R. C. (Rudolf Chambers) Lehmann.

The complete oarsman online

. (page 11 of 39)
Online LibraryR. C. (Rudolf Chambers) LehmannThe complete oarsman → online text (page 11 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

better for the man who is out of condition than a daily run of
two or three miles, and, if he should be much overweight,
walking and running will remove his superfluous fat quicker
than will anything else. One of the greatest difficulties with
which the coach has to contend is that, in training an eight,
the work on the water has to be regulated to suit the weakest
member of the crew. This may be a very serious impediment
to improvement in the rowing both of the individuals and of
the crew as a whole, but it is no bar to getting the stronger
members of the eight into good condition. The trainer will


be guided by the state of each individual man, and will
supplement the work on the water by such exercise on foot as
may be necessary to bring all the eight men to the post in
the pink of condition.

In this country Sunday is a day of rest as far as rowing
is concerned, and I have no doubt that nearly every crew in
training is all the better for having one day in the week away
from the river. A walk of five or six miles is the usual
extent of the day's exercise and is all that is required.

The work of a crew training for Henley Regatta is
necessarily somewhat different to that of a University eight,
since the length of the course is I mile 550 yards instead of
4j miles. More attention is therefore paid to short bursts at
top pressure and less to long-distance rowing at a slow rate
of stroke. In other respects the training of a Metropolitan
crew for Henley will be essentially the same. Leander Club
and College crews are differently situated three weeks'
practice being usually all that is obtainable. The men are,
or should be, in good condition when practice begins, since
the undergraduates have been rowing for the whole of the
previous term in their College boats for the Eights or May
races, and any old oars who have not been so employed
should have been taking regular hard exercise for at least a
month beforehand. Consequently, though the actual practice
of the crew may only last for three or four weeks, the training
of the individual oarsmen extends over a much longer period.

I will conclude my remarks on exercise by laying emphasis
on the necessity for rowing hard during practice. When
paddling no great effort should be made every stroke rowed
being well within the power of the oarsman. When rowing,
on the other hand, every man must attempt to row himself
out by the time the set distance has been covered. Only by
so doing can the men get into proper condition and accustom
themselves to undergo the physical strain which will be
demanded of them in the race.

I have already alluded to the great number of muscles
that are employed in rowing. A good style of rowing should


make use of the powerful muscles rather than those which are
easily fatigued, and furthermore, should distribute the work
as equally as possible among the various muscles. The
reason for this is that if only one or two groups of muscles is
relied upon to furnish the propelling force the pace of the
boat will fall off owing to fatigue far sooner than if many sets
of muscles had been employed to supply the same power.

Far greater general exhaustion can be produced by the
use of many muscles than by the use of a few, but the pace
of the boat is better maintained.

A good style of rowing does not avoid but rather aims at
producing a very extreme degree of general exhaustion, but
it gives in return great and well-sustained speed. It is for
these reasons that we defend the English style of rowing
against foreign methods. In the latter body-swing is usually
conspicuous by its absence, and it is claimed that the strain
thrown upon the abdominal muscles is thereby avoided.
When body work is absent the propelling power is supplied
almost entirely by the thigh muscles, and, powerful though
these are, they will become fatigued sooner or later and
nothing will then be left to maintain the pace of the boat.
When body and legs share the work the powers of endurance
must be much increased, and are limited mainly by the
capability of the heart.

It has, on many occasions, been a most remarkable fact
that a winning English crew at Henley has been more
distressed than the defeated foreign opponents. We, with
insular pride, have attributed the result to British pluck, but
probably the true explanation has been that the staying
power of the foreigners was limited by the strength of their
thighs and arms, whereas the Englishmen could maintain
their speed as long as their hearts held out.


All the members of the crew, except the coxswain, should
retire to bed at 10 p.m., and be fast asleep by 10.30 p.m.


They are called at 7 a.m., and have their eight and a half to
nine hours' sleep. This is ample for any one, even when
performing the amount of physical work which training
entails. Longer hours for sleep do not improve the men's
condition ; on the contrary, they tend to produce a feeling of
weariness and slackness.

I would lay great stress on the importance of sleeping in
well-ventilated rooms ; windows may be kept widely open
without any fear that the men will take cold even in the
depth of winter. There is no doubt that a man wakes feeling
more refreshed and brisk after a short night's rest in an airy
room, than after a long sleep in a stuffy atmosphere : it should
be a rule that all bedroom windows are to be widely open at


I do not propose to go deeply into the theories of
nutrition as applied to the oarsman in training. The study is
a most interesting one, but further experiments and investi-
gations are required before we shall feel disposed to make
any radical changes in our training diet. We know that a
crew can with certainty be brought into excellent condition if
the generally accepted rules of diet are obeyed ; any change
must be more or less experimental in character, and carry
with it some risk of failure, so that no trainer will be easily
persuaded to depart from our usual standard. The living
body is continually getting rid of the products of its com-
bustion, the chief of which are CO2 (carbonic acid gas) and
nitrogenous substances ; the loss is made good by the intake
of oxygen and food.

During muscular work the output of CO2, which is mainly
by the lungs, is very greatly increased, but there is little
addition to the excretion of nitrogen ; that is to say, the
source of muscular energy is in the non-nitrogenous constituents
of muscle. Evidently the food should supply carbon and nitro-
gen in the proportions in which they are being excreted, so
that hard exercise calls for an increase in the supply of carbon.


The constituents of food are classified as follows :

1. Proteid (containing nitrogen and carbon), supplied
mainly by the meat.

2. Carbo-hydrates (containing carbon).

3. Fats (containing carbon).

Thus the carbo-hydrates and fats are the chief sources of
carbon ; they are oxidised in the body to CO% and H 2 O
(water) and so easily eliminated. Nitrogen is furnished by
the proteid, and its elimination is a more complicated process.
It would appear, therefore, that it is wrong to increase the
proteid and decrease the carbo-hydrates and fats, as is the
custom in training, and, indeed, Professor Chittenden has
shown that a very small quantity of proteid food is actually
required even by an individual performing the work of a
training athlete. Nevertheless, it is by no means certain
that the physiological minimum is the optimum : it may be
that proteid supplies the best source of energy, although it is
reasonable to suppose that the highest state of efficiency will
be attained by inflicting the least possible strain on the body
in eliminating nitrogenous constituents of the food over and
above the requirements of the body. An excess of carbo-
hydrates and fats is also uneconomical, since they require the
expenditure of energy for their digestion and oxidation ;
moreover, they may be stored up in the body as fat, which is
undesirable to the athlete. Whatever may be the ideal pro-
portions of the food stuffs for the man in training, there can
be no doubt that excellent results are obtained by giving a
mixed diet of plain, wholesome, and easily digested food,
such as that set out in the following table.

7.15 A.M. A glass of milk and a biscuit.

8.30 A.M. Breakfast. Fish (usually fried) : soles, whiting, etc.

Grilled cutlets or beefsteak. Poached or scrambled eggs. Toast.

Butter (in small quantity). Marmalade. One or two cups of

tea. Fruit : Oranges, grape-fruit, strawberries, peaches, etc.
i P.M. Luncheon. Cold meat, roast beef, mutton, or chicken.

Salad. Toast. Small quantity of butter. One or two glasses

of water, draught beer or claret and water.


4.30 or 5 P.M. Cup of tea and a biscuit.

7.30 P.M. Dinner. Fish, plainly cooked, without sauce. Joints :
roast beef, mutton, or chicken. Vegetables : cauliflower, cabbage,
spinach, etc. Fried potatoes. Sweets : Milky pudding (rice,
tapioca, etc.), with stewed fruit. Dessert : Fruit as at breakfast
with dried figs and prunes. Two glasses of water, draught beer,
or claret and water.

10 P.M. A glass of milk or barley water.

It will be seen from this table that the restrictions are
not severe plain wholesome food and drink in sufficient
quantity are allowed. The above diet has not been deduced
from scientific experiments it consists of the ordinary food
to which most men are accustomed, excepting the indigestible
and unwholesome Jtems.

Most of the investigations which have been made with
regard to diet up to the present time have been carried out
by vegetarians and non-flesh eaters with the object of demon-
strating the physical inferiority of the human being who lives
upon a mixed diet. Even should their contention prove to
be correct, it could not be beneficial to make a radical
change in any individual's diet for so short a period as five

Training men have notoriously large appetites in con-
sequence of the open-air life and regular exercise ; they
require more food than those who follow a sedentary occu-
pation, but they are very apt to eat considerably more than
they require, and probably more than is best for them. The
smaller the amount of food taken the better, provided that
it is adequate for the needs of the body. Professor Chitten-
den has shown, in his most interesting work, " Physiological
Economy in Nutrition," that perfect condition can be main-
tained in men performing hard physical work and living on a
very small quantity of a mixed diet considerably less than
half that consumed by most oarsmen in training.

I do not think it advisable to restrict the quantity of food,
but the men should be encouraged to eat as little as possible.
It will generally be noticed that the old oar who has trained


many times and knows how to get himself fit will eat very
much less than the inexperienced members of the crew.

With regard to liquor, training of the present day offers a
marked contrast to that of former years.

Half a pint of beer for lunch, one pint for dinner, and one
cup of tea for breakfast used to be the inelastic maximum ;
now, three and a half to four pints of fluid per diem is a man's
average consumption. No man should take more to drink
than he actually wants, but there should be no necessity to
place any restriction upon the quantity of liquor consumed
except when training a very young crew. It is unreasonable
to make hard and fast rules as to the quantity of drink ;
some men require more than others, and certainly more will
be needed in the summer time than in the winter. It must
be injurious to keep a man short of fluid when he is taking
violent exercise and perspiring freely ; thirst keeps him
awake at night, and he soon loses weight and strength, since
the loss of fluid is made good out of his own tissues.

In addition to the items set down in the diet table, cham-
pagne is allowed on certain occasions once, or perhaps
twice, in the course of training. This will be referred to in
speaking of " staleness."

A glass of port after dinner is also allowed by some
trainers ; it is not necessary as a routine, though it may be
given with advantage to any members of the crew who feel
the strain of the hard work.

No smoking is allowed during strict training, and it might,
with advantage, be curtailed during the early stages of
practice. Tobacco has a deleterious effect upon the heart,
consequently it is a matter of common experience, as well as
a scientific fact, that smoking is bad for " the wind."


It is almost invariably found that at a certain period of
training the men show signs of the hard work they have
been undertaking by feeling "out of sorts." They are


depressed in spirits, feel tired and disinclined for exercise,
lose their usual hearty appetite, and go down in weight.

These symptoms need cause no alarm to the trainer ; they
merely indicate that the crew is on the way towards good
condition. In fact, the trainer rather welcomes the onset of
this staleness when it makes its appearance, as it should do, if
the crew has been properly worked, about halfway through
training, that is, some four or five weeks before the race. It
enables him, as it were, to feel the pulse of the crew and to
gauge its capacity for hard work. It is important that he
should recognise these signs and temporarily relax the
stringency of the training, otherwise the men may become so
fine and overtrained that no measures will enable him to
bring them to the post in good condition.

Light work in the boat, the omission of land exercise,
especially that before breakfast, a more generous diet, and
sometimes the substitution of champagne for the ordinary
liquor of the evening meal will make the stale men perfectly
fit again in two or three days.

This so-called staleness, which, as I have already said, is
but a stage on the high-road to racing condition, is a very
curious phenomenon and somewhat difficult to satisfactorily
account for. No doubt it is in great measure due to the hard
physical work which has been accomplished, the body feeling
the strain of the much-increased rate of metabolism necessi-
tated thereby, but there is also a very marked nervous

The monotony of training routine, disappointing progress
in practice, anxiety as to final success and so on, all play a
very important part in producing a state of mental depression
which is largely responsible for the deterioration in physical
condition. A crew of nine men who get on well together out
of the boat as well as in the boat, whose practice is one steady
improvement from beginning to end, who suffer no mis-
fortunes or disappointments, but are always confident of
accomplishing the end in view namely victory such a crew
will frequently go through training with scarcely a sign of


staleness at any period. The social side of training life is
apt to be disregarded ; men in training, especially when on
the verge of staleness, are occasionally irritable and, it must
be confessed, bad tempered. It is a part of the trainer's duty
to see that no friction or ill-feeling shall arise between
members of the crew at any time, and his success as a coach
will, to a great extent, depend upon his social success with
his men.

In the treatment of staleness champagne is of great value ;
indeed, when a man begins to show the signs of overwork a
bottle of champagne for dinner in place of his ordinary liquor
will often suffice to pull him round. As a rule, it is not wise
to give champagne except under these circumstances, or to
allow it on more than two evenings during the training, but
should any man remain below par for several days without
any sign of improvement he may be given champagne diluted
with mineral water as his regular beverage for lunch and

A week-end visit to the seaside is a splendid antidote
to this kind of staleness ; the bracing air and change of scene,
even for so short a period, often work wonders in restoring
the cheerful spirits and brisk demeanour which are so
characteristic of a well-trained crew.

Besides this transitory loss of condition, there is another
kind of staleness which is far more serious.

When it does come it makes its appearance at a later
stage of training, and does not respond to such simple and
easily applied remedies as those described.

It occurs most commonly in men who have been rowing
continuously for many months, one training succeeding
another with little or no interval. The signs are much the
same as those already given in a more marked degree, and
they do not disappear on simple relaxation of training
routine. A complete rest from all rowing and other violent
exercise for several months is the proper treatment, and will
alone ensure a return to normal health. A week at the sea-
side will sometimes enable a man to resume his training, but


he will probably be for the rest of the time on the verge of a
second breakdown, and will require very careful and judicious
working if he is to be of value in the boat. When racing on
several consecutive days is in prospect, as, for instance, at
Henley Regatta and in College races at the Universities, it is
advisable not to have the crew wound up to the absolute
perfection of condition for the first day, unless the most
formidable opponents are to be met then. It is far better to
bring a crew to the post short of work than overtrained, and
men who are inclined to be fine on the first day will almost
certainly be thoroughly stale by the third or fourth.

During practice the weights should be carefully taken
and recorded daily, for one of the first and most prominent
signs of approaching staleness is a loss of body weight. In
the first few weeks the weights will usually fall correspond-
ingly with the removal of fat ; in the middle stage they will
fall again with the onset of staleness ; during the last two or
three weeks they should rise if the men are fit. Thus a chart
of the weights gives the trainer an excellent guide to the
progress that is being made in general condition, and the
work can be arranged accordingly.

It will be evident from what I have said that there is a
very narrow margin between perfect racing condition and
real staleness. So narrow is this margin that it is impossible
for any man to keep himself wound up to the top-notch of
fitness for any length of time. The human frame cannot
withstand indefinitely the expenditure of so much energy
and live at such a high rate of metabolism, without breaking
down sooner or later. While a man is in good training his
resisting power to infection is abnormally high, so that he is
in the very best possible condition to withstand illness of any
kind ; no sooner does he overstep the boundary line of
fitness than he becomes more than usually susceptible to
infection, and is thus liable to be placed hors de combat by
an attack of influenza or some other malady.

I will not attempt to add any suggestions for the treat-
ment of the common ailments met with in training : the


coach will be well advised to call in a medical man even for
comparatively trivial affections, rather than to attempt any
amateur doctoring on his own account.

It is scarcely necessary to mention that every man before
he embarks upon his rowing career ought to be thoroughly
examined by a medical man. At the Universities it is a
routine practice for candidates for trial eights or University
boat to be examined at the beginning of practice. If this is
done and a good report received, I have no hesitation in
saying that no bad effects will follow boat-racing. On the
contrary, improvement in physique and general health is
usually well marked ; moreover, the advantages gained by
the healthy life and even the moral benefits consequent upon
the discipline of training, and the hardships of racing are not
to be counted as naught.

In spite of the very obvious gain to be derived from so
healthy a pastime, racing should not be indulged in for many
years in succession. The high blood-pressure which neces-
sarily accompanies such violent efforts throws a considerable
strain on the blood-vessels, and if repeated too often must
induce degenerative changes in them. Furthermore, the
older a man is, the less resilient are his arteries, and not so
well adapted to endure with impunity great alterations in



ft. ins.
Length over all 43-45 o

Greatest breadth of beam exactly amidship I 8|

From centre of seat to sill of rowlock .... 2 8.^

Length of play of slides I 3l

Height of sliding-seat above heels . . . . o 8
Height of sill of rowlock above sea ....06

Depth forward ',.. o 6J

Depth aft 05


Length over all 12 o|

Length in-board 3 8^

Length of blade ........ 2 8

Breadth of blade 06

THE above measurements are taken from boats and oars
used in races. The Leander four which won the Steward's
Cup in 1897 measured only 42 feet 3 inches over all, and was
some 3 feet shorter than the usual run of fours. It will
be noticed that the distance from the sill of rowlock to the
centre of seat is given as 2 feet 8 J inches, which exceeds by
an inch to an inch and a half the ordinary measurement of
that distance in an eight-oar. I have, therefore, added half
an inch to the in-board measurement of the oars, as compared
with those used in an eight-oar. This may seem at first sight
an insufficient addition, but, in fact, it will be found that it is
not so. A good waterman will easily be able to accommodate
himself to an oar of this leverage. To add more would have
the effect of making the leverage too great in proportion to
the whole length of the oar, and might have the effect of
tearing the stroke through instead of anchoring it solidly in



the water. It is customary to give this increased length of
rigger spread in fours and pairs because they move consistently
at a slower rate than eight oars, and it is supposed, therefore,
that it is not necessary to take the beginning at the same
acute angle. Fours and pairs are now usually built with their
seats along the centre. It is obvious, therefore, that the
rigger stays must be considerably longer than those of an
eight, and that they must be made of very strong material,
and very firmly fitted to the boat.

The rowing of a coxswainless four is a very high test of
watermanship and skill. A rough and clumsy man may do
valuable work in the middle of an eight, but in a four his
peculiarities and his defects of form will often prove disastrous.
It is essential, therefore, that those who row in a four should
be skilful watermen, quick to adapt themselves to varying
circumstances, and trained to row with that uniformity which
makes for pace in any crew. I have already laid down the
general rules of oarsmanship and style which govern the
rowing of an eight-oared crew. For a four these require to
be modified only to a very small extent. In the rowing of a
first-class four it would be noticed that there is an even
greater impression of smoothness and ease than in that of an
eight. A four moves more slowly than an eight, but she is
lighter off hand. Though it is necessary in a four, as in an
eight, to seize the beginning firmly, and to apply the body
weight at once, there need not be quite the same strenuous-
ness as in an eight. Leg pressure steadily applied throughout
the stroke is of the very highest importance. No doubt, the
impression of superior smoothness and ease in a good four as
compared with a good eight arises from the fact that a higher
average of watermanship can be secured, and generally is
secured in the former. The fact, however, remains that four-
oared rowing is even theoretically subject to the slight
modifications I have indicated, and any experienced oarsman
(Mr. Guy Nickalls, for instance) will aver that the ideas with
which he sets out to row in a four are not quite the same as
those which he reserves for an eight. The first essential to


be aimed at in a four is the locking up of the finish and
recovery. If the four men can learn to be precisely uniform
and level at this part of the stroke, they will have gone far
towards success. Their boat will remain on an even keel,

Online LibraryR. C. (Rudolf Chambers) LehmannThe complete oarsman → online text (page 11 of 39)