Another year has come and gone and Wisconsin Women’s Rowing is back in Cocoa Beach for winter training. It’s a magical time of year where we rip up our hands, complain about how tired we are and eat way too much.
In my experience, winter training can be split up into three segments based on food consumption.
During the first segment, we go to the grocery store together with our full envelope of per diem. With a little peer pressure, we end up buying a bunch of healthy food that we know will be the wisest choice to fuel our bodies after hard workouts.
This stage does not last long. The first couple of days of training are work on technique and boat feel. They are lengthy steady state practices that are intended to help us row together and train in lower heart rate zones for extended periods of time.
When we get back from the course we make healthy dinners with our rooms and snack on carrots and hummus. We have intellectual conversations about documentaries over our well prepared meal and maybe go for a walk on the beach after.
And then we start doing pieces.
If steady state practices are like going jogging for two plus hours, pieces are like jogging for an hour, sprinting for an hour and then jogging home again. These practices rip quarter sized pieces of skin off of your hands, leaving your hands to pull on an oar with exposed flesh. They make your legs burn with lactic acid and your breathing ragged and uncontrollable.
When we come home from these practices, the next stage of training begins. It is characterized by the uncontrollable need to eat everything. I mean everything.
Leftover pasta? Bagels and cream cheese? Triscuts? Triscuts with cream cheese? Mac and cheese? Block of Cheese? Turkey sandwich? Just lunch meat?
Eat it all.
After we’ve eaten until we hate ourselves, it’s time to slip gently into a food coma until the next practice; which happens to be in three hours.
We get into a happy cycle of eat, row, eat, sleep, eat, row, eat sleep (that’s one day) that continues with an occasional dazed visit to the beach, Ron Jon or the smoothie shop.
By the time our mandatory 24 hour time off happens (S/o to the NCAA for making rules), we’re ready to rest our bodies and hands and do stuff normal people do when they’re in Florida. This is where the pictures on Facebook and misconceptions of what we do in Florida come from. We have fun in the ocean and on the beach, but the bulk of our trip is spent rowing, eating and sleeping…
Which leads me to stage three. It happens sometime after the halfway point and hits you like a ton of bricks. We’ve eaten all of the food from our first trip to the grocery store and on our second trip we end up telling ourselves “I deserve this” as we load our carts with gummy candy and Cheetos.
We end up making healthy family dinners less and asking each other if we want to go get FroYo more. It’s the junk food stage.
When my pair partner mentions that her FitBit says she burned 2,000 calories and our coach casually tells us we’ve rowed 28 kilometers, I can totally justify eating an entire Dairy Queen ice cream cake by myself.
It’s the eat everything phase to the max. Eating healthy takes a backseat to rewarding ourselves for working hard while simultaneously struggling to consume enough calories to keep functioning.
Is the junk food stage healthy? No. Should we pay attention to our consumption habits to perpetuate healthy living in the future? Yes, definitely. Did I finish a quart of ice cream in the parking lot of the hotel with my homies while we waited to leave for the airport last year? Ab. So. Lute. Ly.
Florida is about all bonding. It’s where my teammates became my best friends. We soak our torn hands in Epsom salt together, we row together, we suffer together and we eat together. It’s what heavies do.
So here’s to another week of training, the sleeve of cookies in my cupboard, the 4 bars of dark chocolate in my sock drawer and the privilege of spending time on the water with my optimistic, hard-working team.