Here is a list of my top tips for performing well on race day at an indoor rowing competition.
There are five general factors that you need to control for you to perform well on race day.
Food and Drink: Eat healthy foods and no alcohol. See environment below for a strategy with this.
Sleep: Establish a regular sleep cycle with at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
Environment: Spend time with positive people who build you up and avoid toxic people. Also, set up your kitchen with fruits and vegetables to eat instead of eating junk foods.
Training: Ensure that you have a long-term training plan for your indoor rowing race that meets your needs and goals. The week before the race is not the time to increase the volume of training.
Stress: Manage stress by not committing to too much the week before a race. Employ yoga or meditation techniques to help your self-management competencies and lower anxiety levels.
Hopefully, you have a before competition psychological plan in place for the 72 hours before your indoor rowing race. I have put together a downloadable worksheet to help you plan the three days leading up to the race. This worksheet is one of many worksheets that you can access once you have taken my Athlete Psychology Diagnostic (which at the time of writing, you can do for free if you sign up for my e-newsletter!).
It’s critical that you know your race time because this is going to help you decide when you are going to warm up. Sometimes at large events there aren’t enough rowing machines in the warm-up area to cater to the number of competitors. If you plan, you will know when it is time to jump on that warm up machine and complete your warm up.
My recommendation is to warm up at least 30-40 minutes before your race. Your warm-up should consist of at least 15 minutes of steady state and 100 hard strokes broken up into 20 stroke pieces with sufficient steady state paddling in between. Include some stretching as well.
20 full pressure strokes at 20 spm (strokes per minute)
20 full pressure strokes at 24 spm
20 full pressure strokes at 28 spm
20 full pressure strokes at race pace
20 full pressure strokes sprinting max rate you can manage
This warm-up will get your system moving. Don’t be concerned about using up your energy on the warm-up; you’ll have plenty for the race.
If you are a high school rower, it is likely that you will arrive with all of your teammates who may be racing at different times throughout the day. It is crucial to minimize standing around while watching races. If you want to watch the other events, fine, just find a seat and watch from there. Masters rowers might not have this issue because they typically have more control over when they arrive and depart. However, my advice is the same regardless.
Most of the indoor races that I have attended are air-conditioned areas that end up drying you out. It is essential to hydrate throughout the day so that you are ready for your effort. If you are going to the bathroom every 30-45 minutes, you’re in good shape.
You usually have the option to have a “coxswain” sitting behind you for your race. Make sure that you pick someone who knows you well and knows how to push your buttons. It’s ideal to find someone who motivates you in a way that you prefer. Personally, I don’t need someone yelling in my ear the whole 2000m to row my best performance, but you can choose your motivational style. Additionally, this person should know your race plan and when to call pushes at specific points during your race.
This one is critical. Sometimes you can get carried away at the start of the race. It’s not uncommon for your effort to feel more comfortable at the beginning of the race during a competitive event. Please don’t fall into the trap of continuing to pull your low split past the point when you should be settling into your base pace. Ideally, you will have practiced a settle/stride stroke or sequence so that you establish your length, power, and rhythm. If you are a male masters club rower and your most recent best time is a 7:00 2k (1:45.0 500m split) you are not suddenly going to be able to hold a 1:40 split for your race. I have written another article on the settle stroke, which will help you learn how to practice this settle and employ it at the right time in a race.
You want to do well on race day and see all of the benefits of that training you have done. I hope the above is useful to you as you row towards your destiny on the ergometer.
I wish you the best of preparation and racing this indoor rowing season!