A First Class Warm-up

Jun 01, 2011

As a junior, my race warm-up was essentially whatever I felt like on race day. Sometimes it started with a 20-stroke piece at 28, other times with a 10-stroke piece at 32. There was little consistency or structure to it and my warm-up would come to an end whenever I had to go into the starting gates. I’d tell myself, “I guess I’m as ready as I can be!” But was I really? I wish I knew then what I know now…

Andréanne Morin and Chrissy Lavdovsky representing Canada at the Junior Worlds in Plovdiv, Bulgaria 1999

With the approaching racing season, my warm-up is being tested and tinkered with on a weekly basis. These days, every aspect of my warm-up has been thought through: should my low rate pieces be 10 strokes or 20 strokes long? Which pieces should I do in the race direction? Is it best to break down the start and do multiple short ones, or do a longer one where you settle into your race rhythm?

There isn’t a universal warm-up that works for everyone in a crew. Yet it’s important to discuss the warm-up early in the season, reach a consensus as a crew and practice it at every opportunity, whether it is prior to race pace pieces or a race simulation. Also, if some individuals need additional warm-up, then a land warm-up, such as a dynamic stretching routine or a light erg can be added. Bottom line: when race day arrives and you are struggling to control the nerves, you want to be confident that your “tried and tested warm-up” will enable you to race at your full potential.

My 3 tips for a first class race warm-up:

  1. A minimum of 100 hard strokes broken down in 10s and 20s. The pieces are interspersed between quality low rate technical rowing. Typically, in a pair, a sufficient warm-up will take us between 5k and 6k and roughly 40 minutes (including drinks and turns).
  2. The last piece should be done 10 minutes prior the start. That also means that the bow or the coxswain has a watch that corresponds to the official regatta time. With 10 minutes to go, you have ample time to stretch, grab a drink, get in the start gates calmly and NOT be awarded a false start!
  3. I personally prefer my last warm-up piece to be at race pace. Some rowers like to end their warm-up with an aggressive short start, since that will be the first segment of the race, but I prefer to remind myself of the rhythm and length that I will be striving for in the middle 1000m. A stable, long and rhythmical 10-stroke piece leaves me confident heading into the start gates.

The intensity of the warm-up sets the tone for the upcoming race. Be sure that your warm-up is sufficient and leaves the crew feeling empowered heading into the start gates!

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