Increasing training load does not always increase performance!

In Australia, at this time of year, National Championships have just been completed and underage athletes are waiting anxiously to see if they get invited to National Team trials to make the U19, U21 and U23 teams.

For the athletes that have performed well, coaches are planning what training load they will complete between now and trials in approximately 3 weeks time with both coach and athlete aiming for the same outcome – a place on a National Team.

Many athletes end up rowing more than they ever have over this period of time.  In some ways it makes sense to row more as technical faults can be worked on, the rest of the squad is resting and there can be more focus on individual gain.  Unfortunately, this ends up resulting in athletes having a ‘dip’ in load over Nationals (fewer kilometres even though intensity is high, results in a reduction in load) followed by a steep increase in load and this is associated with increased injury and illness risk.

What is really interesting is that the risk for injury and illness often lags 2-3 weeks behind the increased load period.  This means that if an athlete makes a team, they train on and often become injured or ill 2-3 weeks after selection.


Coaches have done a great job to get their rower to perform at Nationals to a high standard.  This means that their load has been managed well throughout the rowing season to reduce their injury risk and to perform optimally at the right time of the season.  The gains that can be made by increasing load over a 3 week post-nationals period are small but the risk is high.

Returning the athlete to the load that they were managing as normal training in the month leading up to National Championships is ideal.  Even if a small ‘dip’ in load has happened over Nationals, a return to the training load the athlete was completing 2-3 weeks prior is usually quite safe.  Prescribing a training load that is greater than the athlete has been exposed to before should be avoided.

Depending on the aim of trials.  Coaches may find greater benefit by having athletes row in combinations that they need to get used to to make a National Team crew.  Coaches need to remember that load needs to be carefully considered when changing crews that rowers usually train in.  For instance, if a rower usually trains in an 8+ but wants practice in a 2- for the benefit of making a crew, coaches need to consider that 20km in an 8+ is a much lower load than 20km in a 2- and accommodate both training kilometres and training effort to ensure that a rower is not over trained or exposed to a greater load than they have previously accommodated to.

GRowingBODIES wishes all athletes and coaches GOOD HEALTH AND FAST ROWING!  This is exciting time for coaches and athletes that have had success from their programs – and now is the time to keep doing the things that have worked and consolidate performances rather than push too hard and have to deal with injury or illness as a consequence.

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