The timeline of the rowing warm-up
With about one hour to go, the athlete will head to the warm-up area. A feature of every modern rowing championships, the warm up area will take the form of either a temporary tent, or in the case of the most recent championships, a large room in the back of the water-sports complex. This designated area is one of the most exciting and fascinating places to observe international rowers in competition, unfortunately it is also one of the few places that the general public never gets to see. It is the rowers sanctuary, away from the crowds and the noise, where they can achieve complete focus.
Next in the warm-up they will do a series of rehearsals of the first 10-20 seconds of the start of the race, repeating several times the action of exploding out of the starting blocks, ensuring that they get away cleanly and hopefully ahead of the opposition when it comes to the real thing. They will conclude with a few minutes steady rowing which serves to flush away any lactate accumulated during these practice starts and higher intensity efforts. Besides any further stretching they may require, the warm-up is complete. All that is left now is the short row to the start.
The science behind a rowing warm-up
A correctly carried out warm-up can provide a performance gain of up to 30% versus starting from cold, especially in a relatively explosive and short event such as a 2km rowing race, which is the standard international distance. Specifically the mixture of low and high intensity exercise undertaken during the warm-up increases adenosine triphosphate turnover, which reinforces muscular functions, muscle cross-bridge cycling rate, and oxygen uptake kinetics, which significantly affects exercise performance.
No matter how good the preparation in the months and years that precede an event, get the warm-up wrong and it will cost you the race. To become a rowing world champion, the race starts long before you touch the water.
"Three basic types of warm-up may be used to prepare for strenuous activity”, says Shellock. “These are passive, general, and specific. By far the best of these is a specific warm-up, which not only increases the temperature of the body parts involved in the activity but also provides a rehearsal of the event that is to take place."
Many factors contribute to the lowering of world best times in the last three decades, but the addition of machines like the Skillrow to the warm-up area, allowing for more effective physical preparation, will have in some way contributed to the lowering of records in recent championships.
The Mindgame, a mental and physical warm-up
In this heightened state, the slightest disturbance or issue can throw an athlete off their game. They will have executed millions of repetitions of the rowing stroke over the course of an international career, the slightest inaccuracy of feel on the rowing machine could prove fatally distracting. Everything must be perfect.