If you are nervous before a race, or even worse, if you are afraid of a race, then you are not ready.
A rowing race is one of the most demanding excercise known in sports. The reason is simple: A 6-8-minute race is everything the human body is not naturally adapted to do, as it is neither long distance work nor a quick sprint. This is also the reason why it is such a complex task to bring athletes to the top, and have them stay there for a long period of time.
Rowing demands, like barely any other sport, the ability to remain collected and in controll, while pushing the body beyond the natural limit of performance. The technique factor remains crucial all throughout the race. Therefore, the ability to fight, alone, will not help, neither will the sole ability to endure.
What it takes is a clear cut long prepared race plan which does not only exist in the athlete’s mind, but which I have prepared my athlete for, during training – in terms of physique, in terms of technique, in terms of mental power, and in terms of the ability to fail.
If athletes plan to go all out in a race, and they have never done that before in practice, chances are high that they won’t be able to pull it off in a race as well.
So, how do you prepare?
If I would demand my athletes to go all out in every training session, or at an unsuitable time of season, they will lose confidence in their bodies and in their will power, as it takes physical and mental preparation to do so. This is why I never test my athletes for things, for which I have not prepared them thoroughly before. (See also my reference blog post at the end of this one)
A successful rowing race does not happen by chance, it is simply yet another repetition of many successful “races” an athlete had before in training – both, mentally and physically. These races might not have looked like races to him, they might not even have been exhausting or of equal length, but they surely were suited to prepare him well.
I follow the principle of gradual increase of intensities throughout an entire year. I plan every macro cycle like big wave, with many smaller waves in between. Bit by bit, I help the body to adapt and economize for faster rowing, the closer we get to the racing season.
This way, I make sure that my athletes are always prepared for what is to come. The consequence is that the people I have been working with for a longer period of time, are barely ever nervous, or afraid of challenges. The better the oposition is, the happier we are. As we’d rather lose to the best for the moment, then win because of lacking competition.