Fortune favours the prepared

This weekend has been a very tiring one, what with it being a 4 day weekend because of the Easter break. Not only did I got rowing on the weekend mornings but I also spent a lot of time in the garden in preparation for our planned remodelling project.

So last weeks lesson came in to play, and thankfully I had learned that lesson well. I was quite tired on Sunday after having spent 4 hours rowing on the previous day as well as a similar amount of time working in the garden that same day. Our training on Sunday consisted of a lot of technical work followed by 4 x 1000m race pieces. During the last two of those 1000m my legs were badly fatigued, but oddly those piece were our best of the day. The only reason for that was applying my “less is more” lesson, and not still trying to “go for it” the boat stayed stable, the bladework (relatively) clean and therefore the boat remained fast.

I think the other reason the boat ran as well as it did on those last two pieces was down Rob’s explanation of a particular exercise, namely slap catches. I’d always tried to make a big slap when doing those. It had never really been explained to me what the exercise was supposed to achieve. Rob took the time to explain to me exactly how to do the exercise and what it was meant to do. Previously, the first time I’d been introducted to the slap catch exercise was being told as we were starting to do them in a coxed four.

Because I’d not had it explained to me before, I was dropping my hands slightly in order to make the slap louder. This had the effect of upsetting the balance of the boat at the catch. The correct way to do a slap catch is to keep the hands level and to let gravity drop the blade on to the water. It shouldn’t be a particularly loud noise, as the real aim of the exercise is to get used to “letting go” of the handle. By that I mean letting gravity drop the blade the the water level rather than forcing it. After I’d got my head around that the stability of the boat improved a lot.

The slap catch exercise actually teaches you a couple of things, one to allow gravity to drop the blade in to the water, and two to teach you to keep the hands at the right level.

My blade placement in the water also improved a lot after having done the slap catches, which combined with last weeks lesson of “less is more” combined with the improved boat stability from the slap catches helped us to move the boat quickly despite both of us being fatigued during the last couple of pieces.

Another effect of the slap catches is that it focuses the mind on the catch and holding the hands level ready for it. Which in turn allows me to concentrate on preparing for the catch that little bit earlier, which just makes everying run that little bit smoother. As I’ve said in the past, rowing is a very cyclic sport, in that there is no start or end to the stroke, it all just flows continously. So getting one thing right makes getting all the others right a bit easier. The other side of that is that there will always be room for improvement and fine tuning.

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