Last week, our coach got on my case about sitting up. In a previous post, I mentioned how I was reaching more at the catch and throwing a check in the boat. After the practice, he said what I was doing did not effect the boat (thank goodness!) but that my hunching over put me at risk for injury.
The one technique item I’ve been critiqued on more than any other is my posture in the boat. It’s tough for me, no lie. I have to really focus on sitting up. Sometimes it strains my back, which already is curved from scoliosis. I’d been thinking about the issue a week or two before coach brought it up.
First I thought, perhaps it’s a weak core. I’ve been working through this workout as part of my weightlifting in an attempt to build a better core:
Then I began wonder if it a lack of focus and discipline? Is it merely something I have to retrain my body to do? That idea came from an interview I read with Mayrene Earle of Masters Coaching, where she said:
I say “you are what you erg,” so whatever you do on the erg is what you are going to take out on the water with you. And the opposite of that, is if you really work your technique on the erg, you’ll be better the next time you get in a boat.
The entire interview can be read here at US Rowing.
Starting with my first erg session on Monday, I put the philosophy in practice and concentrated on curling my hips in and keeping my chest high. I continued on the water, Thursday’s erg, and this morning, where I felt a more solid connection with the water. Sometimes, when you take a beautiful stroke, you just know it. You can feel it grab on and hang on long through the water. Your tush lifts a bit off the seat.
The rowing word is filled with literature and analysis on correct posture. For example, row perfect and US Rowing both have dedicated time and space to discussing correct rowing posture. Charlotte Hollings wrote in the Decembers Masters’ feature:
Sitting up takes a lot of energy and uses muscles in the vertical plane. Remember that the water is flat, and we’re trying to move the boat across that horizontal surface.
While many clubs and pictures demonstrate the differences between slouching, arching, and sitting tall, Hollings believes in a more rounded style. She notes that:
Arching your back isolates all the stress on vertebrae four and five, which is where and why rowers injure their backs. Rounding the back allows the stress to be more evenly distributed along all of the vertebrae.
I think the key will be finding a solid, relaxed position with an engaged core that keeps my upper back and shoulder back and engaged.
While we were discussing my poor posture issue, I did realize that since training has increased and I’ve added weightlifting, that I haven’t experienced as much pain in my lower back as I did several months ago. There were days when I would come home from work in aching and sore, or times when I’d need ibuprofen. That has been a true relief!