by Patrick Rufo

Complex training programs, fancy functional exercises, and “rah-rah” motivational speeches are necessary to having a winning season, but many athletes and even coaches forget to plan the most important thing: Recovery.

We can be so focused on the end results, we forget to plan for athletes recovering between important workouts and regattas. This was apparent at some of the recent championship racing at the collegiate and high school levels. The crews that won their respective event were not necessarily the fastest! At the championship level, all crews are fast and the crew that can go fast in the heat, faster in the semi-final, and fastest in the final will ultimately win. This ability requires quick recovery between races; and that needs to be practiced and planned months and months before.

Here are 6 Simple Rules to Recovery to follow so you can start recovering NOW. Keep a training log of your workouts AND your recovery will allow you to look back and see what worked and what didn’t.

1. Nutrition

As rowers, we have the luxury of stuffing our faces with anything because we burn so many calories during each workout (between 800-1000 calories for every 60 minutes of training). However, WHAT we put back in our body affects how quickly we recover.

Aerobic athletes need to keep up their Protein levels up because they actually BREAK down muscle during our workouts.

Fat (Good Fat) is next because steady aerobic activity requires a longer sustaining fuel source. Fat will allow you to keep up your energy especially at the end of long rows.

Carbohydrates are your “quick energy” fuel that you can take before workouts, between sessions, and before competition. Monitor how much carbohydrates you are consuming, because overloading on carbohydrates can have the opposite effect. Your body is busy trying to digest rather than prepare for competition.

Simple Rule #1

Athletes should consume between 0.8 to 1.5 grams of protein/1 1lbs of body weight per day.

So if you weight 160 lbs:

160 x 1.0 grams = 160 grams of protein per day
160 grams/5 meals = 32 grams of protein for each meal

2. Ice – Joints and muscles

Rowers/scullers’s bodies take a real beating during the week. Icing your joints and skeletal muscles even if they are not sore YET is a proactive way to decrease muscle inflammation even if it has not occurred yet. MLB pitcher will ice their pitching arm after a MLB game to prevent soreness and tightness. It is part of their post-game routine so they are ready to pitch again in 5 days.

Simple Rule #2

Make icing a part of your routine. Though it may not be necessary after every practice, it will definitely help you recover after a hard practice and prepare you for the next one. Apply ice to the joint or muscle for 15 -20 minutes, and repeat if necessary. Make sure to warm up the joint and muscle before practice/competition.

3. Myofascial Release – “Foam Rolling”

Does foam rolling provide an advantage or is it just some silly fitness fad?

Using a foam roller to massage and lengthen skeletal tissue is called Myofascial Release.

Buying a foam roller and rolling around on it doesn’t mean you will be loose before practice or a race. Do your research or work with a personal trainer or physical therapist who is more qualified to explain how to perform it correctly.

Simple Rule #3

Use a foam roller or myofascial release tool to relax, massage, and lengthen tight muscles and soft tissue. MAKE sure that you STRENGTHEN the opposing muscle group after relaxing the muscle. For example if you foam roll your Quads and Hip Flexors, make sure that your Glutes are “turned on” so that your muscles are working together when you row.

4. Mental Training and Balance

“Mental Imagery” or Visualization is a great way to “practice” your racing or erg testing warm up. Chances are the more you rehearse this in your mind, the more likely you will execute during your race or erg test.

Simple Rule # 4

Give your brain a rest.

Mental training sessions can be just as physically and mentally stressful as normal training, so plan on balancing this session out with some fun or something that is not mental training and competitive.

Choose something you could do all day without tiring yourself out. (hanging with friends, reading, video games (non-competitive).

5. Hydrate

We all need to drink more water. Period.

What makes it worse is when we really TRY to hydrate we overdo it. Better to make it a habit the during weeks and months before your competition then trying to drink a gallon of water right before your race. The body needs to get into a hydrating pattern well before your competition season.

Simple Rule #5

20-24 oz of water for every lb lost post exercise. Everyone is different; keep a training log to know what amount of water works for you.

6. Active Recovery

“Active Recovery” or REGENERATION, is a workout in which you are training at a very LOW intensity and build back some of your aerobic capacity. It will allow you to focus on other aspects of your training – rowing technique, mobility, flexibility, and stability.

Simple Rule # 6

Find some time to PADDLE. This is especially effective after hard interval workouts, and the days after races. For Active Recovery you can also go for a walk, a bike ride, do yoga, etc. Turn off your intensity, and allow your body to enjoy just moving.


Sometimes recovery is exactly what it meant. COMPLETE REST. It is okay to take time off, especially if your body needs it.

It is sometimes said that if you are not training and putting in the miles, then there is someone out there that is… I would also add that if your opponents are tiring themselves out training… let them, and go back to sleep.

For more information on training modalities, rowing instruction, strength training, nutrition, and DISC please contact me at or like me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.


6 Simple Rules for Recovery
Patrick Rufo discusses workout recovery specifically for rowing athletes.
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