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…
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:
- 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).
- 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!
- 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!