3-on-3: Thriving in Winter

In 3-on-3, our experts answer three questions and offer unique insights that helped them and others along the way. This month, we talked to Nareg Guregian (2016 Olympian in the men’s pair), Kendall Schmidt (USRowing Training Center coxswain) and Luke McGee (U.S. National Team men’s coach) about indoor race prep, what to do when you end up getting snowed in, and recovering after long workouts on the erg.

  • How do you prep for an indoor race without compromising your long-term goals for winter training?

Nareg: “I don’t think you have to choose between being competitive now and training for the long run. They go hand in hand. I’ve regularly done my best 2K during early-season testing because this is when you work on your endurance and fitness. You should add short distance work and race prep into your training regimen, but in the end, your base fitness is crucial. Don’t just do short distance stuff either, because for me that led to some terrible 2Ks. You can do shorter pieces to prepare your body for the race, but the long distance work is what matters.”

Kendall: “As a team, the USRowing Training Center women do a lot of steady state in the winter. We do throw in bursts during the longer pieces to stay in touch with sprinting. We also do max-power work about once a week. You can do occasional minute pieces at 40 strokes a minute to test your maximum strength, but it’s most helpful to do bursts of 20 to 30 strokes at a higher rate in the middle of your steady state pieces. It’s good to remember what a high rate feels like as you prepare for the season as a whole.”

Luke: “Focus on doing some shorter pieces, but not a lot of them, to get comfortable with the higher rating and the feeling of burn that’s associated with an erg test. I would do some mock 2Ks at about 90 percent effort, or with the final 500m at your actual race pace. Don’t do this for more than a week; start doing these types of shorter pieces about 10 days before your race. Don’t waste too much time focusing on the actual race, but add some pieces into your winter training plan to get used to it, and definitely taper in the three days before the event.”

2) What is your go-to cross-training exercise and what could a rower do at home to stay fit if they end up snowed in?

Nareg: “I would find a treadmill, still go out for a run or get a stationary bike. If you are biking, though, you will end up working out for a lot longer. I would bike at least twice as long as you would erg, which can get monotonous, but at least you can watch something on television. On the treadmill, you don’t have to run to see gains. Just set a serious incline and walk at a brisk pace. That works your legs well, taking long strides as if you are taking long strokes on the erg. If you are doing that treadmill workout, you can just go minute for minute instead of spending more time on the machine.”

Kendall: “One of the hardest cross training exercises is cross-country skiing. Otherwise, if you have access to a pool, that’s a great way to break things up. I also like the treadmill, not just for running. You can just set a pace, and it forces you to stick with it, which is an advantage over going outside, and it allows for better interval training. At home, you can do circuit training, where you do very light-weight or just body-weight exercise. You can alternate strength exercises with something like burpees to keep your heart rate up.”

Luke: “My go-to, especially for the heavyweight guys, would be running. It keeps the legs healthy and your weight down. It’s also simple. You put running shoes in your bag, and you can do it anywhere in the world. If you get snowed in, grab a pair of snowshoes. Going for a long, tough hike in the snow and adding in some hills is good exercise and it takes a little less coordination than cross-country skiing. Or go Rocky-style and invent your circuit. Jump rope, jumping, lifting heavy (but safe) things around the house.”

3) Do you have a suggestion (or personal favorite activity) for great recovery after a tough session on the erg on a cold winter’s day?

Nareg: “Make sure you eat something quickly. Have a protein shake ready and don’t be afraid to just bring food into the room to snack right away. The first hour after the workout is when you need to recover the most and if you want to eat something protein-rich, go for it! I would not wait an hour or more because it won’t be absorbed the same way and you won’t feel as good over the course of the day. Personally, I also drink water with my shake, especially for early morning practices, to avoid dehydration and stuffing myself later.”

Kendall: “If I am being far-reaching about my workout, a good and long cooldown and stretching before I bundle up to go outside into the cold is critical. I also eat quite a bit of bone broth over the winter as my comfort food. It’s warm but also fairly easy on my stomach, and it beats water! As a coxswain, I also try to be ready to help out the team as they finish the piece. Either with some water or with some buckets.”

Luke: “After a hard workout on a cold day, eat a big, hot meal. Grab a big breakfast, then take a hot shower and just hang out on your couch and watch a movie or crush a long nap. That’s the way to refuel, help your muscles and just physically recover. If you are drained, just press play on The Lord of the Rings and watch a solid trilogy. If you are experiencing a rough blizzard maybe Game of Thrones will solidify that winter has come for you.”

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