Race Plans for coaches and coxswains


Today the Rowing Coach helps you out with suggestions about how to build up a race plan and what the ‘ideal’ race profile looks like.

Looking like a race?

So your crews are about to embark on their straight-course racing for the summer? How are they looking?  What is their race going to look like – will it be like anything you’ve planned?

Let’s take a look at the usual race profile – think of a piece of wood propped at both ends:

An ideal rowing race profile – linear

There are good physiological reasons for a shape like this, mostly to do with the energy systems available to us.  The anaerobic processes that we start with and can finish using are the equivalent of the human turbo but boy, do they run through the gas.  Showy, I grant you but with longer than a minute to race you’ll need to use some of the carthorse aerobic endurance as well.

Olympians execute race plans like this

Now our best rowers with have a race profile that more resembles a plank of sturdy oak.  Year of training have increased the level at which they can race aerobically until it barely deviates from that of their anaerobic power bursts; this means that they can do magical things like even splits or even, negative splits.

But their years of training have also built up

  • technical endurance where each and every stroke looks the same;
  • strength endurance where every stroke leaves a deep and enduring puddle;
  • mental endurance where each stroke has the same degree of attention paid to it.

As club coaches, our problem when we’re faced with athletes’ race profiles that more closely resemble a cooked piece of spaghetti is how best to prop up their performances.

Race profile of an inexperienced crew

And funnily enough it’s usually the mental endurance that gets tackled first.  
Here’s how it goes in five easy steps:

  1. rub your hands together and think of a number of tens – let’s do two
  2. toss them at your crew as bursts, pushes or moves – something to keep busy with at the 1000m half way mark in the race [assuming you’re doing 2k]
  3. go on, toss in another couple, one at each of the 500m marks
  4. two lots of ten at the start to turn the turbo on
  5. three more from the 250 to go just in case there is anything left as a sprint finish

And hey presto!

A race plan . . . ignore the smart aleck at the back who wants to know how, if they’re already pushing as hard as they can, they can add power to move in the pieces as well . . .

Next time, we get to talk about what to do when your race profile starts looking like a Tuscan road:

…..and what to do about the smart-aleck in the back!

Read Part 2 of Race plans for coaches and coxswains


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