row2k Features
Finding Balance Between Training and Holiday Fun
December 20, 2018
Ed Moran,

Gingerbread Erg - 2016 Christmas photo of the day submission by Steven Freygang

By the end of this week, ergs in most boathouses and school crew workout rooms will fall silent. Weight rooms will shutter their doors, and rowers across the country will head home to their families and friends to enjoy a holiday break while and formal training will stop for up to two weeks.

The same will be true for masters rowers who normally row and train as part of a team. It's time to put down the handles and turn to dining room tables, desert trays and presents hung by the chimney with care.

At least for a day, and maybe two.

But as all competitive rowers know, or have at least a nagging idea planted in their holiday heads by a coach somewhere - that's not going to move the bow ball much further toward finish line goals set before the winter holiday break.

And so, as schedules move from hectic last fall workouts jammed in between end of term exams, to hectic holiday plans, coaches are encouraging their athletes to be thinking about how to create the right mix of holiday fun and achieving training goals.

row2k, while not trying to be fun-sucking reminders of this, asked a few coaches this week what plans they have to get their athletes to push back from the tables and get their bodies moving - and at what level.

Lighted Oars, January, 2018 photo submitted by  Vicky Bialas
Lighted Oars, January, 2018 photo submitted by Vicky Bialas

Here is a sampling of what three coaches are doing - and it should probably come as no surprise to experienced rowers that there was a consensus - in one way or another, depending on individual competitive levels - to keep moving, enjoy the fun, but don't nap your way through the break.

Like most big colleges across the country, the University of Virginia was wrapping up their exam period Thursday, followed by a last training session, and then a talk with head men's coach Frank Biller.

Biller's message was to make time to enjoy the holiday, even take a full day off to celebrate with family, but to remember that they are part of a competitive collegiate program, with set goals and a training camp waiting for them when they get back.

Every athlete is handed a detailed training plan, with specific workouts for everyday of the break, Biller said. Most of the work is designed to maintain a solid aerobic base, to prepare for a return to full training, and to avoid injury. There are off days built in, and alternative workouts, if finding enough time, or an erg to use, is an issue on a particular day.

The key is to be ready for a return to a full training schedule as soon as spring training begins, Biller said. Doing nothing will lead to a loss of fitness, or injury.

"First of all, they need to do something," Biller said. "Otherwise, they are just going to get hurt in January. So, for us, we have a detailed training program for everyday over the break and all the way up to the start of training camp on January 4th. The everyday training program will be the gold standard, but you do what you can.

"You have a choice, as always," he said. "Our philosophy is if you want to be the best you can be, this is what it takes. You take it from there. The important thing to keep in mind is, a lot of these kids are not going to be able to do everything, and the biggest mistake is trying to make up for a missed day by going harder.

"Just do the aerobic base work, keep it going. Don’t try to make up because there is nothing to be gained from that," Biller said. "You're not going to get everything done, but try to do something every day. We have alternative programs that we provide them, body circuits and things like that, just to keep the minimum going."

Masters athletes do not have as much at stake as collegiate rowers who are facing a competitive boat selection process, and the spring dual season. But Masters have their own distractions with career and family holiday pressures.

Christmas regatta womens masters eight
Christmas regatta womens masters eight

San Diego Rowing Club head coach Patrick Kington watches over the programs' masters. He has this advice for them: Doing something daily is better than not doing anything, unless you are recovering from a nagging injury.

"The main advice I give to the masters is to remember that doing something is better than nothing," Kington said. "With our athletes, having a lot of family and work obligations over the holidays, it's likely they often aren't able to get in all of the training prescribed in our plan.

He said he advices masters to try and follow the plan, but if they can’t do everything, "to try and still ensure they're getting some work in six days a week, even if it's less time or work than the plan calls for.

"Too often, as athletes, we tend to think along the lines of, if we can't get 90 minutes of steady state in, we can't do our workout. But 30 minutes is still much better than nothing in terms of maintaining our fitness as we approach spring. I also like to use the time over the holidays to allow those athletes nursing any nagging injuries to recover."

But keep moving and have fun.

"While we have fewer coached sessions in team boats over the holidays, it's a great opportunity to cross train and give a break to a back or shoulder that may be bothering them. I encourage the athletes to use the time off to cycle, run, swim, surf, or hike with the family," Kington said. "The other piece of this, which everyone will be happy to hear, is that I encourage them to use any days they have off from their jobs to sleep as much as possible and eat well."

For the members at the Saratoga Rowing Association, the keep moving message is about the same as outlined by Biller and Kington, but it is delivered in the way of a holiday fun challenge.

The holiday challenges, the Turkey Pull Challenge over Thanksgiving, and the end of year Christmas to New Year's "Last 10, Best 10," challenge email goes out to the entire club's mailing list of junior and master athletes - and their parents. And the club encourages masters, club and junior athletes to mix together to earn points. For every day an athlete does something that involves exercise, they earn points.

Winning is simple, earn the most points. And earning points is also easy. Go for a walk, go skiing, swimming, erg, run, walk the dog, do yoga, play any kind of sport, do anything short of staying on the couch.

Points can be multiplied by dragging a parent, sibling, even a reluctant friend, along with you. And it is all done with the goal of teaching a balance of being a conscientious athlete and enjoying holiday time.

"We generally try to keep it not too serious," said girl's varsity coach Eric Gehrke, who does the planning. "I'm not an advocate of continuing to train hard every day, but I'm also not an advocate of siting on the couch all day. I try to put these challenges together so it becomes a little more of a fun activity.

"I organize the challenges so athletes can get points for not just erging or rowing, but they get points for running, or downhill skiing, or biking or any other activity. And they can get multipliers if they include family members, anyone, from the family - including their dog.

Gehrke said the challenge are a way to encourage achieving a balance of continued training, while enjoying the holiday and family, and at the same time, encouraging kids to learn how to take responsibility to be good athletes.

"We want them to use the platform to be better athletes, and to engage other people, family and friends, in their athleticism," he said.

Need some suggestion for workout tunes? We've got you covered. Check out the row2k 2018-2019 Winter Erg Playlist.

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