“Earn your medals in the winter, collect them in the spring.”
“If you want to be your best, spend a lot of time exploring what is more than enough. Push yourself until the erg handle is lying immobile across your legs and you’re slumped over. Push yourself right off the edge of capacity.”
Hey there, Matt Dorio here! I’m going to talk a little bit about this crazy thing called winter training that we participate in. You know, that dark period of time where you’re forced off the water and indoors to slave away erging, running and lifting weights for 12 weeks? WHAT A CONCEPT!
Growing up on the East Coast, it was cold come winter. And I don’t mean the kind of cold you see in Christmas commercials with the families rolling around in the snow and laughing. NO, I mean COLD! Walk outside and risk losing your finger to frostbite cold. So obviously, like all of our high school chemistry classes taught us, the water we once enjoyed rowing on, would freeze. The day we all dreaded was the day we headed indoors.
Now, if you have ever rowed, or have known someone that has rowed, you can just whisper the word “erg,” and a loud gasp will ensue. “Who dares speak that word?!” It is a torture device, used to send rowers into a state of despair and madness. There is nothing worse than the thought of having to look at a screen of numbers for hours on end. Of course, you can push yourself to the point of no return on the water. To a point where you can’t see. To a point where it feels like it would feel better if someone took a sledgehammer to your legs than to keep on rowing. But something about the feeling of the boat running under you, putting the competition in the dust, and crossing the finish line with your teammates makes the pain all worth it.
The erg is all you. It gives you instant feedback on your performance. The erg senses fear, and it takes advantage of your insecurities. There is no hiding from that number that is staring you down. Personally, I found that the hardest part of winter training was to not think of myself as the numbers I was pulling on the erg. In the depths of winter, I would only think of myself as a number, or as a rank amongst the team.
Well, I am here to spit some beginning of winter training knowledge on you all! You have to abandon those thoughts as soon as you possibly can! We need each other more than ever during winter training. There are no superstars in the boats. I takes all 9 people in that boat being in perfect synchronization to be successful. You are not a number, you are a part of a family, a special bond.....a team.
When I was in college, and I was halfway through an erg piece, and I felt like I couldn’t go any longer, I was always thinking of pulling for my teammates, and how proud I was to be a part of my team. I WAS NEVER the top erg score on my high school, or college teams. But I never let that discourage me. Instead, it pushed me. Seeing others improve made me want to push with them, because I knew once we got back on the water, that motivation would push us across the line faster than our competition. I soon welcomed that burning feeling in my legs. I could feel myself improving stroke after stroke on the erg, every rep in the weight room and every stride during a run!
It was all worth it. I was doing it for THEM. For THE TEAM. And there was a moment for me. When I rejoiced all the pain I put myself through, when all the hard work ended in joint celebration with the people I worked so hard with for four months.
My senior year of college, I was in a very competitive 2v boat at Ithaca. It was the best boat I had been apart of in my four years of rowing at Ithaca. Like many schools, we had a rival. A team that always beat us. We always came so close. but never could seem to cross the finish line before them. They were Trinity, and Trinity was a rowing powerhouse on the East Coast. I knew this boat, this year was different. We lined up against them, and five other boats on a brisk morning in April. The tension was high, and my boat could tell, this was going to be a race to remember. The flag went up, and before we knew it, the flag went down and we were off. We had a great start, but they were faster, taking a boat length in the first 600 meters of the race. My legs were burning, and my lungs were on fire, but I knew my crew had the strength to fight our way right back into the race. My coxswain pushed us. We were way ahead of the rest of the pack, but it wasn’t good enough, we wanted to take Trinity down. 1,000 meters in, she yells, “Races are won in the winter boys, this is nothing compared to what we’ve been through together!” In that moment, my crew began to claw our way back into the race. Power 10 call after Focus 10 call, we drew even with 300 meters left. I remembered all the hour long erg sessions, all the early morning lifts, and I pushed my legs down harder than I thought I could. The boat was jumping, and my crew was flying! We crossed the finish line, two seats ahead of Trinity. I remembered my crew's reaction like it was yesterday. Hands in the air, collapsing over our oars, we took down the giants.
Now, I have obviously had many moments that stood out to me in my rowing career. But if it weren’t for my team believing in each other, and pushing past every limit we thought was keeping us back from beating the “un-beatable” we wouldn’t have that memory to share together.
Winter gives you the Grit, Strength and Passion for your team that it takes to out-work everyone else out there. A month into winter, remember what we do it for! We do it for that feeling of hugging your teammates after an amazing race, for feeling that medal around our necks and for that ability to dig deep and push harder and past what we thought was possible.
WINTER IS HERE LOCR, LET'S STAY RELENTLESS AND GET AFTER OUR GOALS! RACES ARE WON IN THE WINTER!