As I write this it is 29 degrees, snowing and just plain icky outside. But soon, it’ll be time to move from indoor rowing to outdoor rowing.
Improved weather and warmer water signal a switch from one type of rowing equipment (indoor rowers — AKA “ergs”) to another (shells, sculls and oars).
And challenging ones.
Over the years I’ve learned a simple trick I want to share, I call it “blended rowing” and it can make transitioning from indoor to outdoor more effective.
Don’t lock the Erg Room door just quite yet
Spending weeks indoors, spinning the magic wheels, is fairly simple.
Our bodies adjust to rowing an erg, with little concern about oar handle height, balance, swing.
It’s a very stable platform.
Wind, waves, ice don’t matter.
Neither do foot stretcher settings, oarlock pitch, rigger height, spread/span, sneaker size, oar length.
It’s a controlled environment, rowing on those ergs.
But when you go outside to row, life gets much more complex.
Moving to on-the-water means lots of:
- Movable parts
- Breakage and repairs
- Technique freak outs
Years ago, I would end indoor rowing on a Saturday practice and lock the Erg Room door. Then on Monday I’d throw open the boat bay doors and never go back to the Erg Room.
I used to that.
Now we make a gradual transition. Slowly switching from one type of rowing equipment to another.
What’s the switch look like?
Since our Erg Room is next to the boathouse, we usually start practice on the ergs. Do basic technique work there, and then move to the water.
Or, we will start on the water first, teaching decent rowing technique. Then about 1/2 way through practice we will go to the Erg Room for hard work on a stable platform.
This is a “blended time,” blending both types of equipment.
The benefits of blended rowing
My goal behind blending is for a smooth move to on-the-water while being able to row well and workout hard. Blended rowing can help in three ways.
A. Blending gives the rowers time to adjust. For example:
- Indoors, a sculler had both hands on one handle. Outdoors, it’s one hand per handle.
- Indoors, a sweep rower gave minimal attention to handle height. Outdoors, the handle height is critical to balance and speed.
Blending the equipment gives the rowers time, time to figure out those finesse issues and adapt.
B. Blending gives time to get the equipment ready.
Chances are, my equipment is not rigged as I want it when the water season begins. I’ll need to make adjustments.
Blended rowing gives me time, at practice, to get some of that fine-tune rigging done. When they are on the ergs, I’ll be making adjustments to the equipment.
Sneaky, and smart.
C. Blended rowing helps keep fitness moving in the right direction
A team getting back on the water after a season of indoor rowing will have a fairly high fitness level. However, that level can drop quickly if all the time back on the water is spent on technique, without conditioning.
Blended rowing is great for technique on the water with conditioning on the ergs…until that time when the technique allows for conditioning ON the water. Then it’s off the ergs.
Not rocket science, but rowing science
Blended rowing may sound simple. It’s not. You just got on the water, you don’t want to go back to the ergs. The rowers may just revolt.
It’s only for a short period of time, until they/you can row effectively enough to pull hard, and well.
I apologize if this sounds too basic. But I’m constantly surprised how many coaches and rowers rush from one type of equipment to another. They ignore the steepness of the learning curve for the rower, and the complexity of the change. In an attempt to speed things up, they often actually go slower.
And before you get on the water…
You might find this handy: 11 Immediate Actions To Take Before The Start Of Your Next Season