension.
Feet should be approximately hip-width apart. Knees are slightly bent.
Keep the back arched, the shoulder blades retracted and the chest up.
While maintaining your back position, slide the bar down your thighs until you reach the end of your hamstring range of motion.

The keys to the SLDL are bending from the hip and pushing the butt back while maintaining and arched back. Concentrate on pushing the hips and butt back, not on leaning forward. Athletes should start with the weight on the balls of the feet and, as they descend, shift their weight to the heels by pushing the butt back. Maintaining back position is important. Athletes must maintain at least a flat back. If they begin to flex the spine, they have reached the end of the active range of motion of the hamstrings. Remember that this is an isometric exercise for the spinal erectors and a concentric exercise for the glutes and hamstrings. Movement should come from the hip, not from the lumbar spine.

Perform for multiple sets of 5-12 depending on the level of training. Generally no fewer than 5 reps should be done, as a precaution against back injury (due to high loads)

Level 3 Exercises
Two-Leg Stability Ball Hip Extension

A 65cm stability ball is used. The stability ball hip extension uses the hamstrings and glutes as hip extensors. It is extremely important that the movement comes from the hip and not from the lumbar spine.

Technique Points
Place the soles of the feet on the stability ball with hips and knees flexed to 90 degrees.
Place the arms at the sides.
Press the feet down onto the ball with the glutes and hamstrings
Raise the hips up until there is a straight line from the knees to the shoulders.
Extend the hips, not the lumbar spine. Attempt to draw in the abdominals to stabilize the back.
Think hip extension, not lumbar extension.

Body Position and Technique in Early Recovery

Body Position and Technique in Early Recovery
From Rowing & Regatta Magazine, Feb 2006, pp 28-29
Position and Technique in Early Recovery
Last issue, we identified that rowers have a pelvis that tilts, a spine that bends, and muscles that act to stabilize and move joints. We can now look at the early part of the recovery; what muscles should be activated, and why flexibility and the core muscles important in allowing the correct body position to be attained and sustained?

What muscles should be activated in early recovery?
At the finish of the stroke you should have your legs firmly pressed against the foot stretcher. You should fee that your gluteal (bottom) and quadriceps (thigh) muscles are activated throughout the finish of the stroke.

From backstops, as your hands lead away, you should draw down on your lower abdominal muscles rather than pulling yourself over using your hips. The momentum of your moving hands, as well as the action of the lower abdominals and activation of the gluteals and quadriceps will allow you to tilt your pelvis forward (pivot from the hips)

If you have co-coordinated the recovery sequence correctly, you will feel your bodyweight on your seat in the front of the bones in your bottom (your ischial tuberosities). By drawing in your lower abdominals as you approach frontstops, you will maintain a strong trunk (catch) position.

How does flexibility affect technique in early recovery?
Rocking the pelvis over to a comfortable and strong position off back stops and achieving all body-swing by half slide is emphasized as part of British Rowing Technique.

Good flexibility is essential to do this; it allows you to tilt your pelvis forward, whilst keeping your back straight and in line with your pelvis. On the other hand, poor flexibility can prevent you from attaining this body position.

Poor flexibility will limit technique!
If you have poor flexibility in your hamstrings (often as a consequence of poor core stability, strength or endurance) your short muscles will restrict the forward tilt of your pelvis with your legs straight. Your pelvis and lumber spine will not therefore be aligned.

What to do in practice…

1. Test your flexibility
One way to test your flexibility is to sit on a good finish posture on a rowing machine and to see how far you can pivot forward from the hips, whilst tilting your pelvis forward and keeping your back straight and aligned. If you have poor flexibility, you may not be able to pivot your body forwards of vertical.

Another way to test your hamstring flexibility is to sit on a table or bench, with your lower legs hanging over the edge. Straighten one leg out. How high can you lift the leg without your pelvis rotating backwards?

2. Make stretching a habit
Warm up properly. Static stretches to develop flexibility should be held for around 30 seconds. Getting another rower to help you stretch can help to improve your flexibility.

3. Ensure good posture and core stability on a daily basis
Practice good posture in your everyday activities. Coach yourself or others to attain and sustain good posture when rowing. Think about how you can develop core stability and integrate it into your training.

How To Run Seat Races

How To Run Seat Races
By Ted Nash from the 2000-2001 American Rower's Almanac:
Found at Rec.Sport.Rowing Newsgroup
Pre-Race Planning
The coach, coxswains and rowers should meet beforehand to discuss the specific logistical details including length of warm-up, where the boats and launches will meet on the water, and when seat racing will commence.

The coach should make a chart for the meeting showing the directions the races will be run, the lanes for each shell, the warm-up and rest times, and other matters that may influence readiness. Planned switches should not be shown on the chart.

In the planning of these races, allow some time for switched athletes in the boat to become used to a different seat, and allow them to change their foot stretchers as they desire. If taping the lock is allowed, give the athlete a chance to readjust to the pitch. These changes can be done very quickly.

The coach must not reveal to anyone how many races are planned as weather, accidents, close races and a myriad other factors can influence how many matches are needed to make seating decisions. Tie races must be rerun with the rowers in the same seats.

Coach/Coxswain Preparedness for the Seat racing
Coxswains should carry a bag containing an adjustable wrench, 10mm wrench, black electrical tape for the boat, and/or pitching and a small roll of white athletic tape for hand, calf or heel blisters. Coxswains should be provided with weights so that all coxswains are the same weight.
Coaches should carry water in the launch boat, and offer it to all rowers at the same time. Bathroom stops should only be allowed at pre-arranged times, preferably when the seat racing is completed.

Coaches should take a standard sized seat, spare lock, spare set of 12-13 size shoes, tools, a skeg for 8+ or 4+, depending on race boats, and a tool box with extra pins.

Seat Racing Protocol
No athlete who has recently received a long rest period that others have not had should be allowed to seat-race in that session.
Seat Racing distances should not exceed five minutes which is considered a long enough period to determine strength, rhythm, blend and endurance.
Speed coaches/stroke coaches should be either used by all boats, or by none. Coxswains should be allowed to use cox-box set-ups as they do in regattas.
Accidentally broken equipment should nullify that race only. After replacing broken parts, racing should re-commence.
Coaches should not reveal to the rowers how many races are planned.
A "fair witness" should be riding in the launch to record exact distances of each race in the log book (i.e.- start-variances and margins).
Starts are three to build with margins on fourth catch are noted. Viable stroke rates are 31 to 32.5. Crews are given one free warning for false starts. Subsequent violations result in a one seat penalty. (Later in the season rates of 33-34 are more useful.)
After each piece, crews should paddle one full minute before stopping. Changes are then made. Row about one minute after changing. Major adjustments are made on the dock. Minor items can be changed on the water or by launch assistance. Paddle another four minutes after making the adjustments.
Some coaches want coxswains not to talk during the seat race. That is a choice to make beforehand. Youthful oarsmen generally prefer coxswains who can inspire and fire up. (Keep in mind a special seat race is always going on between coxswains.) There are many views on this point, but I prefer real race conditions which include a high level of enthusiasm and noise - traits found in all good regatta races.
Coaches will do well not to tip their hands by always racing #3s or #2s, or leaving the strokes until last. Athletes will pick-up on such habits and perhaps miss their own peak performance. Such coaching, if repeated, can cause weaker athletes who doubt they can produce all the time to save themselves for later races.
Close races should be re-raced. My definition of a close race is less than 1/2 deck in rough water, or strong headwinds.
Tie-races are always re-run with a "lid". A "lid" means the athletes return to their seats of the prior race and re-race.
Coaches must never "judge" seat racing results. If the athletes expected to win do not, so be it. Coaches who commit to seat racing cannot, under any circumstances, question the results. Second-guessing is a betrayal of the athletes and will destroy their morale as well as their confidence in the coach.
Integrity of seat racing is assumed, observed, expected, recorded and demanded by all - peers, coaches, and the sport. Athletes do not forget the “blade with the fade” (explained below). The coach must also be aware of this should it happen and react properly albeit respectfully.
"Blade with the fade" is referring to an athlete who, once realizes he or she is not being seat raced, will ease off in power. This issue must be stated openly to the athletes at least once each year so that every athlete is clear on the importance and integrity of the seat racing.
Athletes may seek redress if done under coach-control and in a timely manner. (I encourage challenge races.)

Post Seat Racing
After the races are over the "fair witness" (launch observer) should report findings to the coaches. Then coaches, coxswains, and perhaps the captain or respected veteran athletes will help record the results. All questions should calmly be answered and explained and verdicts validated.

After each session coxswains must meet with the coach at the dock to discuss margins and fairness. If a question cannot be solved, the strokes and certain other athletes should be called upon for their views as to fairness.

Seat racing results should be posted in specific team room only by name and margin. Do not post in a general area, as the results are privy only to those who participated.

Checklist for Coaches
A week prior to the first seat race, assign a coxswain to assist your boatman or rigging coach in checking out the seat-race shells. Here are the key things to pass or fail:
Check oar pitch. Because all oars change their pitch over time, a negative 1° oar or scull that replaces a +1° blade can upset a boat if not corrected. The best idea is to measure all oars and use only 0° degree blades. The next best option is to put three wraps of PVC tape tightly around the top of the face of the lock to shallow it, or on the bottom to deepen it.
Seats have no groves or burned out bearings to destroy the rhythm or flow.
All skegs are straight, not just close to okay.
No bent riggers. Pins are at zero degrees.
No cracked back braces or goose necks.
All blades at zero degrees.
All inboards pre-set and tight.
Steering must be attached in the same fashion (reflex direction) from boat to boat.
Yoke turns the rudder directly and does not have slippage.
All coxbox types and speakers work clearly and are not muffled.
All pins are tight to the main braces.

Many excellent coaches over time have created oarsmen swapping plans for their seat races. Call a few of them and ask for tips of their own.

Giving Your Warm Up A Needed Tune Up

Giving Your Warm Up A Needed Tune Up
By Ed McNeely
From Rowing News, July 2003
Have you ever notices that part way through a workout your energy levels seem to pick up or that during a head race you catch your second wind about halfway through? If so you may not be warming up sufficiently. Pre-training and pre-competition warm ups are now the norm rather than the exception in most sports. Most coaches and athletes approach the warm up as means of preventing injury. However, there is little to no research that indicates that warm-up plays a major role in injury prevention. The warm up does however, have the ability to improve or hinder performance depending on how it is done. A good warm up will normally take 30-40minutes, including the on water and off water portions.

A Warm up has three purposes. First it improves blood flow to the heart muscle and helps prevent abnormal cardiac rhythms and heart attack. While this may not be a major concern for younger athletes, master athletes, people in learn to row or corporate challenge program, which involve less active, older individuals can benefit. Second, as the name implies, a warm up increases muscle temperature. Increased muscle temperature improves oxygen uptake, decreases lactic acid production, increases speed of muscle contraction, and increases the nervous system activity. It is through these changes that performance is improved. Third, a warm up provides the ideal time for pre-competition psychological preparation. Race plan cab be rehearsed and technical points can be mentally reviewed. A well designed warm up has the following components.

Often warm up stretches are confused with stretching to increase flexibility. The stretching during a warm up is designed to help you reach your existing level of flexibility. The stretching also activates the stretch receptors in the joints and muscles. This may help you row technically better. Stretching during warm ups will normally involve dynamic stretches, meaning that rather than holding a stretch for a period of time you move through your full range of motion and immediately back out. An example would be doing several full squats to stretch out the quads prior to getting into the boats.

Light Row
This, the first of two light rows, is designed to increase body temperature and provide the performance benefits listed above. This is a good time to mentally rehearse the race and think about the strategy you will use for a variety of scenarios. This portion of the warm up should last for 15 to 20 minutes. If it isn’t possible to be on the water this long prior to a race, an erg or run can be used to raise temperature instead. Keeping the workout intensity low during this phase is very important. You don’t want to create fatigue during the warm up so keep your pace about 15 seconds per 500m below your race pace for 1000 and 2000m races and 12seconds per 500m below had race pace.

Hard Strokes
Doing hard strokes or short sprints helps to increase muscle temperature, improve lactic acid removal and give the crew the feeling of speed and power going into the start. The sprint period or hard strokes should not be done for more than 15 seconds at a time with at least 45seconds between sprints. Longer periods may result in lactic acid accumulation that could slow race performance. The total time spent doing hard strokes should be about 5 minutes.

Light Row
Following the hard strokes, 5 to 10 minutes of light paddling will help remove any lactic acid that has built-up and prevent fatigue from setting in early in the race. This is the part of the warm up program most easily forgotten but may be the most important for race performance. Use similar splits to those used in the first light session row. Try to time this portion of the warm up so that you finish near the start line just before the start of your race. You don’t want to sit for more than about 10minutes between the end of your workout and the start of your race.

Individual differences exist between athletes as to how long they need to warm up but as a general rule you are better to err on the long side and not cut the warm up short. Environmental conditions like temperature and humidity also play a role in warm up duration. On a cool fall or spring day warm up may have to be substantially longer than on a hot humid summer day. Combine the recommendations made here with your own judgment to make sure that you get the most out of your pre race preparation.

The Coach as a Leader - Part 1

The Coach as a Leader - Part 1: How to take your crew to the top of the mountain
By Mike Spracklen.
From American Rowing May/June 1996
We meet three kinds of people in life: those who make things happen; those who watch things happen, and those who don’t know anything is happening. Likewise throughout our lives we encounter three types of manufacturers: those who make good; those who make trouble, and those who make excuses.

Behaviour patterns can usually be categorised in a triangle of three extremes, as illustrated above, and throughout this article. Recognising this can help leaders identify people’s motivations and understand their points of view. People don’t always mean what they say or say what they mean. Assessing people’s true motivations will help you draw accurate conclusions, make good decisions and be an effective leader.

The Key to Success
‘Psychology is a very important part of preparing athletes for competition’

As sports become more and more competitive, better technique, more training and improved equipment contributes to higher levels of performance. Losing may result from not having the right boat, the right technique, or the right training program. We can control those things and reduce the possibility of error. We have less control of the athlete’s psyche, which plays a decisive role in determining success or failure. Psychology is a very important part of preparing athletes for competition.

The improved performance of the men’s eight the past two years (USA 94/95) was not due to better technique or equipment, an improved training program or superior athletes. It was because of the athlete’s confidence in themselves, developed through their training program. Having faith in a program is vital for success, but ultimately athletes must enter their race with confidence that will withstand the highest pressures. It takes years to develop this type of confidence, and there is fine line between over confidence and insufficient confidence.

Confidence is the foundation of keeping athletes focused. It’s the ability to perform well when it matters most. It’s the ability to overcome self-imposed physical or technical limitations. How does the coach teach high performance athletes to become more confident?

Instilling Confidence
‘Confidence grows from the belief coaches and athletes have in each other’

Confidence grows over a long association between coach and athlete. The best coaches have years of experience and a wealth of knowledge to pass on to their athletes. They have made mistakes and witnessed the mistakes of others. From their experiences they have learned the best way to the mountaintop. Athletes are not explorers. They do not want to waste time looking for alternate routes. They know what their goals are and want the best help to achieve them. They need the security of a knowledgeable coach, someone they can follow with confidence.

Confidence grows from the belief athletes and coaches have in each other. It’s not an instantly acquired relationship, nor is it one sided. It’s the product of mutual respect and a bond between coach and athletes, developed from the beginning of a training program, to the last stroke in a race. Coaches need motivation just as much as the athletes, and although the coach takes the lead, success comes from interaction between the coach and his athletes. Just as the coach will monitor his athletes and assess them daily, so they will assess him.

Athletes will respect a coach who has been successful, but a reputation will survive only the short time it takes them to form their own opinions. They will constantly observe him and score his behaviour. When he shows compassion and understanding he will gain points. The athletes will test his knowledge of the sport and his ability to lead them. The will watch closely how he selects crews. He must always be fair and treat everyone alike. They will judge his integrity. Point by point, each good deed will enhance trust. If the coach disregards the athlete’s questions or shows no interest in their problems, they will feel insecure. When the coach is unkind, unfair, untruthful, uncompassionate or unsympathetic to their needs, he loses points. One bad deed can destroy confidence created by many good deeds.

Motivating Athletes
‘The best form of motivation is encouragement’

To be confident, athletes must be motivated. Bribery, incitement and encouragement are the most common motivational methods. Financial inducement for winning or withdrawal of support for failing, are forms of bribery. Some coaches incite their athletes to hate the opposition. The worst leaders incite athletes against their own team members.

The best form of motivation is encouragement-exploiting the athletes desire to be successful. Athletes want to be good as they can be and are inspired by doing well. Motivated athletes strive for perfection. Good leaders do not expect perfection, but they do require excellence. Excellence is the ability to focus on the things that matter most. It’s the foundation of good coaching. Coaches who have good focus and remain on track are more effective leaders and less vulnerable in times of stress. Remaining in control under pressure is seeing things clearly and making the right decisions. Decisions made with confidence inspire confidence and provide the basis for persevering in the face of adversity.

Good focus is developed through practising skills over and over again. A wise coach prepares himself and the team for the unexpected-and just about anything! He never procrastinates. He has a sense of urgency about getting things done. There are many competent people who have intentions of doing things ‘as soon as possible’ but seldom get around to it. Their accomplishments seldom match those of less talented people who get things done at the right time.

Accepting Responsibility
‘Athletes respect coaches who have the integrity to admit their mistakes’

Accountability is another quality of successful coaches. It’s directing energy toward clear goals and assessing progress towards achieving them. It’s accepting a share of the responsibility when goals are not achieved. Good coaches do not look for excuses or scapegoats when they fail. They look to themselves, learn from their mistakes and take steps to make things better for the future.

Athletes respect coaches who have the integrity to admit their mistakes. Of course, the athletes will lose faith if the coach makes to many mistakes or repeats them, but if he denies them, he destroys the athletes trust. Coaches are not infallible. Making an occasional mistake reinforces the fact that they are only human. When the coach accepts his share of the blame when things go wrong, he strengthens the athlete/coach bond.

Teaching Technique
‘A knowledgeable coach can help the athletes gain confidence in themselves while gaining points for himself’

The ability to teach good rowing technique is also an asset. Nothing is more thrilling than rowing in a fast boat, but rowing skills are not easily mastered, and reproduction of that magical feeling is elusive. A knowledgeable coach can help the athletes gain confidence in themselves while gaining points for himself. Rowers generally pass through three psychological stages:

They know nothing
They think they know everything
They know they don’t know it all

It is pleasant coaching people in stage 1. They are eager to learn, and it’s easier to teach good technical movements. A wise coach knows what 'grooves in' in the first few weeks, may take years to change afterwards and he recognises the importance of teaching good technique. After a few years in the sport and a few races won, athletes reach stage 2, when they think they know it all. Coaches also pass through this stage. When they are in this state of non-acceptance, it’s difficult for them to learn. A clenched fist cannot accept a gift, and a clenched psyche cannot receive a lesson.

Leaders have to be forever testing new opinions and strengthen their resolve. The coach who says, ‘I've heard it all before’ or the athlete who says, ‘I've gained nothing from this experience’ is setting his own limitations. There is always something to learn, no matter how many times you have had the same experience. Coaches who know only one path are vulnerable when they find themselves in strange territory. The worst situation is the athlete who challenges the coach. He is a real threat to the team’s confidence. When criticism becomes negative, it should not be allowed to manifest.

In stage 3, athletes are mature. They are receptive to instruction, but experience has warned them not every path leads to the mountain top. In a world of petulance and differing opinions, athletes seeking guidance find much to confuse them. Races are won in a variety of ways, and athletes are entitled to ask questions without fear of retribution.

Communicating Effectively
‘Younger coaches are inclined to give to much information at once’

Ninety percent of athletic success can be credited to the athlete, and only 10% to the coach. In order for the coach to maximise his influence, he must possess three qualities:

Communication skills

Experience and knowledge are acquired with time, while communication is as an art. Communication includes motivational as well as technical input. People respond to instruction differently, and the coach must forever search for the right words. His methods vary from friendly persuasion to verbal force. Harsh words will work with some athletes, but use them on the wrong person, and they will turn on you. Use them too often and they will lose their affect. Coaches have different ways of communicating:

Some say only what is necessary
Some never stop talking
Some have little to say

Younger coaches are inclined to give to much information at once. Eager to impress, they switch from one technical emphasis to another. The athletes get to familiar with the sound of the coach’s voice, and after a while, what is said goes over the tops of their heads. Athletes can respond better if fewer technical points are given.

At the other end of the scale is the crew that rows for hours with barely a word from the coaching launch. When the voice finally breaks the silence, it can have a positive affect on the crew, but the coach relies on his rower’s physical condition to win rather than their technique. If the athletes receive sparse technical instruction, they may believe technique is of little value or think they are rowing technically well enough.

The experienced coach is always trying to improve his communication skills by searching for the right words. He expects to see a change in the athlete, but if there is no difference, he will blame himself and look for a different approach.

Beginners need explicit instruction, but experienced rowers respond better to being coached as a crew. Avoid criticising the same rower continually. He will lose confidence, and other team members will see him as a weak link. Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what chance you have of changing others. Once habits are grooved in, they’re hard to break and sometimes better left alone. You may not like a habit, but time spent trying to change one person may be at the expense of something that would produce a better result for the crew. This is not to say you shouldn’t coach athletes individually but that you should decide the important factors and put them ahead of less important ones.

Gaining by Explaining
‘People who understand what they’re doing are less likely to get it wrong’

Your instructions are more likely to succeed if you take the trouble to explain ‘why’. Giving a good reason prevents athletes from thinking you’re ‘bossy’ and from feeling they’re being ordered around. Explanation also reduces the chance of error. People who understand what they’re doing are less likely to get it wrong. Likewise it ensures that you understand exactly what you want the athletes to do. Explaining the reason for your request also enables the athletes to make suggestions that can be helpful. People are not robots. The more you treat them like human beings, the better they will respond to you.

Explain precisely what you want, show good and bad movements to everyone equally, encourage athletes to watch video alone and work things out for themselves- it’s the most effective way of learning. Learn about your athletes as individuals and vary your approach until you find what works for them.

Managing the Stress of Physical Training
‘Physical duress will cause changes in temperament and personality’

While the coach can easily gain points with good technical instruction, he can readily lose points through the pressure of physical training. Physical duress will cause changes in temperament and personality. Some athletes will gain strength from the challenge, some will retreat, and others will become aggressive. The coach must remain calm in these challenging situations and handle every incident rationally despite what he is feeling. The coach is there to support the athletes, propping them up when they need it most. Outbursts caused by physical stress normally last only a short period. Retaliation won’t help the crew win.

When an athlete criticises, analyse the reason for the complaint rather that accepting it at face value. Complaints usually come from those who are not doing well. They tend to complain about things that affect themselves personally rather than things that affect others. Complaints arise when athletes are:

Tired from training
Not performing up to standard
Jealous of, or feel threatened by another athlete

When an athlete looks for somewhere to lay blame for not performing up to the standard, the coach is first in the line of fire. The athlete may complain that he is ‘overtrained’, or he may accuse the coach of not helping him as much as he is of helping those who are performing better than he is. The coach must appreciate what is happening and show understanding. It will not help if you tell an athlete he has a poor attitude. He will merely reply, ‘You are a rotten coach’ and that s as far as it gets. You will both end up harbouring hostility and animosity.

The most difficult case is an athlete who has good physique, trains hard and is technically good but performs below the standard of others. The coach must not avoid the issue by classifying him as one who will not make it, but look for solutions that will help him.

Emotions have to be controlled but not stifled. Athletes should be free to let off steam once in a while. It will help athletes if they are advised of the character changes that occur during intense training. This will help them understand each other and control their emotions. It has quite a sobering effect on a ‘hot-head’ when a team-mate says ‘Coach says that when we train some of us would lose our tempers’ or ‘Coach said that the slowest athletes would be the first to complain’. It also helps to remind them sometimes of the old adage, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough gets going’

Maintaining Motivation
‘Goal setting is fundamental to motivation’

The coach must help athletes through times of intense training by good program structure and by setting goals. Athletes want to know how they’re doing, and setting regular tests helps keep motivational levels high. Goal setting is fundamental to motivation. Most of us aspire to achieve certain
things in life but do not make goals realistic and achievable; they become little more than dreams.

Regular goal setting helps maintain day-to-day momentum and motivation toward long term goals. Effective goal setting encourages persistence. Regular tests are an important part of the preparation process. Not only are athletes motivated by their progress, but they also learn how to prepare themselves physically and mentally for competition.

Take the trouble to explain the overall program, the purpose of each type of workout and the physical effects of training. Every session has a purpose, a clearly defined focus. There is always something to gain, even though sometimes the training is not as good as we would like it. Not every outing will be brilliant, but when a crew is having a bad row, encourage them to focus on physical training. When they are unable to work because of sickness or injury, encourage them to focus on technique.

When the program intensity increases, break each session into small segments and set different goals for each segment. This will help the athlete’s concentrate when they get tired or when motivation gets low. Set daily targets, weekly tests and monthly performance reviews. This ensures that your athletes can take a step back and see the progress they’re making towards their goals. These improvements, no matter how small they may seem, are contributing significantly towards the overall performance. The goals can be technical or physical, as small as 20 strokes, or as large as an important regatta. Every session will contribute towards achieving the athlete’s biggest goal.

If you don’t reach your goals, you haven’t failed. Success comes from learning from your experience and striving to do better next time.

Understanding Athletes
‘The most successful coaches can adapt their motivational methods to meet their needs’

Top athletes with a very clear view of their capabilities have confidence. Extremes of the triangle are:

Insatiably opinionated

Some athletes are modestly unaware of their own capabilities. They may not have the best coach, or be part of a good program. They have limited opportunity to develop. Confidence will grow in other athletes from rehearsal of every possible eventuality, having faith in what they’re doing and practising it over and over again. The opinionated athlete is the toughest to handle. Nothing quite hurts like the truth, and this type is the first to lay blame elsewhere when things don’t go his way.

Athletes are also different in the way they approach their training:

Some you have to push
Some push themselves
Some you have to restrain

The first is the athlete who does as little as necessary. The second type works conscientiously and will complete the program as written. The third type does more than the program. He will row 21 strokes instead of 20, or nine sets when the program requires eight.

Less motivated athletes will avoid the kind of work they do not like. An illness or an injury is a common excuse for missing a workout. A slow runner will have a bad knee when running is on the program, or a rower will have back problems when he wants a few days rest. Some athletes won’t disclose an injury for fear of losing a place in the squad while others will press on regardless of injury or illness, to keep up their training level. Athletes sometimes exaggerate the seriousness of an injury to excuse bad performance. The injury list usually increases just before an ergometer test. Hard training will reveal the weaker characters.

As the coach becomes familiar with his athletes by fitting them into the behavioural triangle, it will help him understand how to influence them and keep them on the straight and narrow path. The most successful coaches can adapt their motivational methods to meet their needs. The best ways to influence athletes is to give them confidence in all they do and look at their weaknesses with compassion, not accusation. Encouragement only works if the athletes have confidence and respect for the leaders direction. Coaches, who lack confidence, control by intimidation and domination.

What Kind of Coach Are You?
‘Confident coaches are experienced, knowledgeable and charismatic’

Athletes quickly recognise insecure coaches and lose confidence in their leadership. Insecure coaches don’t like the challenge of athletes who defy them, and they are quick to lose their tempers. They’re influenced by personalities, and they have their favourites in the team. They are emotionally unstable and will tell lies when in trouble, which leads to more lies and more trouble. Three types of coaches are:


Confident coaches are experienced, knowledgeable and charismatic. Egotistical coaches usually suffer from lack of confidence and become obsessed with the fear of losing
power to the point of bordering on insanity. The fear of losing control influences the way they lead. Some coaches think to be successful you have to enforce strict rules with threats. A wise coach doesn’t use threats unless he is prepared to carry them out. Backing down could lead to anarchy and more rules, ending with the possibility of having to exclude a top athlete from the team.

Athletes should be allowed to decide for themselves which path they will take up the mountain. They may wish to compete in a boat against the coaches advise, but the coach who tries to dissuade an athlete from his aspirations will break the trust between them. Even if the athlete performs as the coach predicts. He does not want to hear ‘I told you so’ from his coach. He will remain insecure with the coach who has only looked out for himself. Sport is about participants, and the coach’s job is to help them, not stand in their way. Even if a coach disagrees with the athlete’s ambition, he must remain firmly by his side and help in every which way he can in whatever direction the athlete pursues. In fact, he helps himself best by helping the athlete, not by trying to dissuade him from his ambition.

Leadership is an art based on philosophy, with clearly defined principles that provide positive direction. It is an on going process of keeping vision and values aligned with a direction accordant with the things that are most important. The coach’s destination is the top of the mountainous medal podium. If the path we choose doesn’t lead us to the peak, every step gets us to the wrong place faster. The integrity, personality and knowledge displayed by the coach will foster the athlete’s trust until they follow the mountain path blindly, confident their coach has chosen the right route.

You don’t have to be superhuman to be a good leader, but you do have to understand other people, how they feel and what influences them.

Primer on Periodization

Primer on Periodization
By Tudor O. Bompa, Ph.D.,
From Olympic Coach Summer 2004
Tudor Bompa is THE person who stimulated Western interest in Periodization. Tudor Bompa competed as a rower in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia and won a silver medal at the 1958 European Championships, which were held in Poland.

As a very important training concept, Periodization is not, as many people may believe, a new discovery. As exemplified by Flavius Philostratus (AD 170-245), a Greek philosopher and sporting enthusiast, a simple form of Periodization has been used since the ancient Olympic Games. In his six manuals on training, Phylostratus wrote extensively about the methods used by the Greek Olympians.

The roots of periodization can be found in the term “period” as in a period of time. In fact, the term Periodization has been borrowed from history, where it refers to the specific periods of time of human development. In sports training, this term, periodization, refers to dividing the yearly training plan into smaller and, therefore, easier to manage training phases. Basically, the periodization of an annual plan has three major phases: preparatory or pre-season, competitive or season, and transition or offseason. This is what Philostratus mentioned about the way the ancient Olympians organized their own periodization, except that they used slightly different terms: preparation, Olympic Games, and relaxation. Is this training organization method so drastically different than what the US track and field athletes, the winners of most medals in the first modern Olympic games (Athens, 1896), have used? Not at all! This first group of American Olympians has used exactly the same Periodization plan: preparatory, competitive, culminating with the Olympic Games, and off-season (transition).

The use of periodization is dictated by several training elements, such as:

Physiological adaptation to training. The scope of training, especially during the preparatory phase, is to create a training program that will result in the highest adaptation, or athlete’s best adjustments of the neuromuscular and cardio-respiratory systems to your training program. Higher adaptation, increased athlete’s physical potential, is the determinant factor in reaching peak performance during the competitive phase. The program you organize during the preparatory phase, the development of the motor abilities necessary in your sport (strength, speed and endurance) to the highest level possible, is a fundamental requirement to improvement of the athlete’s working potential, their physical abilities, and as a result, their improvement of performance from year to year.

Peak performance. Normally, a peak performance is planned to be reached during the competitive phase and cannot be maintained forever. This is why during the preparatory phase; the scope of training is to improve the athlete’s working capabilities, to accumulate the highest physical potential possible, to cope with the fatigue of training and competitions, but not necessarily to reach highest performances of the year. This is normally achieved during the competitive phase by progressively planning more specific training programs— specific speed, power, and endurance. However, your athlete’s highest adaptation to training, continuous improvements of physical potential, represent the foundation on which peak performance depends on. Without a continuous increase of your athlete’s physical potential from year to year, you cannot expect to improve performance on yearly basis.

Skill development. The rate of improving and perfecting your athlete’s technical and tactical skills, are directly dependent on how you periodize your training program. During the preparatory phase, where the stress of competitions is almost nonexistent, skill acquisition is maximal. Now is the time to teach your athletes new skills and to perfect the ones acquired in the past year. Your athlete’s skill improvement during the preparatory phase will be most beneficial during the league games and/or official competitions. The longer the preparatory phase, the better your athlete’s chances to improve skills’ effectiveness. In team sports, martial arts / contact sports and racquet sports, any technical improvements will directly assist your athlete’s tactical proficiency. In other words, the better the technique, the easier the athlete will apply the skills into your tactical plan.

Psychological qualities. Athlete’s psychological behavior, his/her degree of motivation and focusing capabilities are directly dependent of their physical potential acquired during the preparatory phase. High level of physical potential usually translates into better abilities to cope with fatigue. The athlete’s psychological well-being is directly dependent on the level of fatigue. When an athlete is physically exhausted it directly affects his/her visualization, concentration capabilities, focusing, and motivation. An exhausted athlete is not a highly motivated athlete. But athlete’s psychological behavior is also negatively affected by the volume (quantity) and intensity used in training (high loads in weight training, the abuse of maximum speed, the daily employment of just high intensity drills in team sports/ racquet sports/martial arts, etc.). The higher the intensity of training the higher the stress, and the more it taxes the central nervous system (CNS). The consequence of constant high intensity training is a high psychological fatigue. The best cure for a negative psychological fatigue that affects the level of psychological qualities and reactions is a well-planned periodized training. Organize longer preparatory phases, if you can, with the lowest psychological stress. Accumulate best physical adaptation to training so that your athletes are well equipped to cope with fatigue, and as such, decrease the level of psychological fatigue.

Climatic conditions. The duration of the seasons in a given geographical region, also dictates the way you’ll organize your periodization plans. Often the duration of a given training phase, such as the duration of outdoors season, clearly dictates how long the league games for outdoors team sports can be. Climatic conditions, therefore, directly dictates the periodization of all the outdoors sporting activities, seasonal sports such as skiing, rowing, kayaking/canoeing, running, cycling of any type, triathlon, sailing, golfing, etc.

The time since the ancient Olympic Games has long passed, and along with many other improvements in the human society, periodization of training has evolved as well. In addition to the basic periodization plan of three main phases (see figure 1), typical plan for most team sports, there are other variations of periodizations as well. The needs of certain sports had made us to depart from the ancient periodization plan with one peak only, known as mono-cycle in the technical nomenclature, or peaking only for one major competition (i.e. National Championships). Consequently, different sports with specific domestic and international calendar of competitions employ other types of periodization plans. As such, track and field has two major competitions per year: indoors and outdoors competitions, or short and long course championships in swimming.

This type of plan is called a bi-cycle, or double peaking. Other sports, such as wrestling, boxing, or martial arts, use either triple peaking, also called tri-cycle, or multi-peaking plans, where the athletes have to peak several times per year. As illustrated by Figure 1, each training phase is subdivided into smaller phases, such as macro-cycle (macro = bigger, and cycle = a phase which repeats itself several times throughout the annual plan). A macro-cycle is usually 3–5(6) weeks, or micro-cycles (micro = small). The only smaller training phase than the micro-cycle is the training session, or workout. Therefore, looking from the top of Figure 1 to the bottom, you realize that a periodized annual plan progressively becomes shorter. The shorter the phase, the easier is to manage a training program. However, an overall guideline of training is necessary: a periodized annual plan.

As already mentioned in several sports, coaches have to use a bi-cycle (double periodization), a triple-cycle, and very few sports employ a multi-peaking plan. Figure 2 shows a bi-cycle annual plan with its training phases, and the specific objectives for each training phase. Not mentioned at all are the macro-, and micro-cycles, now relatively clear in readers’ mind that they subdivide each training phase into smaller units of training. Please also observe that each preparatory phase has two training objectives:

In the first one third of the phase, the scope of the plan is to train the athletes with non-specific, but also with some specific type of training.

The rest of the preparatory phase is dedicated to sport-specific types of training, from specific flexibility to specific speed, strength and endurance.

Number of Peaks per Season
The more peaks you are planning for a year or a competitive phase, as often is the case with individual sports/ martial arts/contact sports/racquet sports, the more difficult is to peak for each important competition. Usually, a competition means a very stressful environment. Therefore, the more competitions and the more you push your athletes to peak for each one of them, the more stress the athletes are exposed to. The higher the stress without rest and regeneration prior to a new competition, the closer your athlete is to a state of staleness, or even overtraining. To avoid such an unpleasant conditions, you have to prioritize competitions, meaning to treat some of them as very important and others the second, or even third priority competitions. Obviously, the intent should be a full peak only for the first priority competition; whish usually should be the championships competition of that cycle.

Avoid Overtraining
As you plan for competitions, you should you plan to avoid their strain, staleness, and the undesirable state of overtraining. There are certain methods to accomplish that, such as:
1. Never plan a challenging workout immediately following a stressful competition! Give your athletes time to remove the fatigue, relax mentally, rest and recover before your athletes will train hard again.
2. Throughout a week of training constantly alternate high with medium and low intensity workouts. This is a build-in strategy to avoid critical levels of fatigue.
3. After each competitive phase, make sure the athletes have at least two weeks of transition, so that they can replenish the energy stores, remove fatigue, relax mentally, and regenerate from exhaustion.
4. Use the step loading method (Figure 4), as the best progression training adaptation: one week of low intensity, followed by a medium, and then by a high intensity week. Every time you’ll start again with low intensity week, this will be an opportunity for your athletes to replenish energy stores, recover and regenerate physically and mentally before they’ll be exposed to more difficult weeks.

Short-Duration Preparatory Phases
Influenced by professional sports, some coaches attempt to imitate their heavy competitive schedule, and as such accept the notion; the more games/competitions, the better my athletes will improve. In reality the opposite is true: the more you compete the less time you have for training. As demonstrated by sports science, well designed training programs and not high number of competitions led to higher adaptation, and as a result, to higher performance improvement. To play/compete more means in reality to have a longer competitive phase, a situation which is possible only by reducing the duration of the preparatory phase, with all its negative repercussions: less time to acquire/perfect skills, reduced time to improve general conditioning (such as during the general preparatory phase), and shorter time to work on improving the sport specific speed, power and endurance. Reduced time to train but increased time to compete means in reality to train and over train just the same exercises, same specific parts of the body, joints and muscles, and as a result, increase the incidents of injuries. On a long-term basis, shorter duration preparatory phases will reduce training time, lower the rate of adaptation, and ultimately result in a stagnation of performance improvement.

Sports Nutrition Primer

Sports Nutrition Primer—
By Debra Wein.
From NSCA’s Performance Training Journal, NSCA
Depending on the duration, intensity, and type of exercise you are performing, there are three stages where nutrition plays a role in performance —before, during, and after activity. One of the primary goals of sport nutrition is to optimize the availability of muscle glycogen, thereby insuring optimal performance.

Pre-Exercise Nutrition
Properly nourishing yourself before exercise should:
-Prevent low blood sugar during exercise.
-Provide fuel by topping off your muscle glycogen stores.
-Settle your stomach, absorb gastric juices, and prevent hunger.
-Instill confidence in your abilities.

Remember, fasting is detrimental to performance, and is strongly discouraged before exercise or performance. The pre-exercise meal should consist primarily of high carbohydrate, low fat foods for easy and fast digestion. Since everyone’s preferences for, and responses to, different foods are unique, it is recommended that you learn through trial and error what does and does not work for you. For example, some people respond negatively to sugar intake within an hour before exercise. The temporary “boost” that some people experience after eating foods with a high sugar (sucrose) concentration such as candy, syrups, or soft drinks actually causes an increase in insulin production which will be followed by a rapid lowering of blood sugar, and can lead to decreased performance. In addition, fructose (the sugar present in fruit juices) ingested before exercise may also lower your blood sugar and cause gastrointestinal distress in some people, but not others.

How much time should you allow before exercise after eating?
-Allow adequate time for digestion and normalization of blood glucose:
-4 hours for a large meal.
-2 – 3 hours for a smaller meal.
-1 hour for a blended meal, a high carbohydrate beverage (10 – 30%), or a small snack.

During Exercise
When an individual has been consuming a diet sufficient in carbohydrates, 60% or greater, there is enough energy present in the muscles to fuel workouts and other activities completed within 60 – 90 minutes. On the other hand, during prolonged, strenuous exercise lasting over 90 minutes, carbohydrate ingestion at
regular intervals during the exercise is beneficial2, 3. For example, consuming 8 ounces (1 cup) of a sports drink containing a 6 – 10 % carbohydrate concentration every 15 – 20 minutes can delay the onset of fatigue. This is equivalent to a rate of 0.8 – 1.0 grams of carbohydrate per minute or approximately 24 – 30 grams every half hour.

Post-Exercise Nutrition
When and what you eat after a work-out can have a serious effect on your recovery. Adequate recovery means that your muscles are rested, re-fueled, and ready to perform again, which is extremely important for people who exercise every day. Inadequate recovery can lead to chronic fatigue and a gradual decline in your performance. Be selective in what you eat after exercise; wise choices will help you recover quickly and enable your muscles to work better the next time around. For the fitness enthusiast whose workouts generally last less than 90 minutes, your main concern is to re-fuel with a well-balanced, high carbohydrate diet. However, if your workouts typically last longer than 90 minutes and are “exhaustive,” the timing of your meals is additionally important. Your body needs about 20 hours to replenish its fuel stores. Furthermore, this will only occur if adequate carbohydrate (approx. 500 – 600 grams depending on your body size) is consumed during this time2, 3. The first 2 – 3 hours after exercise are critical for you—don’t wait to eat.

For optimal glycogen re-synthesis, follow these target intakes during the 20 hours following a workout:
-Immediately after exercise (15 – 30 minutes): 75 – 100 grams carbohydrate.
-Within the next 2 – 3 hours after exercise: 100 grams carbohydrate.
-Every 4 hours thereafter: 100 grams carbohydrate.

For example, since 1 gram carbohydrate
= 4 calories, 75 – 100 grams = 300 – 400 calories. In practical terms, you could take in 75 – 100 grams of carbohydrate by eating:
-A banana and a bagel.
-1⁄2 cup raisins and a slice of bread.
-2 cups of orange juice and a cup of yogurt.

Current research also suggests that protein, when consumed along with the post carbohydrate fuel, can increase the rate of glycogen resynthesis and improve recovery1. A high carbohydrate beverage (10 – 30% carbohydrate concentration) can also be used as an immediate source of carbohydrate replenishment. These beverages can be especially useful after a workout in the heat when you may be more inclined to drink than to eat. However, high carbohydrate beverages are not complete foods; they do not contain all the nutrients your body needs for good health and top performance. If you use these beverages in your training regimen, make sure you follow soon after with a well-balanced, high carbohydrate meal, and plenty of fluids.

1. Koopman R, Wagenmakers AJ, Manders RJ, Zorenc AH, Senden JM, Gorselink M, Keizer HA, van Loon LJ. (2004). The combined ingestion of protein and free leucine with carbohydrate increases post exercise muscle protein synthesis in vivo in male subjects, American Journal of Physiololgy – Endocrinology and Metabolism, Nov 23.
2. Position of the ADA, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine. (2000). Nutritionand athletic performance. Journal of the American Dietetics Association, 100:1543 – 1556.
3. Rosenbloom C. (2000). Sports nutrition, A guide for the professional working with active people, Third Edition. Chicago; The American Dietetic Association.

About the Author
Debra Wein, MS, RD, LDN, NSCACPT is on the faculty at The University of Massachusetts Boston and Simmons College. She chairs the Women’s Subcommittee of the Massachusetts’ Governor’s Committee on Physical Fitness and Sports and is the President of The Sensible Nutrition Connection, Inc. (

Identification and Correction of Errors

Identification and Correction of Errors
By Wolfgang Fritsch,
From Rowing
What is the right technique?
-Not all fast crews row the same, but all have the same basics.
-Use the rowers fitness to enhance the speed of the boat (effective driving force)
-Minimise the force and movements that counter the effective driving force

All top teams display the following 5 principles
-Long oar stroke
-First part of the stroke is vitally important, the angle in front of the gate is twice the angle behind. -Catching and lock on occur very quickly.
-All top rowers produce as little vertical movement as possible
-Effort is made to move the body, hands, oars and seat with uniform speeds
-Good team coordination.

Developing Rowing Technique
-The coach must have a clear idea of the principles of the sequence of movements during each stroke
-Developing proficient movements (rowing technique) must be task related not an end in itself.

-Take into consideration age, levels of knowledge and motivation
-Apart from descriptions and explanations of movements, kinaesthetic perception (feeling movement) should also be taken into consideration
-The coach should always graphically (visually & aurally) illustrate movement sequences to those at practice
-The tasks should take into account age, height, weight, etc. The coach should not demand the impossible
-Coaching as well as correcting errors should initially concentrate on the essentials. Do not get bogged down in petty details

Besides coaching in technique, physical fitness must be developed. Both factors are mutually dependent.

Corrective Measures
-Compare your own understanding of the movement with those of the rower and allow feedback from the athlete on their own movement. Ensure that your understanding of the problem is not the problem!

Bear in mind the physical conditions – wind waves etc.
-Carry out the movements and movements sequences in slow motion, with breaks, and as isolated parts of a whole movements
-Create conditions or give exercises that make errors impossible.
-Exaggerate the corrections to mistakes.
-Encourage general physical development (strengthening) as well as technical training.
-Vary the speed and intensity of the movements so that the learners do not adapt only to basic slow movements
-Vary boat types, situations & partners

Identifying Errors
-When identifying errors the coach should look to see if the error has originated in the current phase of the stroke cycle or a previous phase of the cycle.
-Is the problem caused by problems with rigging

Good Blade Depth at Your Fingertips

Good Blade Depth at Your Fingertips
By Marlene Royle.
From Rowing News, July 2003

Blade depth is one of the aspects of technique that needs careful attention. Rowing too deep causes a myriad of problems such as getting caught at the release or increasing the amount of vertical motion in the stroke. I recently did a group lesson with some intermediate scullers and here is how we worked on blade depth to help move the boat better.

First, to get a sense of where the blade will sit naturally, I had the scullers sit at the release and hold the scull only using their thumb on the end of the handle. By keeping pressure against the oarlock, they had control of the handle but also allowed the blade to sit at its natural depth in the water. They then lightly placed their fingers on the blade without disturbing the height in the water.

Next, we did a drill where we rowed in circles. With one blade feathered flat on the water and the boat balanced, I had them row with one oar. The boat moved in a circle, but the advantage of this drill was they were able to watch what the blade was doing during the stroke. I explained that by accomplishing the right action in the water your inboard handle levels would also be at the right heights. I asked the scullers to keep the top edge of the blade level with the surface of the water; this way had a concrete reference point for where the blade level should be while in the water.

Allowing the blade to sit in the water requires light hands while making sure you don’t overpower the stroke and lift with the upper body during the drive. I like to use two finger rowing as a way to demonstrate how little effort is required to control the oar. I instructed the group to use regular hand placements while on the recovery; place the blades at the catch and once their in the water lift the middle, ring and small fingers off the handle so they are drawing the handles with the thumb and index fingers only. In this drill you can’t actually pull hard so you automatically can feel where the blade wants to sit. Another variation we did with this was to row with only the middle fingers, where after the entry, they used only the middle fingers to draw the handles through the stroke.

The final drill we did during the session was half blade rowing. The goal of this drill was to feel how to control the blade keeping only the lower half of the blade in the water. This requires focusing on the point of contact between the lower edge of the blade and the waters surface. Learning when this happens helps you to understand the sense of the blades size and action. It will also help you learn an important frame of reference for developing good catch timing and for improving your racing starts this season.

Nutrition for Traveling Athletes

Nutrition for Traveling Athletes.
By The Department of Sports Nutrition. Australian Institute of Sport.

Travelling away from home for training and competition is standard practice for most elite and recreational athletes. Unfortunately, the disruptions and distractions of a new environment, changes in schedule and exposure to different foods can significantly affect usual eating habits. Major nutritional challenges faced by athletes while traveling include:
-achieving carbohydrate and protein requirements
-meeting daily vitamin and mineral requirements
-balancing energy intake
-maintaining adequate hydration
-food safety

It is essential that strategies are put in place to minimise the impact of travel on an athlete's food intake. Whether an athlete is travelling overseas or on a long local bus trip, the key to successful eating while on the move is planning and preparation.

Plan Ahead
A general plan consisting of where, when and what the athlete is planning to eat on each day should be constructed around the anticipated daily schedule. It is important to keep foods and meal times as similar as possible to the usual daily routine at home.

Research the Destination
Food patterns at the destination should be investigated as thoroughly as possible before leaving home:
-Are all important foods available?
-Is the accommodation self-catering or will it be necessary to rely on restaurants or takeaways?
-What are the hygiene and food safety risks?

The internet, travel agencies, embassies, competition organisers or other athletes who have travelled to the destination before can be used to gain information.

Choose Your Catering Style
Self Catering
Cooking skills, budget and access to shops will determine the meals that can be served. The availability of food at local shops, the cooking and storage facilities and available utensils need to be investigated before leaving home. Ideally, the menu should be planned in advance. Cookbooks such as the AIS Survival for the Fittest and Survival from the Fittest can be used as a guide. These books contain special menus for 1-7 days and the corresponding required ingredients. Useful items to pack when self catering include a can opener, chopping knife, extra utensils and storage containers for leftovers. For some locations, power cord adaptors, an in-cup heater and an electric kettle may also be useful.

Restaurant Eating
Athletes often stay in hotels where all meals are provided in the hotel restaurant. On other occasions, athletes or teams may choose to cater for their own breakfasts and lunch and use a restaurant for the evening meal. Where possible, restaurants should be investigated before leaving home. The meal options, cooking styles, opening hours and hygiene of the establishment should be considered. It is useful to book restaurants ahead of time as many businesses are unable to cater for specific requests or large groups at short notice. Discussing the proposed menu with restaurant staff in advance
will minimise problems at mealtime. This is particularly important when athletes have special dietary needs (e.g. vegetarian, food intolerances).

Meals that focus on carbohydrate choices such as rice, noodles and pasta are a good place to start. Add lean sources of protein such as lean meat, fish, chicken, beans or tofu and include plenty of vegetables. Avoid dishes that are deep fried or battered. Buffet style eating can be a good option as it allows athletes a range of choices. It is quicker than waiting for individual meals to arrive and is cost effective. One of the pitfalls of buffet eating is that it is easy to over indulge. This can be avoided by planning meals in advance and leaving the buffet when full. If using the same restaurant for more than a few days, vary the menu from day to day rather than within a meal to avoid boredom. If possible, avoid being solely reliant on restaurant/fast food options. They can be time consuming, expensive and a nutritional challenge.

Snacks are an important component of eating and recovery nutrition plans for most athletes, however access to quality snacks can be difficult when travelling. It pays to take a supply of portable, non-perishable snack foods that are unlikely to be available at the destination. It may be useful to send a package of supplies ahead to decrease baggage. Remember to check with customs/quarantine regarding foods that are restricted from crossing certain borders.

Useful Food Items To Take
-cereal bars
-breakfast cereal
-canned snack pack fruits
-dried fruit
-instant noodles
-jam, honey, peanut butter, Vegemite
-powdered sports drink
-powdered liquid meal supplements
-powdered milk
-concentrated fruit juice
-baked beans and spaghetti

Hotels usually only cater for 3 meals/day. Arrange for snacks such as yoghurt, fruit and cereal bars to be placed out at meals so that athletes can take them for snacks later in the day. Alternatively, arrange for a communal area to be stocked with snacks (i.e. the manager's room).

Travelling by Air
Meals and Snacks
Athletes are not used to forced inactivity therefore hours spent on a plane may lead to boredom. It is important that athletes avoid over eating to relieve boredom. Taking other activities on board, drinking water regularly and chewing sugar-free gum can decrease the temptation to snack excessively on long flights. Alternatively, athletes with high-energy needs may struggle to meet their needs if they rely solely on in-flight catering. This may cause the athlete to arrive at the competition destination with reduced fuel stores. Several strategies can be taken to minimise these risks to performance:
Find out if special meals (e.g. sports, low-fat, vegetarian) are available on the flight.

Enquire about the in-flight menu and timing of the meal service in advance.
-On long flights, try to adopt a similar meal and sleep pattern to that anticipated at your destination. This may help to reduce the effects of jet lag.
-Athletes with reduced energy needs should pay particular attention to meals and snacks provided during the flight. It is not necessary to eat everything offered.
-It may be better to take your own snacks rather than be tempted by all the extra tid bits offered in flight.
-It is advisable to pack extra snacks in carry-on luggage. Food available for sale at airports tends to be expensive and it can be difficult to find nutritious options. It is always useful to have some supplies in case of unexpected delays.

In-Flight Fluid
The risk of becoming dehydrated on long flights is high as the pressurised cabins cause increased fluid losses from the skin and lungs. Symptoms of dehydration may include headaches or slight constipation. It is inadequate to rely on cabin service for fluid as the serve sizes of drinks is very small. Athletes should take their own supply of bottled water onto the flight to supplement the water, juice and soft drink provided in the air.

Sports drinks are also a useful choice as they provide a small amount of sodium that helps promote thirst (therefore encourages a greater fluid intake), and decreases urine losses. Aim to drink approximately 1 cup per hour during the flight. Caffeine-containing fluids such as tea, coffee and cola drinks may cause increased urine production, but can still contribute to a positive fluid balance in athletes (especially in those who regularly drink caffeinated drinks). Alcohol should be avoided on flights.

Food Safety at the Destination
Gastrointestinal problems are common when travelling to
foreign destinations. These can occur in both developing countries and 'safe' destinations. Adopting good personal hygiene and food safety practices will help to decrease the risk of infection and illness.

If the local water is unsafe to drink:
-Drink only bottled water or drinks from sealed containers.
-Avoid ice in drinks.
-Clean teeth with bottled water.
-Avoid salad vegetables unless washed in bottled or boiled water.
-Only eat fruit if it can be peeled.

In 'high risk' areas:
-Eat only from reputable hotels or well known franchises.
-Avoid street stalls and markets.
-Be wary of fish and shellfish.
-Only consume food that is steaming hot or has been refrigerated.

At all destinations:
-Avoid sharing cups, bottles or utensils as infections and illness can be transmitted this way.

If vomiting or diarrhoea does occur, it is important to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Oral rehydration solutions and a safe water supply should be used. A bland diet consisting of dry toast, crackers, biscuits and rice may help. Avoid alcohol, fatty foods and dairy foods until the diarrhoea has ceased.

Food at the Competition Venue
Unfortunately, most sporting venues provide food choices such as deep fried snack foods, crisps and chocolate. Nutritious options are often hard to find. Athletes should carry pre and post exercise snacks and drinks to the venue to ensure that appropriate choices are readily available. Sandwiches, cereal bars, fruit, juice, liquid meal supplements and bottled or powdered sports drinks are ideal. Check that the venue has accessible water outlets and that the water is safe to drink. Carry your own bottled water if the water supply is in doubt.

Case Study
The following case study outlines the strategy an AIS sports dietitian used to assist a volleyball team survive an international trip. The team travelled to India for 3 weeks. It was the first overseas trip for many of the athletes.

Strategy 1: Assess Travel Itinerary and Competition Schedule
The team schedule, accommodation, dining options and goals were discussed with coaching staff.
Players were to train or compete daily. 3 meals per day were to be provided by hotel restaurants.
Coaching staff and senior players who had competed in India previously were consulted regarding anticipated food availability, quality, safety and potential problems.

Strategy 2: Identify Potential Nutrition Issues
-Possible avoidance of local food due to unfamiliarity and dislike of spicy food.
-Dehydration (high temperatures and humidity).
-Limited recovery time between sessions.
-Availability of recovery foods and fluids.
-Side effects of plane travel (first training session scheduled for the day of arrival).
-High risk of gastrointestinal disturbances.

Strategy 3: Education Prior to Travel
Activities were planned prior to travel to help avoid potential problems and to ensure appropriate nutritional strategies were followed.

-An Indian cooking night was organised for team members to increase awareness of Indian foods.
The team was educated on hydration strategies and hygiene issues. Bottled water was known to be readily available in India.
-The team was educated on issues regarding plane travel. Each athlete was provided with a small pack containing snacks, water and sports drink for use on the flight.
-The team was supplied with a range of portable foods to supplement the player's eating plans and cater for recovery needs. Useful utensils were also provided. Team provisions included:

-cereal bars
-powdered milk
-instant noodles
-small tins of baked beans and spaghetti
-powdered liquid meal supplement
-powdered sports drink
-powdered oral rehydration solution
-electric kettle
-power adaptor plug
-can opener

Players and coaches commented that the preparation and education prior to traveling was of great benefit. This was the first trip to India where no one became sick. This was attributed to the education players received prior to departure and the provision of safe snack choices. The athletes had confidence that they could adhere to good nutritional strategies while in a foreign environment. This helped the team perform to their full potential.