I developed a training plan for myself to prepare for the Dutch Masters Open (26th June 2022). This is my peak event for the sprint racing season, and I think this plan could be useful for other Masters rowers preparing for sprint races. This article describes the general principles and plan structure. The full training plan, including specific session plans, is available for purchase on Rowsandall. (If you are already on a paid plan on Rowsandall.com, you can get up to 100% discount on the plan’s price.)
I started sculling in 1984, at RV Naarden in The Netherlands, and I have competed as a Junior and student rower in The Netherlands, being reasonably successful, but not elite. I have always remained active in rowing and other sports, but in 2011 I decided to pick up competitive rowing again, this time in the Masters field. I set some goals for myself and achieved them, among others winning WRMR and Euromasters races, as well as many national level sprint and head races. I have kept a blog about my trainings until 2020: https://blog.rowsandall.com/
I have a pretty tasking job, leading a R&D department at a big, US based, corporation active in the Semiconductor industry, and I have a wife and 3 children. So, I have a limited amount of time for training, but have been successful because of the plans that I developed to get the best benefit from the limited time investment.
Who should use this plan?
I have written this plan with a Masters sculler in mind who
- Wants to prepare for a sprint race, which is usually side by side racing over 1000 meters.
- Has a demanding job and other obligations, and can free up about 6 to 7 hours per week over 6 sessions to train. Winning a sprint race with strong competition will take more training (for most age categories), but with this training plan you can be competitive, and if you set realistic goals, you will have a successful race. You can use this plan as a basis and add sessions, but then you have to know what you’re doing.
- Has some experience doing structured trainings and following a training plan. I will give you some guidance on how to adapt the plan in case of injury, sickness, or travel, but you will have to figure out how to be flexible yourself.
The high level principles of the plan are as follows:
- No injuries
- Adapt the plan to reflect work constraints, sickness, stress and other external influences
- Steady state is the base. During all phases, the plan will contain steady state sessions.
- Periodization. The plan consists of different phases. Depending on the phase of the plan, the “hard” sessions will have a different character.
- Rowing sessions are done on the water and are specified in either distance or time. If you have to execute a session on the indoor rower (because of weather, for example), just stick to the same distances and durations.
- A weights session is not a luxury for Masters rowers
- Eat and drink wisely, and get enough sleep
Weights sessions are not optional for Masters rowers. Untrained people lose maximum strength and strength endurance as they get older. The “use it or lose it principle” applies here. The benefits of regular strength training are:
- Slow down loss of musculature with aging
- Positive effect on blood pressure and endurance performance
- Reduced risk of injury. By systematically strengthening muscles that are used less in rowing, you keep a balance which helps to prevent injuries.
On the other hand, weights sessions, if done incorrectly, can form a risk of injuries in itself. Therefore, I do not prescribe the weights sessions in detail, but ask you to either use your own experience, or ask a local, professional trainer to get you started and teach you the basic exercises.
You cannot learn to do weights exercises from YouTube. You have to have someone who knows what they’re doing stand next to you and give you instructions, ideally by showing and then correcting your execution directly.
Exercise machines train your muscles as well as free weights, and are designed to be safer. So, they are a good alternative if you are not 100% sure, or just starting with weights.
Bottom line: You know what you are doing, or you are getting local help to learn.
I am not prescriptive about crosstraining either. These aerobic sessions should be easy and low-risk (for injuries). Do any sport that you like and can do well, be it running, swimming, ice speed skating, cross-country skiing or cycling.
If you have knees or feet that are easily injured, you might not want to go running, or avoid running on hard surfaces. If you live in an area where road cycling is not safe, you might want to consider a different form of crosstraining.
I like to do crosstraining outdoors during all seasons, because I like being out in the nature, and it has a positive effect on my mood and health. If possible in your environment, go outdoors. If this is not possible where you live (pollution, traffic, travel time to nature), try to make the crosstraining pleasant by doing a virtual ride or run, play some music, or exercise with friends.
The Plan’s macro cycles
The plan assumes that you have a reasonable base fitness. It consists of two macro cycles.
In weeks 1-7, we do not do specific race preparation. There will be shorter and longer interval sessions, and they are generally done at a slightly lower stroke rate and pace than your race target.
In weeks 8-13, we are replacing the interval sessions with intervals at or above race pace. In 2 out of 3 weeks, we mix in a technique session that should be fun and not too exhausting.
What do I get when I purchase the plan?
When you purchase the plan on Rowsandall.com, you will receive
- Each session will be prepared on your Rowsandall.com account and contain more guidance and detailed instructions than in the plan summary that you can see on Rowsandall.com.
- Using your Rowsandall.com account, you can upload recorded sessions and match them with the plan. This allows you to track progress, set individual target paces and power levels for the sessions, and get automated notifications of breakthrough and marker sessions. This will make it very easy and motivating to stick to the plan.
- Email me with questions on the plan. While I am not a “white glove service” personal trainer, I am always willing to clarify, give feedback, and answer questions of paying subscribers.
- A proven way to prepare for sprint races.