Transitioning Back on The Water from Indoor Winter Training

February 25, 2013

Just recently, I did an interview for a rowing publication about how to transition from winter indoor training to outdoor water training.   My response focused on what I believe is the greatest obstacle to a smooth transition; properly increasing your on-the-water training volume to help minimize training related injuries.

Indoor training can greatly vary among rowers.  Many choose to minimize or not include the ergometer as part of their winter training program and instead run, cycle, or swim to keep their cardio systems up and running.  I personally love running on a trail during the winter months because I can still enjoy the outdoors while training.  Others may need to cross-train because they experience back pain when training on the ergometer.   Ergometer-induced back pain is usually a clear sign of significant strength and flexibility imbalances. (My Body Balance Evaluation Process can target and eliminate back pain by correcting those imbalances)

Cross training can do an excellent job at keeping the cardio system intact however it does nothing to keep the rowing muscles ready and conditioned.  If you trained all winter using cross-training, you must be careful to make a slow transition when getting back on the water in the spring so you can avoid potential overuse injuries.

In order to transition properly, one suggestion is to begin with an appropriate training volume when you return to indoor training on the water.  To do this, take your longest winter cross-training session in minutes, and cut that training time in half.  For example, if the longest regular winter cross-training session you did was 60 minutes, then start week one on the water by limiting your training to 30 minute sessions.  If you really feel you need more, you can always supplement the water training time with your indoor cross-training.  Each week thereafter, add approximately five minutes to your training until you get back to the 60 minute sessions, or whatever your longest workout time had been.  Continue to add on 5 minute increments each week until you are back up to your desired training session.  Week two workouts would then be lengthened to 35 minutes, and by week six you should be back to 60 minute training sessions.  I also often suggest to my clients to go every other day on-the-water for the first four weeks and then add one day per week to their training routine to ease into the transition back to the water.

For those of you who have trained on the erg all winter, you will have an easier time making the on-the-water transition.  You must still be mindful that sculling and sweep rowing both offer some additional stresses to the musculoskeletal system when compared to the erg.   My recommendation would be to reduce your longest weekly erg training session (in minutes) by 20 to 25% and then use this training time as your week one starting point.

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