On Race Warmups:
How many times have you heard your coach proclaim on an erg test day, “Do a race warmup, we’ll begin in xx minutes.” What do you do? If you find you’re spending the first half of the allotted time wondering exactly that, then here are some tips you can use to arm yourself for the next time it happens!
Race warm up should be built around 3 basic steps:
1. The specifics of each segment will vary person to person, and you should pay attention to your body and what seems to work for YOU. You might need 20 minutes of light steady state to get your joints ready to work hard, or you might be fine with only 5 minutes light before moving on to the higher intensity of the rate builders. On the water at races, this often involves a drill to help everybody clear their heads and get the crew swinging together.
2. Getting ready for higher rates should look something like 1' on/ 1' off or 20 strokes on/ 20 strokes off, or 30 str/30 str, 20 str/30 str, 30"/45" etc. These should be at race pressure, and you should build starting at steady-state rate up to your race rate (for example, starting at 20 spm and building up 2 or 3 beats each interval through 32 spm.) Do a couple bursts at your race rate (depending on your interval format). The goal is to be breathing hard by the end; get your heart rate up above your aerobic zone to cue your metabolism that it's time to fight-or-flight. Again, you should be breathing hard after a race warm up, you should be sweating, you should be just a little worried that you went too hard on the warm up and started dipping into your "race reserves" - that’s a perfectly normal worry, and 10-to-1 you didn’t! You should not be gasping or falling off the erg unable to stand.
3. Getting a quick rest to recover before the race is important, since if you're adequately warmed up for a 2k, it means you worked hard. It means you primed your aerobic and anaerobic systems, burned through some glycogen stores, and that stuff needs some time to restock. Generally this is between 5-10 minutes of resting and active recovery. Again, the correct proportions will vary person to person (except on the water, when this part looks like rowing to the staging area and waiting to get called up, and you’re more or less at the mercy of the race officials and if it’s running on time). Do some dynamic stretching here, some more light recovery-paced steady state, or walking (this is your chance for a last-minute haircut!).
Once you get your 2k warm up dialed in, start thinking about how it applies to your pre-race warm up at regattas. Start with your event time, and work backwards through the three steps. Remember, that at a regatta, your warm up is the same for the whole crew, so if you know you're an "I need 30 whole minutes of steady state before I can start applying the rate/press" person, then you know that you need to start doing that 20-30 minutes before your hands-on is scheduled (go for a run, lunges, jumping jacks, etc.)
Whew that was a lot about just warming up! Takeaway is: include the 3 basic steps, don't be afraid to experiment on your own, listen to your body!