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Australian Olympic Silver (London 2012 Double Sculls) and Bronze (London 2012 Single Sculls) Medallist.
If there’s something I learnt in transitioning from hurdling to rowing, it’s how to improve my aerobic capacity. Because, let’s be honest, while the 400 m hurdles has a lot of “ouch” in it, it’s a sprint. Think lactic acid and the anaerobic system. Rowing 2km, on the other hand, also requires anaerobic capabilities, but is a highly aerobic sport. Think heavy breathing, high heart-rate and a sustained “ouch”!
When I started rowing, I was great over the 500m ergo- it used a similar energy system to 400m running. My 6km ergo left a lot to be desired. These days, I am known for my aerobic capacity, and my 6km ergo is one of my strengths. So, how did I do it?
Unfortunately there was no main ingredient – it was simply down to time and kilometres. Lots and lots of kilometres. Something I think we do well in rowing is keep the approach varied. Sure, we do lots of long steady rows and long ergos, but we also do long bike rides, running, swimming, mountain running… whatever floats your boat! Internationally, cross country skiing is a really cool way to get up those “hours” of lower intensity work. The more you enjoy what you do, the better your chances of being able to clock up the hours.
One of the things I learnt pretty quickly was that to be able to back up and do lots of volume day after day after day, you can’t write yourself off in every session. Consistency is the key. It’s better to do 10 months of training at 80% intensity, than one week of training at 100% intensity followed by two weeks off recovering. Of course, there will be times when you’re required to push yourself to the max, but these should be carefully scheduled into a training program to ensure there is adequate subsequent recovery to get the required “hit”. Which brings me to point 3…
There are lots of clichés in sport, and one of them is that “the only thing more important than training is recovery.” I don’t completely buy that, BUT recovery can be just as important as training. It’s not until recovery that you receive the benefits of training.
Recovery strategies that really work for me:
Cold water immersion. Yep, the dreaded ice bath. It ain’t fun, but besides being nice to tired muscles, I reckon it helps you sleep.
Sleep! I have been told that if there was an Olympics for sleeping I’d be a gold medallist. I’m not sure about this, because it’s highly possible I’d sleep through the medal presentation! Sleep is so critical in actually letting your body adapt to the training load.
For those sessions where you’re holding on for dear life, I make sure my “survival kit” is waiting: strawberry milk and my 2XU Compression Tights. With their powers combined, I know I’ll live to see another day!
It is important to find the formula that works for you. I really enjoy running on tricky terrain and feeling I’m “at one” with nature. I don’t enjoy running on a treadmill or sitting on an exercise bike. On the ergo, I often like to listen to music. Some long aerobic sessions I like working to a prescribed heart-rate, others I just like working to a specific speed or no speed at all. There is no right or wrong approach, but it’s definitely important to work out what makes you tick- for starters, do you train better by yourself, or with friends? Do you need goals and rewards, or is the thrill of being active enough?
Image credits: Corbis Images