After seven years is it time to revisit Fairbain?

After seven years is it time to revisit Fairbain?

Post by Charles Carrol » Tue, 26 Jul 2011 09:38:57


Dear all,

After almost seven years of sculling, I thought it might be time to
revisit Steve Fairbairn. These are my notes from my last time on the
water.

Cordially,

Charles

____________________
For the first time since I stepped into a boat I feel that I have
truly sculled.

But what does this mean? How do I describe it?

In a way my sculling was so simple it all but defies description. All
I can say is that I was able to focus without distraction on "working
the oars to move the boat."

The important point here is the "without distraction." I was sculling
and nothing but sculling. There was no self-consciousness. No anxiety!
No imposition of tightly choreographed movement! There was nothing to
divert my attention from the shell and the oars and the goal, which
was smooth acceleration through the drive. I don't know how to say it
any more simply than that.

Are my feet firmly on the stretcher? At the finish are my elbows
higher than my wrists? Am I holding my back straight? Are the legs,
back and arms all finishing together? Are my shoulders down at the
catch? Do I have too much forward lean? These are the kinds of
questions I usually focus on when I am sculling. But this morning I
put away all such questions.

As I have been doing all week, I began with pause drills at the catch.
The drills are simple. Pause with blades poised over the water, allow
the shell to run underneath you, and then, as you relax, set the
blades in the water and lift the shell smoothly past them.

The Law of Easy Speed governed every drive. I think of it as Carl's
Law. "You cannot replace useful power with harder work."

"To move the body correctly, the body must move unconsciously" is one
of Steve Fairbairn's cherished notions. It, too, was *** in my
thoughts.

Are Carl Douglas and Steve Fairbairn right? Does their thinking
correlate? How?

The only way to find out was to test. At the catch whenever a thought
about body movement began to divert my attention, I let it go. Then,
as I relaxed, I would set the blades in the water and try to lift the
shell smoothly past them. I focused exclusively on working the oars to
move the boat. Working harder never entered my thoughts. Only smooth
acceleration through the drive was of interest.

Eventually all anxiety about body movement vanished. All that mattered
was working the oars. The only goal was to lift the shell smoothly
past the spot where blades had been placed.

And what happened? Sculling became comparable to riding a bicycle.

Who gets on a bike and thinks about how his fingers are gripping the
handle bars? No one! Or who thinks about whether his shins are
vertical at some precise point in the stroke cycle? No one! Or who
thinks about his back, whether it is rounded or straight? No one! Or
what his legs and arms may be doing? No one! In fact, who gets on a
bike and thinks about body movements? No one! The biomechanics of
riding a bicycle are just too complicated and distracting.

And isn't Fairbairn saying that it should be the same for sculling?
"Good oarsmen concentrate on the blade, and their bodies work
naturally."

As bicyclists ride bicycles without thinking about body movements, so
I sculled without thinking about mine. I cared only about "what the
blade was doing with the water and what the water was doing with the
blade."

Set the blade in the water and focus on smoothly accelerating through
the drive. Think of nothing else. The body will move naturally and
take care of itself.

At first, according to Fairbairn, your technique may appear awkward
and uncoordinated. "In time, however, you will find it smoothing out
as the draw muscles and the abdominal muscles get conditioned."

And my report? As I said, for the first time since I stepped into a
boat I feel that I have truly sculled.

 
 
 

After seven years is it time to revisit Fairbain?

Post by A3aa » Tue, 26 Jul 2011 17:45:02

It sounds like you experienced a delightful, meditative moment of
emptiness.

Awesome.

A3aan.

 
 
 

After seven years is it time to revisit Fairbain?

Post by vet.. » Tue, 26 Jul 2011 19:35:47

Several years ago I remember reading a commentary on the Italian's
successes in quad sculling. The article described in depth how long
periods of low intensity work improved overall performance, and how
continued repetition of correct technique allowed for 'muscle memory'
or 'motor learning'. The article covered these areas in detail, over
several pages, but the author was canny enough to conclude "Mileage
makes champions".

PaulW

 
 
 

After seven years is it time to revisit Fairbain?

Post by sull » Wed, 27 Jul 2011 04:36:13



Quote:
> Dear all,

> After almost seven years of sculling, I thought it might be time to
> revisit Steve Fairbairn. These are my notes from my last time on the
> water.

Charles

Glad you enjoyed it.   Keep in mind that really bad sculling can also
feel really
good!

I understand Nick is due in town in a week or so, right?   We should
use that as an excuse to get together finally.

 
 
 

After seven years is it time to revisit Fairbain?

Post by A3aa » Wed, 27 Jul 2011 17:10:46


Quote:


> > Dear all,

> > After almost seven years of sculling, I thought it might be time to
> > revisit Steve Fairbairn. These are my notes from my last time on the
> > water.

> Charles

> Glad you enjoyed it. ? Keep in mind that really bad sculling can also
> feel really
> good!

> I understand Nick is due in town in a week or so, right? ? We should
> use that as an excuse to get together finally.

Ooh! Have one for me guys: http://bit.ly/pWCNeI

cheers,

A3aan.

 
 
 

After seven years is it time to revisit Fairbain?

Post by Walter Martindal » Thu, 28 Jul 2011 23:13:30



Quote:
> Dear all,

> After almost seven years of sculling, I thought it might be time to
> revisit Steve Fairbairn. These are my notes from my last time on the
> water.

> Cordially,

> Charles

> ____________________
> For the first time since I stepped into a boat I feel that I have
> truly sculled.

> But what does this mean? How do I describe it?

> In a way my sculling was so simple it all but defies description. All
> I can say is that I was able to focus without distraction on "working
> the oars to move the boat."

> The important point here is the "without distraction." I was sculling
> and nothing but sculling. There was no self-consciousness. No anxiety!
> No imposition of tightly choreographed movement! There was nothing to
> divert my attention from the shell and the oars and the goal, which
> was smooth acceleration through the drive. I don't know how to say it
> any more simply than that.

> Are my feet firmly on the stretcher? At the finish are my elbows
> higher than my wrists? Am I holding my back straight? Are the legs,
> back and arms all finishing together? Are my shoulders down at the
> catch? Do I have too much forward lean? These are the kinds of
> questions I usually focus on when I am sculling. But this morning I
> put away all such questions.

> As I have been doing all week, I began with pause drills at the catch.
> The drills are simple. Pause with blades poised over the water, allow
> the shell to run underneath you, and then, as you relax, set the
> blades in the water and lift the shell smoothly past them.

> The Law of Easy Speed governed every drive. I think of it as Carl's
> Law. "You cannot replace useful power with harder work."

> "To move the body correctly, the body must move unconsciously" is one
> of Steve Fairbairn's cherished notions. It, too, was *** in my
> thoughts.

> Are Carl Douglas and Steve Fairbairn right? Does their thinking
> correlate? How?

> The only way to find out was to test. At the catch whenever a thought
> about body movement began to divert my attention, I let it go. Then,
> as I relaxed, I would set the blades in the water and try to lift the
> shell smoothly past them. I focused exclusively on working the oars to
> move the boat. Working harder never entered my thoughts. Only smooth
> acceleration through the drive was of interest.

> Eventually all anxiety about body movement vanished. All that mattered
> was working the oars. The only goal was to lift the shell smoothly
> past the spot where blades had been placed.

> And what happened? Sculling became comparable to riding a bicycle.

> Who gets on a bike and thinks about how his fingers are gripping the
> handle bars? No one! Or who thinks about whether his shins are
> vertical at some precise point in the stroke cycle? No one! Or who
> thinks about his back, whether it is rounded or straight? No one! Or
> what his legs and arms may be doing? No one! In fact, who gets on a
> bike and thinks about body movements? No one! The biomechanics of
> riding a bicycle are just too complicated and distracting.

> And isn't Fairbairn saying that it should be the same for sculling?
> "Good oarsmen concentrate on the blade, and their bodies work
> naturally."

> As bicyclists ride bicycles without thinking about body movements, so
> I sculled without thinking about mine. I cared only about "what the
> blade was doing with the water and what the water was doing with the
> blade."

> Set the blade in the water and focus on smoothly accelerating through
> the drive. Think of nothing else. The body will move naturally and
> take care of itself.

> At first, according to Fairbairn, your technique may appear awkward
> and uncoordinated. "In time, however, you will find it smoothing out
> as the draw muscles and the abdominal muscles get conditioned."

> And my report? As I said, for the first time since I stepped into a
> boat I feel that I have truly sculled.

IMO the rowing motion is quite a natural motion, screwed up by a lot
of us coaches.  If we rowed as much as we walked, we wouldn't think
about it.  If we suddenly started walking with our ankles tethered to
7 other people's ankles, it would take quite a lot of walking to make
it natural.
My recent coaching practice (with beginners) is to provide minimal
direction on the step-by-step sequence of movements.  They mostly seem
to pick up what I'd be trying to tell them to do while spending lots
of breath.  Main focus now is to make sure they grip naturally, can
square and feather without lots of wrist, and that they pay attention
to what the boat tells them about their movements.
Without a lot of prompting, the stroke starts from the connection at
the foot-stretcher and flows.
W
 
 
 

After seven years is it time to revisit Fairbain?

Post by Charles Carrol » Fri, 29 Jul 2011 01:59:02

Quote:
> IMO the rowing motion is quite a natural motion,
> screwed up by a lot of us coaches.

Walter,

And speaking of coaches, I cannot resist posting the following comment
from Frank Cunningham on John Biglow:

"Unfortunately for John, he was always a ready listener, and he had
great respect for his coaches over the years. He listened too much and
so went in many different directions!

"It is too bad that there was such a large disparity in the various
interpretations of the stroke [East and West] during his racing
career."  (from "The Sport of Rowing," Chapter 139. The Next
Generation of U.S. Scullers, p. 1883)

Speaking only for myself, I have been immensely helped by coaches. But
I know I have also been hindered by them.

This puts me in mind of Steve Fairbairn's admonition: "Don't coach for
body movement." Fairbairn reiterated, "I coach entirely to work the
oar to move the blade," and insisted that his crews eventually
smoothed out and came to "(but are not coached for) similar
 positions."

I think some of my best coaching has been off-water in this newsgroup,
especially from Carl, who insists that rowers should know what the
blade is doing with the water and what the water is doing with the
blade. Get the physics down and you will know what you want to do with
the blades, that is, how to work the oars to move the blades.

Warmest regards,

Charles

 
 
 

After seven years is it time to revisit Fairbain?

Post by sull » Fri, 29 Jul 2011 02:00:45


Quote:


> > Dear all,

> > After almost seven years of sculling, I thought it might be time to
> > revisit Steve Fairbairn. These are my notes from my last time on the
> > water.

> > Cordially,

> > Charles

> > ____________________
> > For the first time since I stepped into a boat I feel that I have
> > truly sculled.

> > But what does this mean? How do I describe it?

> > In a way my sculling was so simple it all but defies description. All
> > I can say is that I was able to focus without distraction on "working
> > the oars to move the boat."

> > The important point here is the "without distraction." I was sculling
> > and nothing but sculling. There was no self-consciousness. No anxiety!
> > No imposition of tightly choreographed movement! There was nothing to
> > divert my attention from the shell and the oars and the goal, which
> > was smooth acceleration through the drive. I don't know how to say it
> > any more simply than that.

> > Are my feet firmly on the stretcher? At the finish are my elbows
> > higher than my wrists? Am I holding my back straight? Are the legs,
> > back and arms all finishing together? Are my shoulders down at the
> > catch? Do I have too much forward lean? These are the kinds of
> > questions I usually focus on when I am sculling. But this morning I
> > put away all such questions.

> > As I have been doing all week, I began with pause drills at the catch.
> > The drills are simple. Pause with blades poised over the water, allow
> > the shell to run underneath you, and then, as you relax, set the
> > blades in the water and lift the shell smoothly past them.

> > The Law of Easy Speed governed every drive. I think of it as Carl's
> > Law. "You cannot replace useful power with harder work."

> > "To move the body correctly, the body must move unconsciously" is one
> > of Steve Fairbairn's cherished notions. It, too, was *** in my
> > thoughts.

> > Are Carl Douglas and Steve Fairbairn right? Does their thinking
> > correlate? How?

> > The only way to find out was to test. At the catch whenever a thought
> > about body movement began to divert my attention, I let it go. Then,
> > as I relaxed, I would set the blades in the water and try to lift the
> > shell smoothly past them. I focused exclusively on working the oars to
> > move the boat. Working harder never entered my thoughts. Only smooth
> > acceleration through the drive was of interest.

> > Eventually all anxiety about body movement vanished. All that mattered
> > was working the oars. The only goal was to lift the shell smoothly
> > past the spot where blades had been placed.

> > And what happened? Sculling became comparable to riding a bicycle.

> > Who gets on a bike and thinks about how his fingers are gripping the
> > handle bars? No one! Or who thinks about whether his shins are
> > vertical at some precise point in the stroke cycle? No one! Or who
> > thinks about his back, whether it is rounded or straight? No one! Or
> > what his legs and arms may be doing? No one! In fact, who gets on a
> > bike and thinks about body movements? No one! The biomechanics of
> > riding a bicycle are just too complicated and distracting.

> > And isn't Fairbairn saying that it should be the same for sculling?
> > "Good oarsmen concentrate on the blade, and their bodies work
> > naturally."

> > As bicyclists ride bicycles without thinking about body movements, so
> > I sculled without thinking about mine. I cared only about "what the
> > blade was doing with the water and what the water was doing with the
> > blade."

> > Set the blade in the water and focus on smoothly accelerating through
> > the drive. Think of nothing else. The body will move naturally and
> > take care of itself.

> > At first, according to Fairbairn, your technique may appear awkward
> > and uncoordinated. "In time, however, you will find it smoothing out
> > as the draw muscles and the abdominal muscles get conditioned."

> > And my report? As I said, for the first time since I stepped into a
> > boat I feel that I have truly sculled.

> IMO the rowing motion is quite a natural motion, screwed up by a lot
> of us coaches. ?If we rowed as much as we walked, we wouldn't think
> about it. ?If we suddenly started walking with our ankles tethered to
> 7 other people's ankles, it would take quite a lot of walking to make
> it natural.
> My recent coaching practice (with beginners) is to provide minimal
> direction on the step-by-step sequence of movements. ?They mostly seem
> to pick up what I'd be trying to tell them to do while spending lots
> of breath. ?Main focus now is to make sure they grip naturally, can
> square and feather without lots of wrist, and that they pay attention
> to what the boat tells them about their movements.
> Without a lot of prompting, the stroke starts from the connection at
> the foot-stretcher and flows.
> W

 
 
 

After seven years is it time to revisit Fairbain?

Post by sull » Fri, 29 Jul 2011 02:19:05


Quote:


> > Dear all,

> > After almost seven years of sculling, I thought it might be time to
> > revisit Steve Fairbairn. These are my notes from my last time on the
> > water.

> > Cordially,

> > Charles

> > ____________________
> > For the first time since I stepped into a boat I feel that I have
> > truly sculled.

> > But what does this mean? How do I describe it?

> > In a way my sculling was so simple it all but defies description. All
> > I can say is that I was able to focus without distraction on "working
> > the oars to move the boat."

> > The important point here is the "without distraction." I was sculling
> > and nothing but sculling. There was no self-consciousness. No anxiety!
> > No imposition of tightly choreographed movement! There was nothing to
> > divert my attention from the shell and the oars and the goal, which
> > was smooth acceleration through the drive. I don't know how to say it
> > any more simply than that.

> > Are my feet firmly on the stretcher? At the finish are my elbows
> > higher than my wrists? Am I holding my back straight? Are the legs,
> > back and arms all finishing together? Are my shoulders down at the
> > catch? Do I have too much forward lean? These are the kinds of
> > questions I usually focus on when I am sculling. But this morning I
> > put away all such questions.

> > As I have been doing all week, I began with pause drills at the catch.
> > The drills are simple. Pause with blades poised over the water, allow
> > the shell to run underneath you, and then, as you relax, set the
> > blades in the water and lift the shell smoothly past them.

> > The Law of Easy Speed governed every drive. I think of it as Carl's
> > Law. "You cannot replace useful power with harder work."

> > "To move the body correctly, the body must move unconsciously" is one
> > of Steve Fairbairn's cherished notions. It, too, was *** in my
> > thoughts.

> > Are Carl Douglas and Steve Fairbairn right? Does their thinking
> > correlate? How?

> > The only way to find out was to test. At the catch whenever a thought
> > about body movement began to divert my attention, I let it go. Then,
> > as I relaxed, I would set the blades in the water and try to lift the
> > shell smoothly past them. I focused exclusively on working the oars to
> > move the boat. Working harder never entered my thoughts. Only smooth
> > acceleration through the drive was of interest.

> > Eventually all anxiety about body movement vanished. All that mattered
> > was working the oars. The only goal was to lift the shell smoothly
> > past the spot where blades had been placed.

> > And what happened? Sculling became comparable to riding a bicycle.

> > Who gets on a bike and thinks about how his fingers are gripping the
> > handle bars? No one! Or who thinks about whether his shins are
> > vertical at some precise point in the stroke cycle? No one! Or who
> > thinks about his back, whether it is rounded or straight? No one! Or
> > what his legs and arms may be doing? No one! In fact, who gets on a
> > bike and thinks about body movements? No one! The biomechanics of
> > riding a bicycle are just too complicated and distracting.

> > And isn't Fairbairn saying that it should be the same for sculling?
> > "Good oarsmen concentrate on the blade, and their bodies work
> > naturally."

> > As bicyclists ride bicycles without thinking about body movements, so
> > I sculled without thinking about mine. I cared only about "what the
> > blade was doing with the water and what the water was doing with the
> > blade."

> > Set the blade in the water and focus on smoothly accelerating through
> > the drive. Think of nothing else. The body will move naturally and
> > take care of itself.

> > At first, according to Fairbairn, your technique may appear awkward
> > and uncoordinated. "In time, however, you will find it smoothing out
> > as the draw muscles and the abdominal muscles get conditioned."

> > And my report? As I said, for the first time since I stepped into a
> > boat I feel that I have truly sculled.

> IMO the rowing motion is quite a natural motion, screwed up by a lot
> of us coaches. ?If we rowed as much as we walked, we wouldn't think
> about it. ?If we suddenly started walking with our ankles tethered to
> 7 other people's ankles, it would take quite a lot of walking to make
> it natural.

Some people walk very inefficiently, even painfully.    I hate when I
walk
like a duck and will correct my gait.

Quote:
> My recent coaching practice (with beginners) is to provide minimal
> direction on the step-by-step sequence of movements. ?They mostly seem
> to pick up what I'd be trying to tell them to do while spending lots
> of breath. ?Main focus now is to make sure they grip naturally, can
> square and feather without lots of wrist, and that they pay attention
> to what the boat tells them about their movements.
> Without a lot of prompting, the stroke starts from the connection at
> the foot-stretcher and flows.
> W

oops,  sent w/o posting.

I have somewhat the same approach teaching beginners,  most people
will figure
out a reasonably efficient technique on their own,  I focus mostly on
getting the
hands correct, and that's plenty enough noise coming from me.

My beginner sessions last as long as it takes for the sculler to be
able to row
around in a reasonably straight path, be able to back up effectively,
and understand
and perform the basics of holding water.  I make sure their hands are
correct,  but their
drive connection has to be way out of whack for me to make any
corrections there.

But if you consider "natural" what most people will do on their own,
here's a short list
of what I think is "natural" in a single.

1. pulling early on the drive right at the catch, dominating upper
body drive.
2. training wheels
3. coming out of bow hands/body/slide together
4. rushed recovery
5. catch on drive
6. washing out finishes

There are, of course, many exceptions.   There are people who've never
rowed before that
I've seen scull away from me at the dock with a beautiful connection,
and perfect relaxation.

About 1/3 of the people who learn their first strokes in a single (I
teach in an Aero) will
get confused about how to move their boat backwards the first time
they are in,  or mess up
which side to row with to turn their boat around.

 
 
 

After seven years is it time to revisit Fairbain?

Post by Charles Carrol » Sat, 30 Jul 2011 02:23:51

Quote:
>> I understand Nick is due in town in a week or so, right? We should
> use that as an excuse to get together finally.
> Ooh! Have one for me guys: http://bit.ly/pWCNeI

A3aan,

We shall lift a glass to absent friends!

Cordially,

Charles

 
 
 

After seven years is it time to revisit Fairbain?

Post by Charles Carrol » Sat, 30 Jul 2011 03:05:25

Quote:
> Keep in mind that really bad sculling can also
> feel really good!

Mike,

I have been thinking about how "bad sculling" might feel really good
......

I have to confess, I have no idea what you mean.

I do not have even remotely the experience you have. The only person I
have ever coached is myself. And, with the exception of two days five
years ago at the Bumps in Cambridge, the only rowing I have ever
watched has been on film. So I am very limited in any comments I can
make.

Having said this, I have to say that I have never had the experience
of bad sculling feeling really good.

Bad sculling feels terrible. Good sculling feels wonderful.

Of course this leads me to ask: what is the criterion for deciding
whether sculling is good or bad?

Is it how fast you move a boat? But haven't you yourself written,
often in fact, that there are many people who move boats fast but have
lousy finishes? From this I might infer that you think that someone
can move a boat fast yet scull poorly. But would you want to say that
someone who is technically a very good sculler yet never moves a boat
fast is sculling really well?

See my confusion ..

And this doesn't even begin to address your question about sculling
"feeling" really good. What is it that feels good? Moving quickly?
Being technically proficient? Crossing the finish line first? Easy
speed? Smooth acceleration through the drive?

Consider Peter Mallory's quoting Bob Kaehler: "Sometimes you just have
a unique combination. I think that the '98-'99 boat was just one of
those boats that had perfect blending. We were in control. We could do
what we wanted when we wanted to. We never lost a race ... It's not
that often that you get control in boats where it's relaxed and easy.
You have tremendous power, but it's just easy. It's not hard. There's
no effort. You're cruising along."

There have been times, admittedly not many, when I might have said the
same thing about my own sculling. "It's just easy. It's not hard.
There's no effort. You're cruising along."

I guess what I am really asking is how much importance should we place
on "boat feel?"

I have sculled with people who know exactly how fast they are going
and at what rate they are sculling, and they know all this by "feel."
Not only do they not have a Speed Coach, they don't even look at a
watch. Yet their "feel" is such that they know all this with perfect
accuracy. I know because I have gone back and looked at the data from
the Garmin 305.

Cordially,

Charles