« Chula Vista Day #1 »

So I arrived safe and sound in San Diego last night.  Scooted around the winter storm jumping from Albany to Charlotte and then across to San Diego.  The hotel was not quite as nice as how I treated myself for Christmas break, but not bad for $57 a night. Gotta love priceline..  I woke super early due to the time change, but that just made it easy to get to practice on time.  The rowing gods were smiling when I arrived because it was absolutely gorgeous.  I arrived to find the ladies working through their warm-up and stretching exercises... Speaking of which, I want to mention some of my observations surrounding these amazing men and some of the things that set them apart from the hundreds of athletes I have coached in the last 20 years.  So it starts with warm-up!  The girls had a list of exercises that were part of the warm up that included a lot of hip mobility... The difference wasn't in the warm up as much as it was in the approach... Somehow, these girls have figured out that if they want to be healthy strong and successful they better take the warm up as seriously as the workout.  There was no one leading it, but everyone was working through the exercises at their own pace - taking as much time as their body needed but not wasting time.  Perhaps it is the competitiveness that was driving them work their hardest to stay healthy because they knew if they got injured, they would miss practice, and someone else might sit in their seat.  In any case, warmup was serious business.  When we hit the water it was in 7 pairs and susan francia in a single.  Practice was a pretty easy one just up and down the race course at 2:16 splits alongside your training partners everyone was a going he same speed, so they stayed alongside their group he whole time.  The wind was soft enough and the speed easy enough that no accommodations were made for head wind/tail wind  there may have been small rating adjustments, but for the most part, just ignore the conditions and pull the splits.  Only a few times over the race course, then we went back in, and they jumped on the erg for 8k.  I was surprised they didn't just stay out and do a few more laps, but coach laurel explained that this gave them a chance to self regulate their training, if the water piece was not going well or too easy, they could just work a little harder or easier on the erg but still get the mileage in.  After the erg, off we went for lunch... Which was awesome! At the Olympic training center, the food is healthy and delicious and there is lots of it! I was thankful to be included and can still taste the awesome fruit smoothie I had.  From lunch, they all went back off to the dorms for a nap, and I went to find some wifi and catch up on some work.  Second practice began at 3:30.  Surprisingly, no rowing! First was a 45 minute cross training (most chose to run) and I actually joined in! I ran with Amanda Polk and Vicky Opitz (I coached Amanda one summer way back when she was a HS junior at development camp).  To be honest, I was pretty nervous, I have not been keeping up with my running so 45 min was going to be a challenge... Fortunately they took it easy on me, and we chatted about head of the fish (Vicky wants a fish head so badly, and Amanda wants to race with her dad next year - he just broke 8:00).  We arrived back from our loop with 4 minutes to spare and then came observation #2... We did not turn into the boathouse, we ran right by... They had no intention of cheating themselves out of the last 4 minutes of the cross training... So intent were the that when we finally did get back to the boathouse with :30 to to go... Amanda said "right to the last second, isn't that right cat?" And we ran some circles in front of the boathouse.  Training and pieces are not something to be completed, they are the ladder that will carry them to their goals.  They will not skip a step.  After the run, they were to fully clean their pairs - inside and out and scrub the handles of their oars.  Then it was off to the weight room for endurance weights.  While part of me wanted to skip that and grab some food (the run took a bit of energy!) I am glad I went.  I learned a lot during that session.  Observation #3. These girls all know how to keep their bodies in proper positions, pelvis tilted appropriately and core engaged - it was evident across all the exercises they did.  I realized watching that that this is probably the number one reason that they can handle the training loads and the mileage it took to get here.  There may have been plenty of other strong tall girls who row well in the country, but they never made it this far because they never learned to sit on the seat correctly and engage their core and sit with proper posture... Eventually, if you are not serious about learning this, eventually it will be your limiting factor, and you will stop rowing.  These girls all had their own little technical flaws or stylistic nuances, but the common thing I saw was proper core engagement and posture thru the trunk.  It was there on the erg, there in the squat, there in the kettle bell swings.  Stylistically, they took on an interesting movement during compression that I thought was helpful.  Rather than keeping the knees together at the catch on the erg, they let them come apart such that they were under their armpits.  This allowed them to achieve a bit more compression and body lean without losing the low back posture.  It was as if they were pushing their core between their legs at the catch... Leaning the belly button through the legs.  I am so glad I went to that lifting session.  You will all be happy to know there was someone there getting a lot of attention for bending her arms too early... Hard habit to break even at this level.   After the weight session ended, everyone approached the stretching session as intently as they had the warmup that morning - I think they knew they wanted to help their body recover so they could perform tomorrow morning.  Then a few of the girls stuck around for pull ups... Not part of the session, but something they are working on on their own.  They stood in bungee chords of differing strengths to give them enough assist that they could do a few repeats of 10.  It was an easy day of training for them, but pretty impressive to watch.  On the water, you could have mistook us for them.  A bunch of pairs rowing alongside each other, but it was the maturity off that water that I saw as the biggest difference.  The way they warmed up, the way they did not let a second of training opportunity escape (how many of us let 5 or 6 seconds of a 45 second interval slip away?), and the way that they focused all of their energy on learning and holding core engagement and posture.  And then a few of them even had the energy to do a little personal addition.
Day 1 the kind of athlete who makes it to the top:
 A) cares about warm up, cool down and takes it very seriously
 B) takes advantage of every second and refuses to let any of the seconds get away
 C) develops posture and the ability to engage the core and carries the knowledge and strength into all disciplines. Poor posture doesn't make it this far.

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