How important is a training plan?

Nov 20, 2018

How important is a training plan?

In short, it really depends on whereabouts in your rowing or exercise journey you are at. The further along you are, the more important it becomes for a few reasons.  I have trained for lots of different events in my life, most recently they have almost exclusively been indoor rowing events and I have always planned my own training in advance depending on what the goal was and made sure sessions were specific to it. This sounds obvious to me, but it far more common that people will not do this. Whether they are not sure how to, or don’t feel the need I am not sure.

The most important thing is that people are staying fit and active and introduce exercise into their lives in an enjoyable and sustainable way as without this the next level can’t be reached. However, as we become more experienced and interested in a sport very often we want to progress and following a plan brings a structure, focus and accountability to help this....

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Coaching and Performing

Nov 20, 2018

All of my adult life, in fact most of my life, I have competed. As a young lad playing local and representative football, through my school years playing every sport going, leaving school and having a pro career in rugby, and now competing in indoor rowing. At no point in that timeline when I thought about coaching did I have any real interest in it. That was until more recently when my relative success across the distances in indoor rowing and some race wins along the way (whilst not being your average rowing type) lead to others asking me for training plans. So without any grand plan I just went with it and it seemed my coaching career was up and running.

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At this stage I was both competing and coaching individuals (I still am) and hadn’t considered the impact these roles may have on each other. The relationship became more apparent when I started running group training plans where individuals, including myself, follow a generic plan that has individual targets for pace and...

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Catching a Wave

Nov 20, 2018

I have always said training goes in waves. When you are on a wave everything is going well, you feel motivated and feel you are making progress. Hitting your daily targets seems routine and you look forward to the next session. The other side of the coin feels more like treading water. Effort levels are the same, but everything seems a bit of a slog. Targets are more difficult to reach which is harder to be motivated for. The thing is you never know how long each respective streak will last so you must remain consistent and dig in through those perceived hard times as they are ultimately building the foundations for catching the next wave.

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Up until 7 days ago I had definitely been treading water for what felt like an eternity, to the point I questioned whether my peak was gone. It was ever since I had got back from a family holiday, had a bug and missed a whole nights sleep that I just seemed to fight with the machine to hit my numbers. I started to resent how hard things felt and...

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Our City Regatta, Juurney to the Guildhall

Nov 20, 2018

ur journey to the City Regatta final at the Guildhall in London started about 3 months ago when I asked 3 other guys to join me in an invitational 4-man team to race others over 1000m. Graham Benton, Dave Marshall, Dan Stanley and I formed, on paper, what looked like a pretty solid crew. This offered us a chance to compete in a unique environment as a team in what is essentially an individual sport.

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Bristol City Regatta

Our first assignment was to race in Bristol back in August at one of the 4 regional events hosted by the sponsor Investco Perpetual. The other 3 venues in London, Edinburgh and Leeds were equally as impressive a set up as ours was in Millennium Square, Bristol. The outdoor race atmosphere was great and no expense was spared as the event ran very smoothly. We had 3 heats which we came through relatively comfortably, easing through the gears and opening up a little in the final with a 2 minute 58 second effort.

Winners at Bristol Regatta

Winners at Bristol Regatta

We had a few months then...

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The importance of stroke rate

Nov 20, 2018

I have had several questions recently about how to control stroke rate and the importance of accuracy. In my training, and the plans I write, many of my (longer) sessions are controlled by stroke rate and pace targets in an attempt to make every metre rowed a productive one. I’m aiming for a consistent stroke profile and power delivery that can be transferred through the rates. In simple terms the lower the stroke rate, the slower the pace/500m should be. This sounds obvious to me as I write it, but more and more often I see people overloading their stroke which in my opinion doesn’t result in faster times.

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There are of course many different and effective ways to train. This system however allows everyone regardless of ability, to follow the same core principle without the need for individual physiological assessment, planning or heart rate monitoring, which is very costly and not readily available. I have for a while now referred to this system as...

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What is your goal?

Nov 20, 2018

I’ve spent time this week reflecting on conversations I’ve had with several clients about motivation for training. Mainly from the perspective of how to approach things when motivation feels as if it’s lacking. It’s apparent that a lot of people start to become quite self critical and intolerant when motivation is harder to come by and as a result they begin to question the point of things, seem a bit hopeless and definitely find it hard to let go of all or nothing thinking. There’s certainly no magic fix in these instances, but it’s important to reconnect with what started you on your path in the first instance. What’s your goal?

There’s no one size fits all with this.  We all have different personalities and lead different lives and therefore our reasons for exercising will be dependent on many factors. Generally speaking though I think motivation for training falls into 2 distinct categories:

  1. Progression and improvement in...
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Where is your comfort zone

Nov 20, 2018

Obviously there are multiple answers to this question, but most of you reading this will relate to it in a training capacity. Sessions we’re familiar with or find easier to complete are definitely in our ‘comfort zone’, whereas those we find physically or mentally demanding are clearly outside it. From my own perspective I’m learning a whole new answer to this question.

Before I started any form of rowing coaching I was your regular competitor. Although there’s plenty to dislike about racing in my opinion, it was effectively my comfort zone. I have often wondered why I do it to myself , but up until recently carried on regardless. Competing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s what I do. Putting myself in these positions has over the years not only become the norm, it’s also become what people expect. More recently as my coaching role has developed I have participated in events on more than one level,  as a...

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Margins, expectations and perspective.

Nov 20, 2018

I actually wrote some of this short blog in reverse as I started to get some clarity on a very mixed morning. I am not sure what purpose it will serve other than knowing that on this occasion it’s intended to make me feel better! I’ve had a great weeks training. Hard but good, and although there are probably a handful of reasons why my session didn’t go to plan,  the overriding harsh reality is that today the margins just felt too fine.

As we progress in our training and over time get faster, many people think rowing gets easier. It doesn’t. The margins get smaller and the effort required to improve gets much greater. I’m now in a place where I know what I can achieve and what I’m currently training for, but the margins I’m working with mean that timing is fundamental to success. Mind and body need to align. I thought that today was the day, but only a very short way into a time trial reality hit and I realised it wasn’t to...

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Keep Going at Rowing…Sam’s 5 Top Tips

Nov 20, 2018

I was recently asked my opinion on the very general topic of ‘Top Tips’ for rowing. Rather than focus on issues related to the use of the machine or technique, I instead focussed on a lifestyle approach to answering the very pertinent question ‘What are the things that are going to contribute to motivation, progress and sustainability when it comes to rowing?’. Essentially  ‘How will you keep going?’.

1.The most important thing for me is consistency. Sporadic, short term goal focussed training won’t equate to much in terms of long term overall progress. Initially of course if you’re new to the sport, short term gains can be massive . Over time however the margins dwindle and it can get difficult to stay patient and consistent with your journey. Dip in and out like a yoyo dieter and your results won’t be sustained and you also won’t progress further. Find a level of training that is sustainable and enjoy the effort...

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Mental Toughness for Rowing Performance.

Nov 20, 2018

‘It’s OK for you, you are mentally strong’.

‘It’s OK for you, you are good at rowing – you love it’!

I have heard people say these things to me on many occasions. Whether they are true or not is a different story, but what is certainly true is that we are not born with these qualities. They are developed over time with effort, discipline and personal experiences.

In rowing terms mental toughness is often attached to those individuals who keep going when things get tough and where others would perhaps give in. I think it is widely accepted that rowing performance is at least as much a mental battle as it is a physical one, if the brain starts to give in then the body will nearly always follow. A positive (and realistic) mental approach will not guarantee success, but a negative one will almost always lead to a struggle and this is something that we are in control of. I have had many days where I have had a double session scheduled and the...

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