Iowa rowers use indoor machines in face of inclement weather

BY RYAN MURPHY | APRIL 26, 2011 7:20 AM

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Rough weather doesn't aid a rowing team. For example, the Iowa rowing team had its only home racing series canceled because of unsafe weather conditions.

However, by bringing the squad off the water and into the Beckwith Boathouse's erg room, Hawkeye rowing coach Mandi Kowal was able to give her team a jump-start in the past week.

"I felt like we needed a little wake-up call," she said. "When you're out on the water, you kind of take a lot for granted."

Kowal said she made the decision to keep the team inside independent of the weather, but the wet and windy conditions provided an extra reason to stay inside.

"We probably could have gotten out on the water, but I made the decision to stay inside on the ergs," she said. "It came at a good time because there was bad weather outside."

When the rowers train indoors, the practices are geared around the use of ergometers, known more commonly as ergs. The erg is an indoor rowing machine that measures the amount of work done by the rowers, allowing each to see her personal output.

Kowal noted that when up to eight rowers and a coxswain are in a boat, the athletes can take for granted the work needed to maintain top speed. The ergs help each rower realize what she needs to improve on.

Senior Haylie Miller said working individually on the ergs keeps each rower focused on getting better.

"It's really important," Miller said. "We have the numbers staring back at our face, so it holds every person accountable. When we're in the boats, you don't have the numbers connected to your name, so it's a wake-up call."

That theme of accountability is echoed by Emily Melvold. The senior coxswain said working on the ergs gives the team a boost on the water.

"The ergs help us maintain our power and gain speed on the water," Melvold said. "We can tell the difference when we go back on the water."

With the team facing the East Coast Races (Saturday) and the Big Ten championships (May 15) in the next three weeks — both boasting some of the nation's top competition — Kowal said the team made significant progress by working on the ergs.

"We were able to focus on a few technical things, and we were able to make a big stride," she said.
Additionally, she believes the payoff from the work the team put in will come in the season's final weeks.

"The silver lining of the bad weather will come a few weeks down the road," Kowal said.

Although the ergs helped the team stay accountable off the water, Melvold said the team was happy to be back on the water in preparation for Saturday's race. Monday was the team's first outdoor practice in more than a week.

"When we went out [on Monday]," she said. "We were ready to get back our connection on the water."

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