Dustin certainly had the credentials to support his authorship of the subject matter; he coached for years with the Grand Rapids Rowing Association and at the collegiate level, including two years at the University of Michigan, and two years coaching Brown University athletes that would win a national championship. And, if you ever had the opportunity to ask Dustin for words of wisdom related to rowing for either fitness or competition, here are five of the things he might tell you.
1. Find a rowing machine
If you live in a state with a legitimate icy winter, you will find that the cold weather can restrict your access to the water and limit your training options. Fortunately, most modern gyms are equipped with machines that are almost as effective for your training as rowing out on the water, and Dustin advises you to look for a rowing machine as your next best option if weather renders rowing on the open water impossible.
“The most effective off-the-water training you can do is to row on a rowing machine,” Dustin explained. “Other things like running and cycling are good for general fitness, but the rowing machine allows you to use the motion and work on your technique if you’re paying attention. You’re compressing the body and stretching out the muscles in the same way that you’re going to use them out on the water.”
2. Get to the weight room
Obviously, rowing requires a great deal of strength from all parts of the body, and the natural rowing motion provides a great deal of the necessary muscle development rowers need. At the same time, Dustin advises all competitive rowers to lift weights in order to develop the kind of power throughout the body that makes the resistance of the water against the oars seem less problematic.
“It can be a huge benefit to do add weight training in with your rowing,” Dustin advised. “Core training is something that almost everybody needs to supplement, and when you’re rowing you really need your core to be in shape. Weight lifting generally strengthens your muscles – both the primary muscles you’re going to use for rowing, and the complimentary muscles.”
3. Can’t row? Get a bike, or start running
While rowing should certainly be the go-to exercise for competitors in related sports, the general cardiovascular conditioning that helps rowers is something that can be helped by a variety of exercises. Dustin is particularly fond of cycling and running as alternative means of cardiovascular training when the ability to row is unavailable.
“Cycling is fantastic,” Dustin affirmed. “It doesn’t use the upper body as much as rowing, but the muscles of the legs, and particularly the muscles around the thighs are use. And of course, one of the easiest means of cross training is going for a run. You’re using the legs rather than the arms, but you’re stimulating the cardiovascular system, which is essential for rowing.”
4. Decide if you’re a loner, or a team player
Sports like football require the presence of other players in order to play the game; rowing doesn’t have this limitation. Rowers have the option of competing on teams, or they have the ability to perform individually if they prefer. Either way, Dustin says there are decisions rowers need to make before they decide whether or not they are going to compete with a team, or as a solo act.
“If you’re rowing on your own, you have the disadvantage that you’re the only one rowing the boat everything hinges on you,” Dustin explained. “If you’re particularly fit or competitive, you can go on your own pace and succeed if you have the ability to do so. In a team, your speed is dependent on technique and timing, and if any one person is out of timing or not pulling their own weight, the boat will be much slower. The greatest principle in team rowing is you don’t want to be the weak link. If everyone has that mindset, that is the recipe for a team to be extremely effective inasmuch as you can will yourself to keep going as hard as you can for the sake of the team.”
5. A rower’s body can hold up in any athletic setting
While there are many competitive rowers who train year round, some rowers enjoy other forms of fitness, and they also enjoy participating in other sports. Fortunately, Dustin identifies rowing as a form of exercise that doubles as a fitness tool that can make you more effective in just about any other sport you might choose to compete in.
“Rowing won’t give you the skills to play other sports, but it is good for flexibility and overall fitness, so if you play soccer or something like that, it will definitely help your endurance,” said Dustin. “It’s good cross training for anyone that wants to add a fitness component to whatever other sports they’re working on. For example, plenty of runners use rowing as a cross training tool for fitness.”
The Meijer State Games of Michigan is a multi-sport, Olympic-style event(s) that welcome athletes regardless of age or ability level. The Games embody the values of participation, sportsmanship and healthy living.