Q & A with National Teamer, Ali Cox

Jan 10, 2011

Hey C2 Land. You asked and I’m answering.

I’m looking forward to this new Q & A forum, sort of an “Ask Ali” column if you will. Topics to be discussed in the future: more on winter training, racing, nutrition, mental toughness, national team selection, what makes a good rower, juicy tidbits on erg testing. And that’s only scratching the surface.

We have Alignment, Attention, Go:

What are some ways to stay comfortable in the seat for more than 45 minutes and ways to combat the boredom factor? —David H.

David, nice question. Staying comfortable on the seat… I have an abundance of experience with this daily challenge, thanks to our 100 minute erg sessions.  All I have to say is, thank goodness that the Concept2 seat far surpasses any other seat I’ve tried (and trust me, I’ve tried them all).

As with any sport, you have to put in the miles to build up the tolerance of typical aches and pains such as chaffing, rashes and cramps. These ailments are all par for the course. Does chaffing ever go away? The answer is no; however, there are tricks of the trade that help.  Always try to wear your most comfy “seamless butt” short or unisuit, aim to wear a seamless sports bra, petroleum jelly or BodyGlide should be a staple in your gym bag, and use baby powder for really sweaty days (think cracks…).

This aside, another major factor that will allow you to go the distance is flexibility, especially in the hips and hamstrings. If your hips and hammies are well stretched and aligned then the seat does not become such an issue. I highly recommend doing a short 5–10 minute warm-up, stretch for 5–10 minutes and then start your workout. Trust me, 15 minutes in and you will be glad you took the time to stretch. Also, don’t be afraid to take short hydration and stretching pit stops. For example, break the 45 minute session into 2 x 25 minutes with a 2-minute break. The benefits will be mental as well as physical.

Boredom factor…typical answers are good music, TV, a competitive training partner, specific technical goals, regular erg tests, varying workouts, negative splitting, targeted heart rates, etc. When I’m on the erg, I do quite a bit of race visualization, or I’ll pick somewhere that I would like to row and picture myself in that location. For example, lately I’ve been visualizing the 2012 Olympic Final. And I’m convinced that after awhile, your brain does become a bit dulled by the monotony.

Proper breathing techniques? —Kristen L.

Kristen, this is a great question, and often overlooked. Take a sharp exhale at each finish. Sometimes the exhale slips during easier steady state workouts; however, at race pace this is critical from stroke one. Breathing at the finish will help with rhythm, provide consistency, promote good finish positioning and guarantee that you get oxygen early on in a race or erg piece, because once you get to the sprint it’s too late to make up for lost air.

I have a squad with various heights, weight and age. Some can run, and some can do weights. Others can’t due to old injuries. What would be the best way to train and build-up everyone for 2k sprint races? –Gab L.

Hi Gab, thanks for the question. Obviously dealing with various injuries is a challenge for any coach or team manager. And as an athlete, staying healthy is always top of mind— everyday. That said, it takes healthy bodies to race. The 2K being no exception.

In order to properly train for 2k racing, a solid cardio foundation, strength and technical base is critical. I would say 2k-specific prep should happen within the last couple weeks before the scheduled 2k race. This is when sprinting and starting fine-tuning takes place. I believe that pieces are normally won in the body of the race (from the 250 to the 1,750 meter marks), so longer harder pieces at base rate will help accomplish this goal. Specific workouts to improve base normally go something like this: 2k, 1k, 500 meters at base stroke rate, for example. And then throw in a few high-rate builders to mock a start and sprint.

Improving technique and speed? —Mike C.

Hey Mike, thanks for the (loaded!) question. Let me start off by saying, the crew that is the fittest, most determined and manages to get their oars in and out of the water the cleanest tend to be fastest. These variables all require incredible tenacity and hard work to accomplish.

We all know that technique is a subjective controversial topic. For me, improving technique is a daily challenge whether I’m on the Concept2 Indoor Rower or in the boat. With each stroke I am thinking about sitting up, breathing at the finish, getting my hands out first, setting my shoulders in front of my hips, hooking the catch with straight arms, solidly pushing my legs down and finishing with my arms parallel to the floor (no dips!). Repeat. Learning how to maintain focus is the number one challenge with technique, especially when fatigued.

Now for the second part of your question…improving speed, yet another debatable topic. Each coach or athlete you ask will have a different answer. For our team, when we’re fit, focused, rowing well and determined, good speed is normally the outcome. Of course, how you get to this point requires strategy. And that, my friend, is a whole other blog post.

Thank you for the questions! Keep ‘em coming! I welcome your comments below.

Stay strong and carry on, Ali

Tags: Training

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