RowingChat with Sara Hendershot Intensity Training Specialist Rowing Coach


RowingChat today was with Sara Hendershot-Lombardi, a pioneer introducing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to rowing coaching.

She discovered this alternative method of training after serious personal injury, rehabilitation and recovery as she challenged for a place in the US Rowing team for Rio Olympics.

Sara runs Rowfficient, the training company whose Project UP is designed to help you gain fitness and boost performance.

We have collated timestamps for the key points we covered during the interview.  Below is a link to watch the video on YouTube or Listen on SoundCloud.  Please subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes and, continue to tell your friends about RowingChat.

  • At the bottom are links to papers about HIIT referenced in the chat.
  • 01:00 Introductions and personal background in rowing
  • 05:00 How committing to your program can prevent athletes quitting
  • 09:00 Lori Dauphiny, Princeton Head Coach Womens Open Rowing
  • 10:00 What took Sara to the Olympics in 2012
  • 12:00 Injury roadblocks, coaching and training partner choices
  • 17:00 Did you ever feel like quitting?  Two steps to take if you personally want to quit rowing
  • 20:00 Rowfficient business launch. Foundation, Resilience, Mobility and athlete Longevity.
  • 22:00 Intensity training for rowing – skill, strength and intensity. [See links below to articles on HIIT]
  • 28:00 Coming back from injury.  Teaching movement patterns in the weights room.
  • 32:00 Coaches – how to learn about HIIT from Swimming, Track and Field and Cycling
  • 36:00 How to introduce HIIT into your rowing program
  • 39:00  Where to find training information for Masters Rowers? Rowfficient and Faster Masters
  • 40:00 Flexibility versus mobility – what’s the difference?
  • 41:00 Advice for new rowing coaches.  Separate Practice from Training from Testing.  Be slow before you become fast.
  • 44:00 Transitioning from athlete to coach
  • 48:00 How to explain the changes in technique you want – cues
  • 51:00 Injury Prevention advice for athletes aged 16-22.
  • 54:00 Taking the rowing movement from the weights room to the erg to the boat
  • You warm up to row, not row to warm up.  No Junk Strokes.

    Articles that discuss high intensity training: 

    These two discuss how strength training improves the fitness of endurance athletes: 

    RowingChat with Sara Hendershot Video

    RowingChat with Sara Hendershot on Audio SoundCloud


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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Thomas Cooney

    I coach a 2nd year Crew Team in Northern VA. Having great success with an undefeated boys four & improving performances on girls & boys novice 8’s and 4’s, & a Jr. 4 &3rd 4. I am confounded regarding my girls 8. Their erg scores were comparable to the boys, their technique is good. They beat a local boys 1st 8 in fall practice. Yet they fall to last place all 4 weeks in the Sandy Run regattas. Spoke to each rower separately & most state that only 3 or 4 girls are putting out enough effort to be exhausted at the end of practice. We have 12-25 year old equipment, not using as an excuse as we actually rigged our best boat for the girls. I rowed for Charlie Butt at W-L HS in the 1970’s. One of his favorite workouts to teach intensity was 20’s with descending rest. First 20 then 1:30 rest, then a 20 then 1:25 rest, then 29 with 1:20 rest etc going down by 5 seconds each. Making sure all blast off for the 20. Not ease into it. Am I a dinosaur? Will this work? Suggestions?

    1. Rebecca Caroe

      Thomas – I have forwarded your question to a couple of our experienced coaches to see what they suggest is possible. It surely is a conundrum.

  2. Duncan Holland

    Hi Thomas, Not an easy one. A couple of questions for you: What distance were the erg scores you mention taken over? You say the girls beat a boys 8 last fall, have they gone fast yet in practice this spring?
    My approach would be as follows – are they fast some times in practice? If yes but slow in races then it is a psychological problem. When you talked individually with the athletes and they said that some of their crew mates weren’t working hard in practice what did they say about effort levels in races?

    If they are not ever fast in practice then it may well be a physiological problem.

    If it is, as it sounds, psychological then you have a challenge ahead of you. Trust within the crew is essential to have a fast boat – if some of the crew think some of the others aren’t working the boat won;t go fast. You have to address two things; getting all of the athletes to work hard and getting the athletes to trust each other.
    Start by talking with the crew about what they want. Do they want to win races or are they simply rowing for the exercise and the being together. Unless there is a full commitment to trying to win then effort levels won’t be high. If they really do want to try to win then you have to help them learn to work harder and to trust each other.

    I would start here on the erg. Get all of them to record scores for 10 stroke pieces from a standing start, and a 1 stroke maximum from a rolling start. Ask them to row at the pressure they use in races. Record all the scores and individually and as a team average or total.
    Now repeat the tests twice a week and measure improvements. Celebrate improvements both individually and as a whole team. Set goals for the next test and encourage the girls to work together on ways to improve the collective score.

    I like the sound of Charlie’s work out. Don’t worry about being a dinosaur – dinosaurs rulled the earth for much longer than mammals have!

    Keep up the good work,


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