Because Air is Overrated!
For sprinters, a race can be over in a flash, so quick that it sometimes is counterproductive to take a breath. Yes, that’s right, that one thing indoor rowers of all ages can’t get enough of, consider doing it less. The next best strategy for sprinters could be avoid breathing, or doing so at a reduced rate. Now, this strategy may not be for everyone; frankly, it may not even be possible for everyone.
Respect Breath Control Sets
It would be negligent to ignore the obvious safety risk of undertaking a strategy of little-to-no breathing. Should rowers deprive their brains of oxygen for too long, they can experience a loss of consciousness, that’s not ideal when you are strapped into the machine!
However, there is a way to train in a no-breathing way responsibly and safely. It starts with a distinction between “breath control” and “breath holding.” What you must understand is we are looking to work against the human body’s inclination to hold our breath when moving flat out. In fact, I talk about how important it is to exhale during the event ‘Breath control,’ if not properly defined, is interpreted as ‘breath holding.’
What is worth noting is that prolonged breath-holding creates an imbalance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. This imbalance throws off the body’s natural responses to low O2 or high CO2, which in turn can lead to blackouts. To avoid distress, it is recommended rowers make a conscious effort to exhale air slowly during the duration of the row.
No Air, No Problem?
Though the risks may be great, strengthening breath control can allow for sprinters to row a more economical race. Sprinters already take less breaths than other rowers, but when they do breathe, it could ruin their entire event. If sprinters breathe incorrectly, they risk disrupting their technique and rhythm, subsequently slowing them down.
In the 100m, these errors can be the difference between winning and losing. So why not eliminate the chance to make them altogether? Such a short event requires little oxygen anyway, instead drawing on stored energy and the anaerobic system. Coaches can challenge their sprinters to row 100’s with less oxygen by creating sets that limit how many times they can breath per set. This kind of set would attune sprinters to the discomfort of low O2 while also obeying the aforementioned distinction between breath control and holding.
Breath Control for the Long Haul
After 20-30 seconds of consistent exertion, a rowers body will begin to draw on the anaerobic AND aerobic systems. Oxygen becomes crucial in events like the 500 but it still can be moderated. Sprinters should substitute long gulps for air with short, quick breaths. And if sprinters are comfortable with less 02, they can prolong how they breathe in this way during a race.
It bares repeating that not every sprint rower may be able to utilize this reduced breathing strategy; however, experimenting with it may be what allows some sprinters to take their rowing to the next level!
Yours in fitness, education & holding your breath!!