Why I Love Winter Training

By Marcus McElhenney | January 22, 2015

As a coxswain, I love winter training. Yes, you heard me correctly…I love winter training! The reason is because I see a lot of opportunity to get better. So, while stuck on land during the cold months, I have three recommendations for coxswains who want to make improvements.

Shut Up and Observe

As coxswains, we are normally in a position where we have to have our heads are on a swivel while doing a million different things.  When on land, we can ignore all of that stuff and focus on our rowers.  I love watching and observing how they interact in a closed environment.  I notice who sits where on the ergs and why. I notice who hustles during the body circuit and why. I notice how my coach speaks to the rowers and tries to figure out why.

This information is valuable and I take notes throughout the winter. If I can better understand how my rowers and coaches think, I can better assist them and address their needs throughout the season. I figure out the calls I’m going to make and different motivational tools early on. All of the information is there, we just need to soak it up during winter training.

Get Fit

Another favorite thing about winter training is training with the rowers.  This has two major benefits.  One, it allows me (or any coxswain) to kick start their weight loss regimen so they can lose the winter weight in a healthy and controlled manner.  Instead of last minute weight sucking that is ineffective and dangerous, I can lose a few of those winter pounds early.

The second aspect about working out is gaining the respect of your athletes, demonstrating that you too are also an athlete! While you will never be as fast as them on the erg, if you sweat alongside them, the rowers will respect you more.  This also allows you to lead by example.  Be the first one to get going when the weight circuit starts.  Or the first in line for the run.  Do not try to show off, but bust your hump to do the best you can and focus on you.  If you do, your rowers will notice and love your commitment to the team.


My third favorite thing about winter training is being able to take a step back and go over my notes and logs from the previous seasons. This allows me to do my most favorite thing...Reinvent myself.  This concept was taught to me early on and has served me well.  If I had a bad previous season or made some mistakes, by reviewing I can figure out why.  I can also give the rowers a break from being in their faces.

Then I make a plan on how to improve moving forward.  Not just this dream board crap about setting goals...but actually how to achieve those goals.  I assess me and make me better, while giving the guys a breath.  Then when I come back as a slightly quieter and more in control person, they are surprised and amazed and more willing to work with me.  Especially if I have been busting my tail on the erg with them like I said above.  This allows for a great start to the season when we get back on the water and normally carries me to the next break.

No matter where you are as a coxswains, doing these three things will help you immensely. Take your time to sit back and observe.  Do this while working out with your athletes and lead by example.  All the while being introspective and figuring out your plan to improve and move forward.  Your athletes will notice you getting better without even knowing why...and that is the point.  Happy winter training and remember it is only a few short weeks until we are all back on the water.  Go fast.