Quality over quantity for older rowers

As we get older, we can’t continually increase the volume and intensity of training—what we can do is spend time learning to row better.

So says US masters’ coach and champion sculler Marlene Royle in her recent RowingChat interview by Rowperfect’s Rebecca Caroe.

If we’re racing competitively, we still need to work as hard as everyone else, she says. That includes interval training and peak power training, and maintaining “high end fitness”.

But we need to change either the volume or the recovery time.

She gives an example. For a 5 X 5-minute piece:

  • a high-school rower will recover overnight
  • a college rower will recover the next day
  • a rower in their 20s will recover in 36 hours
  • a rower in their 30s will recover in 48 hours.

The better your base aerobic fitness, the faster you will recover, which is why the long, low-rate workouts are important.

She suggests there are two age markers where the body changes:

  • At 50, our metabolism changes and the time it takes us to recover increases.
  • At 70, the body is more unpredictable but we might need 2 days rest where previously 1 was enough.

It’s different for everyone, of course, but she has observed that rowers’ recovery time can remain stable from their 50s through their 60s.

Be conservative, she advises. And when in doubt, rest.

Should we be lifting weights?

“You can improve your strength at any age”, she claims. And, while she stresses the importance of core strength, she reckons most of us would benefit more from technical training than strength training.

“Quality is paramount”, she says. “There’s no sense in going out and rowing badly.”

Body angle is top of her list for this “technical shift”—not just for masters rowers, but for all rowers.

And the arms-and-body pause drill (also referred to as ‘dead slide’) is the way to make sure you establish the correct body angle at the start of the recovery, before the wheels begin to move.

This arms-and-body pause drill has heaps of different focal points, she says, including:

  • hinging from the hip, not flexing the spine
  • shifting your weight out of the bow
  • getting the hands away
  • keeping your weight over the handles
  • maintaining your body angle into the stern
  • good blade work.

You need to be hinging from the hip, she says, before you can even think about your entry.

Swing is affected too. Swing can’t happen if you’re not hinging at the hip, though the amount of swing is not critical, she says, as long as you have some swing.

If you struggle to reach full compression at the catch, “don’t sacrifice body angle for compression, because if your hips end up under your shoulders, you’ll get no drive suspension.

“The only way to get drive suspension is to have correct body and pelvis angle to drive through the hips”.

Here’s the full interview on video:

Thanks Marlene for an hour jam-packed with great information. And thanks to Rebecca at Rowperfect for sharing.


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