Rowing is a unique physical activity. If you haven’t been on the erg in a few weeks/months or even longer, the key thing to remember is your body requires time to re-acclimate, even if you’ve been emulating rowing motions in your daily workouts. Let’s ease back into it, shall we?
This week, regardless how excited you are to resume your domination of the erg and renew the friendships you’ve missed during your time away from the group, there are a few things you should consider before the workouts resume. (Need some accountability to get re-started? Check out all the Dark Horse program options here.)
After an extended absence, proper form may be elusive, increasing the chance of injury. Suppress your impatience and recognize the advantages of focusing your initial workouts on recovering and refining your technical skills. This is the perfect time to incrementally ramp up your exercise intensity while simultaneously improving your efficiency.
Rather than measuring workout success by the level of suffering achieved, track the number of stroke improvement tips you can glean from your coach. Do more drills. Minimize stroke counts, focus on alignment, and dial in your sequencing and timing.
Row smarter, not harder.
The most successful athletes are supremely attentive to the signals received from their bodies. Not only do they sense how their bodies minimize resistance and apply propulsive forces on the erg, they also tune into how joints and muscles respond to effort.
The exertion continuum—Warm up at a relaxed pace while monitoring your perceived flexibility and elasticity limits. In other words, if something feels tight, give it MORE time to warm up before pushing hard. Range of motion typically decreases during time away from the erg, so take your time working your way back to full extensions. Add effort only when you’re confident that all the body parts involved feel warm and loose.
DOMS—Delayed onset muscle soreness provides unmistakably accurate feedback on whether you’ve worked too hard. Overdo the effort and you’ll get sore. Be too lazy, and you won’t feel a thing. The problem is the delayed onset part; the feedback only appears in the days following your misjudgment of what you can handle. It’s too late to adjust. Fortunately, most Masters athletes have life-experience to call upon. We’ve been sore in the past and should be able to remember how good we felt during exercise that left us hobbling in pain a few days later. Tap into those memories to find the sweet spot for the intensity and duration of your first workouts.
The bottom line is that it’s better to err with a ramp-up curve that’s too flat rather than one that’s too steep. Taking it a tad too easy risks a slight delay in your return to full-blast training tolerance, but overstressing yourself means significant time lost to soreness or injury. Invest your enthusiasm in honing your skills rather than in misguided machismo. As a wise man once said (a few paragraphs ago), swim smarter not harder.
The Fun Factor
Take a moment to be grateful for the opportunity to row again, regardless of how new restrictions might complicate the experience. Review the reasons you love this sport, and let those joys overwhelm any frustrations you might face. Share your excitement through social media, and relish the sweet nirvana of soggy fatigue you feel at the end of your workout.
Each athlete has a unique path back to “normal.” The optimal effort for your individual rehab is influenced by:
Age—If your comeback after college was 30 years ago, chances are good that you won’t be able to restore your speed and fitness as rapidly as you did back then. It’s OK to start with low meterage, take extra rest, and get off early if needed. The important thing is to get started, and then increase the distance and effort as rowing fitness returns.
Genetics—Some people are blessed with bodies that recover quickly. Those of us who aren’t must remain patient and committed.
Hiatus activities—If you did significant dryland training, stretching, and cardio work while out of the water, you should be able to regain your previous rowing fitness within a few weeks.
There are aches, pains, and disappointments with any return to rowing after a prolonged layoff, but the rewards continue long after the annoyances are forgotten.
Yours in education, fitness and getting back to healthy.
Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash
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