Running in to 2019

As 2019 approaches, so does our collective annual habit of reflect, reset, and reboot. January 1 is symbolic of a fresh start: the year ahead an unmarked map for you to run across, up, and over. In the running world, New Year’s Day is bursting with running races, rituals, and routines. You can count on the running masses to take to the roads and trails for a 5k race, sunrise hike, or post-festivities jog to mark the beginning of a new year. Whatever it may be, as runners, we launch into the New Year with some sort of running-related ritual.

For me, New Year’s Day is a chance to pay tribute to the beautiful places I get to explore by foot every day. This year, in particular, I will carry new-found appreciation and perspective. As I make my way back to activity post-injury, I plan to celebrate the body’s resilience and the too-oft-taken-for-granted gift of being able to move about the earth on two healthy, powerful legs. 

In this way, the New Year is an annual reminder to take a step back and consider changes. As a runner, what better time to assess your relationship with running? 

Someone recently said to me that runners are “just running from injury to injury”. From a certain vantage point, this may be true. Our sport is highly demanding of the body – there is no faking the cumulative miles of pounding. Injury is an inevitable fate for the vast majority of runners. And yet defining a running career by injuries accrued betrays the spirit of the sport. There are many reasons why we run, each person drawing on their own unique motivations. We run not from injury to injury, but from stunning sunrise to stunning sunrise, from mountain adventure to mountain adventure, and from race well-run to race well-run. 

With the coming of a new year – just as with injury – there is an undercurrent of hope: the hope of lessons learned, perspective gained, and appreciation renewed. No more stressing a run skipped or a workout gone bad. Go out and mark the beginning of 2019 with a ritual celebrating the simple joy of running. 

Here’s looking at you, 2019! May it be a year filled with long runs at sunrise, run-ventures to unexplored places, blissful recovery days, positive training goals, and the company of running buddies new and old.

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Photos from Craftsbury Sprint Doubleheader

This gallery contains 42 photos.

Thanks to Wes Vear and Paul Bierman for sharing their photos from last weekend’s sprint doubleheader in Craftsbury. We were psyched to host almost 100 skiers for classic sprints on Saturday, followed by freestyle sprints on the same course on … Continue reading

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Fall Running Road Tour: Recap!

Last month Craftsbury Running spread her wings and ventured out of the COC nest for the first annual Craftsbury Running Road Tour. We decided it was time to share the best kept secret in New England running: Craftsbury is running paradise! And so I took to the road and toured some of the Northeast’s top running hubs, with stops in Boston, Manchester, New York City, Annapolis,DC, and Philadelphia. In each city I visited running clubs and met up with Craftsbury camp alumni. I also attended a mix of running races along the way, from the weekly 5k in Mystic, MA to the New England High School XC Championships to the Philadelphia marathon. At every city and every event, the running energy and enthusiasm was palpable – I met so many people who wanted to share their running routine and community.

Pounding the pavement as I chased peak foliage down the east coast, the hours spent driving gave me time to reflect on how grateful I am to be part of the running world, both personally and professionally. There have been many moments when the reach and generosity of the running community has stopped me in my tracks, and this running road tour was no exception.

Being on the road for two weeks can be a bit of a grind: sleeping on another friend’s couch or old teammate’s futon by night and driving hundreds of miles by day. But each day brought a new group of runners to meet, and time and again their enthusiasm energized me and reminded me why I love this sport so much: the people you meet.

My visit to the Annapolis Striders running club provides a wonderful example of this. Over the summer, four women vacationing in Vermont showed up for our weekly Community Track Practice in Morrisville, VT. It was a humid, rainy day, and it poured rain for the majority of the workout. Despite the less than ideal conditions, these women charged through the workout, cheering each other on every lap. In true Vermont summer fashion, the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds, just in time to provide golden evening light for the group’s final laps. The women thanked me for the outing, and we shared contact information to keep in touch.

The next week, one of the women, Nina, came again to track practice, this time accompanied by her husband, Tom. Tom is the President of the Annapolis Striders running club, and we chatted about running events and programs as Nina tore through another track workout. At the end of the workout, they encouraged me to visit, saying they were always ready to host me.

And so, after only a collective three hours spent together, three months later I found myself in Annapolis, visiting the Striders’ weekly Tuesday evening workout and staying with Tom and Nina for the night. Sitting by their fireplace eating Nina’s delicious minestrone soup with some club members post-workout, the warmth and generosity of these new acquaintances blew me away. Without a second thought, these people introduced me to their running community and welcomed me into their world. It is a beautiful reminder of how special the ever-growing running network is, and exemplifies the communal, accessible nature of our sport. 

The road tour ended with a triumphant final stop at the Philadelphia Marathon Expo. Thanks to the contagious zeal of the many runners stopping by our Craftsbury Running booth, the two days in the convention center flew by. Of course, I would be remiss to not also mention a true highlight of the expo: meeting running icon Bill Rodgers! He walked by our booth and did a double-take, at which point I waved eagerly at him. In characteristic light-hearted fashion, he floated over and chatted with us easily. He had heard of Craftsbury Running Camps from previous camp director and fellow running great Lynn Jennings. He was excited to learn about everything we do in Craftsbury, and even teased that he would like to visit someday. As a person who is greeted by fans regularly, it was striking how present and engaged he was with us – another generous running spirit!

I am very grateful for the running community and all the people I’ve met through our shared love of the sport. I came away from the road tour with a lot of new ideas for the Craftsbury Running program and a renewed sense of purpose in connecting runners, facilitating access to the sport, and helping more people experience the invigorating Craftsbury magic for themselves. I am heartened by the positive energy and generosity shown to me throughout my Northeast travels. Many thanks to all of my hosts and to the running clubs for never failing making me feel at home and welcome.   Know that a little slice of running paradise is always here in Craftsbury, ready to be your home away from home. 

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In praise of saunas

From COC Running Director Heidi Caldwell

During the dark days of December in the Northeast Kingdom, we are all about upping our cozy game and hunkering down. Recently, I’ve been channeling the Scandinavian concept of “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah). In essence, hygge captures the internal sense of warmth, coziness, and contentment. How to achieve ultimate hygge in the cold snowy months? Saunas. A practice born hundreds of years ago in Finland, saunas are a core part of the hygge lifestyle.

The original practice of sauna-ing in Finland was based in promoting wellness, comfort, and happiness. Saunas can be an indulgent and relaxing way to end your Sunday afternoon or unwind after a long day at work. Saunas can be highly stress-relieving, help you sleep soundly, and are generally cleansing. Plus, saunas are a great social outlet. What better way to catch up with friends than a weekly sauna ritual? Sound crazy? Sauna gatherings are a staple in Scandinavian communities, and the trend has spread to many parts of the world.

Beyond having a relaxing and warming effect, sitting in a hot wooden box might actually be a useful training tool. It may be time to think about adding a sauna session or two to your weekly routine. Here are some things to consider:

The Physiological Benefits. Sitting in a hot sauna, your heart rate goes up, increasing sweat production and signaling blood flow to the skin. All of these mechanisms encourage cardiovascular development.
The Recovery Benefits. Saunas help your muscles and tendons relax and drain after a hard training session. The deep sweat achieved by sauna-ing boosts your ability to flush toxins, thereby speeding up your body’s detoxification and recovery processes.
Heat Adaptation. Saunas help teach your body to better handle the stress of heat. If, for example, you are running the Boston Marathon in April but training through the cold all winter, saunas are a great way to boost heat tolerance and keep your body’s heat-stress mechanisms tuned and primed.
Immune System Booster. Studies show regular sauna-ing can lead to improved lung function and reduce a person’s susceptibility to the common cold.

Don’t just take our word for it: you can find a review of sauna-related studies and detailed findings here and an athletic performance focused study can be found here.

Sauna use by endurance athletes is no new fad. U.S. Cross Country Ski guru John Caldwell once wrote, “After some good exercise, the best thing you can do is come in and take a shower, hot bath, or a sauna. Then, cool off gradually and rest awhile.”

Ready to give it a try yourself? When the primary goal is to boost running performance, it’s best to take a sauna directly post-run. This keeps your heart rate up and skin sweating for an extended period, prolonging the physiological benefits of the workout itself. How long to sauna? Like any type of physical exertion, sauna-ing takes practice, and you need time to build up this specific type of endurance. Be gradual as you begin your sauna routine. Start with 5 or 10 minutes, and, if you really get into it, work your way up to 30 minutes.

So go hop in a sauna and find your inner-hygge – it’s sauna season!

*Note: You are not continuing your workout in the sauna. No exercising in the sauna! Sit down, relax, and sweat it out.
**Also note: Saunas are not recommended the week prior to a race, or the days leading up to a big workout. After those events? Yes, a sauna would be a great way to recover and celebrate!
***SAUNA AT YOUR OWN RISK. (We are not doctors!)

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Winter Running Tips and Tricks

From Running Director Heidi Caldwell

Yes, snow is starting to fall up here in the NEK. With snow accumulating in mid-October, winter seems in a rush to get started this year. While many have tunnel vision on ski season, others are beginning to prepare for another type of snowy expedition: winter running. For those living down south or out west, the winter months are often the most pleasant training months, with sunny skies and moderate temps. Up north, it’s a blur of snow squalls, frigid temps, and treacherously icy roads. Getting yourself geared up and psyched up to step out the door takes a whole new level of time, energy, and mental stamina.

So how do you keep your running routine up through the cold dark days? We’ve got a few ideas for how to keep your winter running fun, safe, and, dare we say, spunky!

Winter Running Prep List:
1. Layers layers layers! Warm muscles are happy muscles. Cold muscles are tight, tense, and asking for injury. No one likes over-dressing and having no outfit exit plan. Layers allow you to start out warm and strip down if you get hot half-way through the session, which is pretty darn typical of winter runs.
2. On that note, allot an extra 5-10 minutes for getting dressed to run. No more mindlessly throwing on shorts and a tank before heading out the door. Deciding what layers to wear – and then getting the layers on! – is now a workout in itself. See #1 above.
3. And while you’re at it, warm up BEFORE heading out the door. This means getting SWEATY before you head out and face the cold. This might look like a quick set of push-ups and jumping jacks or a plank series. We preach dynamic warm-up before every run, but in the winter this warm-up has a whole new importance and purpose. If you don’t get your body moving before heading out into the elements, you run the risk of never warming up on your run! And that’s no fun.
4. Invest in traction. More and more manufacturers are offering winter models of trail runners. Yaktrax, Kahtoola NANOspikes or MICROspikes, and Icespike cleats are all commercial add-ons you can put on existing shoes. Or find short screws and stick them right in your usual running shoes – but you’re going to want to do something. Roads get icy, slick, and dangerous, and the risk of falling while running is high. Consistently slipping while running can also lead to lower-leg injuries, as increased stress on the calves and feet while slipping can be intense/aggravating.
5. Phone a friend! Running buddies make getting out the door for a run easier in any season, but perhaps the most in the winter. Embrace the frozen eye lashes together and make it an adventure – one with a hot shower, roaring fire, and cozy cup of cocoa waiting at the end.
6. Remind yourself how tough and badass you are. Not everybody is brave enough to get out there in the frigid temps. And some people swear by winter training for spring races – the added cold element making you even stronger!
7. But also – run smart. Road looks like an ice rink? Don’t run! Winter wind and temps can be harsh, and frostbite is no joke!
7. Stay safe. Wear enough warm gear and rock the high viz (always, but again extra important running on snowy roads!).
9. ENJOY! Winter running may be frigid, but it’s also magical. Don’t forget to take in the sparkling snowy landscapes and to try catching snowflakes on your tongue.
10. Use the less-than-ideal running conditions to do some cross training. Running may be your favorite, but winter is also a great chance to experience the outdoors in a new or different way. Skiing, skating, snowshoeing; a winter wonderland abound with possibilities awaits! (Hint hint:  join our Skiing for Runner’s weekend for help on this front).

Time to put away the split shorts and break out the lobster mitts – it’s winter running season!

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Hunt or Be Hunted: Some Thoughts on Head Racing

GRP scullers Jen Forbes (foreground) and Alex Spaulding (background)

from Troy Howell, Craftsbury’s Director of Sculling:

It has always struck me as a curiosity that our sport evolved in such a way that most people seem to feel that 2k racing on a buoyed course with six straight lanes is the only sort of racing that “counts” and that every other format is somehow a novelty item. Most forms of racing in most other types of locomotion involve cutting turns as tightly as possible, jockeying for position relative to one’s competitors, real time strategizing, and so forth. The closest we get to that sort of competition in our sport is head racing, and now that it’s fall in North America, head races are the order of the day.

The perennial question that most rowers and scullers first grapple with in regards to head racing is “So – am I racing the clock or am I racing all the other boats?” As with most seemingly  simple questions that are constructed with the intention of demanding a binary answer, the answer is “yes – to both” or more maddeningly “sort of – it depends on the circumstance, as well as upon what happens to be motivating you in the moment.” So let’s parse this a bit, while proceeding from the notion that “yes – you are racing the clock, and yes, you are racing all the other boats.”

First and most importantly, as with nearly all other forms of racing, there are only two vital items that will be listed and written down in the published results: name of crew and elapsed time. That’s all that most people will ever see of a race after it’s over. Course records are measured in minutes, seconds, and tenths or hundredths. Number of crews passed, near-misses with bridges, collisions with waterfowl, and so forth, are not part of that historical record. In the final analysis, then, we are all racing the clock and the clock alone, with the goal of making the boat go as fast as we are capable of.

Somehow, though, just racing the clock doesn’t seem as viscerally satisfying as racing another boat, and it is a rare crew that generates its best performance when no one else is around.  Rowing through and passing other boats is thrilling in a way that the clock just can’t match, and even holding off a faster crew for as long as you can often seems nobler than maintaining a stroke rate or even a split. The attraction of head racing, then, seems to lie in its quasi-predatory nature, and answering the question from one moment to the next, “am I hunting or am I being hunted?”

And this gets us back to the other side of our answer – racing the other boats. Given the every-ten-to-fifteen second format of head racing, we only get the feeling of head-to-head competition when someone has gained on someone else, and unless we are very familiar with the relative speeds and racing strategic tendencies of the people starting in front of and behind us, we never really know at what point in the race that may happen, so it can be difficult or perhaps even futile to try to set a race plan the way that one might for 2k or 1k racing on a straight course.

Head racing has a profound tendency to remind us of the truth of the old chestnut “if you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans,” so the best advice is something on the order of: find out in the weeks of training leading up to head race season what stroke rate and pace you are capable of holding and what the perceived exertion feels like at that tempo and level of effort. Start there, find a steady rhythm, and after a minute or two of that, start looking for opportunities to run roughshod over somebody, whether by out-racing them, out-sculling them, out-maneuvering them, or all three.

Above all, DO NOT GET LEFT AT THE STARTING LINE by allowing the crew starting just ahead of you to have too much of a time cushion. The starter is paying attention to the crew in front of you, and if you hesitate, the margin will just get bigger, probably before anyone other than the delighted crew in front realizes it. Remember that your goal is somewhat at odds with the goal of the starting line officials: they are more concerned with an orderly start so they will often err on the side of starting crews a little further apart. Crews themselves are more concerned with staying as close to their opponents as they can get away with so they can begin mixing it up with another boat sooner rather than later.

Passing other crews feeds the monster and often reveals deep wells of energy you might not otherwise have found. The other side of the coin, getting passed, need not be disheartening, and strategically, it leaves us with only two reasonable alternatives: 1) suck it up and try to go with ‘em if that seems viable; 2) shifting focus to the next challenge, which could be passing a crew that you and the other boat have BOTH been gaining on, or putting more distance between you and the nearest crew behind you. Above all, keep it thrilling and fun. If it’s going to be a slog, why did you enter? Race it up!

Note: Check out our Tech Tips Archive for content like this from past years, and subscribe to our Sculling eNewsletter to receive future editions in your inbox!

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2018 VTYCL Race #1 Recap

Finn Sweet arcing it during the Ascutney race.

We checked in with the new VTYCL team members after their first race at Ascutney at the end of September (read all about the race results).

Leo Circosta climbing hard.

“This race was the farthest we’ve ever travelled to any race,” Leo and Amelia Circosta shared via mom. “Lots to do! Making lists and packing our gear the night before. Getting up at 4:45am so we could get there, preride the course, and so much more. We could not fall asleep on the two-hour car ride because we were so excited. We enjoyed preriding the course and planning our lines. The course was wet and slippery and had much more singletrack than we were anticipating. We both liked splashing through the stream crossing with the hidden hole, which we both hit on each lap. Riding straight through mudholes was great (it’s a race and it was the fastest line). Plus, we’ve had a really dry summer with almost no mud.”

Amelia Circosta standing on top of the podium.

Leo also noted the atmosphere among all the competitors. “Everyone was super friendly, all day (before, during and after the race). What a great feeling we got from everyone all day long. And what an inspiration watching the other races, seeing Finn, Jack and Makail crank out 4 laps, especially with the power they had up the big climb.”

The Varsity boys take the line.

“It was really great,” added Amelia. “I got to ride with a friendly boy who was much bigger than me. We took turns leading each other, had a lot of fun, and pushed each other the entire race.”

Amelia also found inspiration in Ollie’s cheering: “‘C’mon dude!’ ‘Yeah kid!’ ‘You got this!’ ‘You’re doing great!’ – I’m hoping to take Ollie along to all of my races.”

“I wondered: is he really going to follow me up ALL of the switchbacks of this climb?!” asked Leo. “It’s so much better when Ollie is yelling FOR you instead of AT you! Racing and practice are different.”

Thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences post-race, and to Ollie Burruss and Ben Tipton for spearheading this bike program! Stay tuned for this weekend’s recap!

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Snow Storage: Final 2018 Data

We’re excited to be working with UVM geology on a snow storage test. UVM master’s student Hannah Weiss brings us up to speed on the state of the snowpack.

Hannah Weiss (M.S student) laying on the remains of the upper pile, 9 Sep 18,

You might remember back in April, as the last snow was melting, Keith Woodward was piling up snow under the solar panels and down in Wilbur’s old pond site and covering it with wood chips? Or perhaps you remember when some of snow made a cameo appearance in July for sledding and trick skiing at the Craftsbury block party? Maybe you have seen us out surveying the piles over the summer? Well, it’s September and time for an update on our snow storage project: it worked! We still have a little snow left after one of the hottest summers on record.

The remains of the lower pile, 25 August 2018.

September 9th, a sunny, cool fall afternoon, was our final pile surveying day the summer 2018 season. We arrived to find two piles of mostly wood chips. The piles had become lumpy, and we weren’t sure whether there even was snow beneath any of the chips. On the upper pile (CHIP pile), there were cracks within the wood chips on some of the larger lumps, which caused us to wonder why they formed. Was it because the steepness of the slope caused slumping and cracking? Surprisingly, as we dug deeper into the wood chips, they became cooler and wet, though it had not rained it weeks.

Hannah Weiss (M.S student) checking the insulation experiments to find snow! photo – Paul Bierman, 9 Aug 18

Both the upper (CHIP) and lower (POND) piles were small and, after processing the LiDAR scans, we found only maybe 10 cubic meters of snow left in them. They each started with about 200 cubic meters. Over the summer, we also tried several different combinations of insulation – hard foam, open-cell foam, a reflective blanket, and a thicker (30+cm) layer of woodchips. We let these smaller experiments run for a week or two and tracked temperatures within the insulation layers and at the interface of snow and the insulation material.

Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the upper pile on 21 Apr 18, with a color-gradient representing relative height

After digesting all the data, we found that the upper pile, after snow was removed for the July 4th celebration, melted more slowly than the lower pile. The thickness of wood chips is key and likely with less snow but the same amount of wood chips, the upper pile was better insulated.

The final graph representing volume change over time in meters cubed. Blue triangles are the CHIP pile’s volume, and red circles are the Pond pile’s volume.

Now, as we look ahead to next summer, we know better which combination of insulation will keep the most snow. Our data show that a reflective surface covering a thick layer of wet wood chips, and underlain by an insulating concrete blanket are the most effective triad. Next summer, the piles will be much larger, and we hope to have enough snow not only to support summer sledding and perhaps a ski race or two but have plenty of snow left to spread on a couple kilometers of trail in November to kick off ski season, no matter the weather.

Read all the posts of the series here. To learn about the research, see photographs over time, and more, visit UVM online.

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Dock Talk: Comfort in the Boat-Letting Go To Find Power

Craftsbury Associate Director Kevin Macdermott demonstrating during comfort in the boat session at COC. Photo – Val Stepanchuk

From Sara Gronewold, Craftsbury Coach, US National Team Rower 1996-2000

“If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” – Pablo Picasso

One of the highlights for many scullers at Craftsbury is the “comfort in the boat” session. Having an opportunity to manage a single, while pushing the boundaries of stability, can release years’ worth of tension in how we carry ourselves throughout the rowing stroke.

While the session often feels like fun and games, it ultimately leads to a generous increase in boat speed. Fear-related tension inhibits blade entry timing, extraction, stability and even squaring the blades correctly. If any of these aspects of the rowing stroke are lacking, there is an inevitable interruption in the power you generate with effort and body weight.

Scullers receive an incredible amount of information during their time at Craftsbury, and I often see people getting stiffer and stiffer as the camp progresses. This is natural, considering the amount of input. The thing all scullers are looking for is to find the longest, most extended strokes which contain enough power to keep the boat gliding well. Once campers have given themselves permission to play, and stop worrying about rowing fast, they can experiment with instability and start relaxing, smiling and sculling effortlessly for the rest of the week.

I am a firm believer in revisiting those exercises when you get back home, to remind yourself how easy it can be to scull well. Here are two drills to try at home:

Push / Pull Drill: Sit at the release position, with the blades squared and buried. Maintaining the squared position, push the handles away from you until you’ve reached the arms/body over position. Pause there, and allow the handles to pull your fingers away from your body. Notice where your “sit bones” are, and whether or not they are wiggling, or relaxed and still. Then, using only your index and middle fingers, draw the handles back towards you until you reach the release, extract, and slow the boat back to a stop.

Once you have done this at bodies-over, push the handles out to half-slide, and take time at the transition point to notice these things. Then, proceed to full slide.

Wetting the Oarlocks: While sitting in the “safety position,” with the handles in between your knees and your chest, press your right hand/handle all the way down to your thigh and hold it there. Then bring the handles together, and press the left hand/handle down to your thigh. See if you can get the bottom of your oarlock wet! Now, keeping your hands passive, use your hips to lower your right oar handle to the thighs, you can even take your right hand off the oar, if you’d like. Then try that on the left side.

Notice whether or not the body feels more natural using the hips to affect the set, or the hands.

Once you have settled your nervous system back down, you’ll find that sculling feels more natural and comfortable, and you can set out for a great row.

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” – Sir Richard Branson

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Tech Tip: Sculling as Jumping

Note: Check out our Tech Tips Archive for content like this from past years, and subscribe to our Sculling eNewsletter to receive future editions in your inbox!

From Ric Ricci, Craftsbury Associate Director, Head Coach Connecticut College Men’s Rowing

Many coaches fail to teach scullers what to experience in their ankles, feet and toes. Why? Simply because the sculler’s feet are not visible to the coach from the coaching launch. The shell hides the importance of dynamic motion at the ankles, feet and toes and how that motion connects to the overall movement of the rest of the body and especially to the wrists, hands and fingers. Not seeing or understanding the potential for action at the feet also misleads coaches and scullers alike into conceptualizing sculling as a form of pushing and pulling. Of course, pushing against the footstretcher and pulling on the handles of the sculls works, and scullers can go very fast operating under those assumptions. But is that approach the most efficient way to move over the surface of the water? Below is a general outline of an alternative approach that might be worth considering.

Just after the blades leave the water, start flexing your ankles (called dorsi flexion). Your toes will be up and your heels will be down. Keep flexing at the ankles even after your heels start coming up and continue this effort until the blades are fully immersed in the water. This effort is not easy and most people will experience intense discomfort in their shins. This effort becomes increasingly more difficult as you reach full compression (shins at right angles to the water and chest on the thighs) and the desire to stop this effort will quickly become apparent. Press on regardless! At the point of full blade immersion this effort to dorsi flex will culminate- your toes will still be up (pointing toward your shins) and the balls of your feet will be in contact with the footstretcher (heels will most likely be off the footstretcher).

Ankle flexion is actually part of an overall greater effort on the part of the sculler to flex their whole body into the “catch” position – which creates a compressive effect in the muscles and tendons that has the potential for a powerful, spring-like uncoiling. The ankle flexion that began just after the blades released the water is SIMULTANEOUSLY coordinated with flexion at the wrists, hands and fingers (similar to the motion of making a fist). This effort is what contributes to the blades falling into the square position.

Now the blades are in the water. In a brief but powerful uncoiling, all the strenuous compressive work that the sculler did “on the recovery” is released into the drive. Just after the entry the ankles start extending in a fashion similar to what you would feel when you jump off the floor. Extension at your ankles (a toe point called plantar flexion) needs to be coordinated with a simultaneous extension at your wrists, hands and fingers so that maximal extension is achieved at the feet and hands just as the blades are releasing the water.

If the sculler coordinates the movement of the ankles, feet and toes with the movement of the wrists, hands and fingers, the rest of the stroke will take care of itself – WITHOUT CONSCIOUS EFFORT. Focus on finding this timing and coordination at the transitions (catch and release) and the rest of the body movements “will follow” between the catch and the release. Finding the timing/coordination will be easier if the sculler keeps the stroke rate low with moderate intensity. Feeling for constant pressure between the hands and the feet is essential. (The concept of constant pressure could be the topic of another Tech Tip but suffice to say, the sculler seeks to shift weight from the sit bones to the handles and foot stretcher- continuously).

Flexion until full blade immersion also eliminates “rushing the slide,” and when done properly, the shell moves under the seat instead of the sculler’s hips moving toward the stern. Full extension at the point of release results in a crescendo of accelerated effort and immediately sets up the beginning of another period of flexion. When you scull from this perspective your effort can literally be thought of as an attempt on your part to jump or vault upward off the surface of the water into the air from the blades. This “sculling jump” culminates as the blades release the water. The sculls act in a fashion similar to vaulting poles. The sculler’s effort to jump up off the water with the aid of the shell and sculls at the release is, in my opinion, the most efficient way to move in a bow-ward direction. The higher you attempt to make your “sculling jump” and the more times per minute you “jump” the faster you will move in the bow-ward direction.

The best way to experience the above is to first practice the technique in a wide enough shell that you can comfortably let go of the handles and not roll into the water. It is essential that your fingers, hands and arms rest on the handles. It is also important to make your feet very loose in the shoes or foot clogs. If the sculling handles are being tightly gripped the sculler will go back to pushing on the foot stretcher and pulling on the sculls.

In my opinion, the efficient sculler is always seeking to scull “from the inside out, instead of from outside in”. Loose and light feet and hands is the best way to accomplish this!

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