“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits” Williams James wrote in 1982
Most of the choices we make each day on our rowing as coaches or rowers may feel like the products of well- considered decision making, but they are not. They are habits. Each one of these habits on its own, means very little, over time, the way we turn our boat, the meals we order, how we warm up, how we row each stroke, what we think while we row, wether we go to sleep early or not, how often we drink water and many others has a huge impact on our rowing development and performance.
The rowing champions are not the more talented but the ones who with some talent develop good training habits and follow a process that overtime brings success to them.
We all have habits and habits are hard to change. When I coach a new rower I focus my whole coaching on improving his habits. Understanding how they form, the neurology of habit formation, how to build new habits, change old ones and understanding the science behind their mechanics is very important. Habits can be changed if you understand how they work. Words like patterns, routine, drill, repetition,…
There is nothing you can’t do if you get the habits right!
Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often. This effort- saving instinct is a huge advantage. An efficient brain allow us to stop thinking constantly about basic behaviors, such as turning the boat, squaring the blade, turning our head looking for direction, sequencing our rowing stroke. But this formation of habits has some disadvantages:
1) If the rowing we are doing is not the best we can do, the way we feather our blade, the way we move on the boat, then we are just with that habit stuck on a rowing that doesn’t let us improve and keep us repeating the not perfect rowing stroke over an over.
2) If we row shutting part of our brain and running on auto-pilot there is not much we can do to change our habits to better ones or to make rowing improvements on our technique and efficiency.
This is why understanding the science behind habits is important to change them and trigger new good ones on our rowing.
As coaches we also have a system that is all based over time on experience and habits. Have you experienced a rowing coach that is doing the same thing every year with different rowers? Are you a rowing coach that has trouble to change and is stuck on old habits that don’t make sense anymore. You are not the only one and it makes total sense. Rowing coaches are overworked with team management, equipment, recruiting, coaching, …. In order to survive rowing coaches need to setup a system and create overtime habits so they can run the system with less effort and on a easier way. What is the problem?
The problem is that they are running systems with habits that are not working anymore or can be improved. So rowers and coaches have the same challenge with habits and the same opportunity to become better and more efficient at what they do.
I’m passionate about helping rowers and coaches to be the more efficient at what they do.
I believe many coaches with some guidance could really improve their systems and implement their habits so they can run a more efficient process where they can enjoy more success with their Team.
The process within our brains is a three- step loop. First there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is the reward, which helps your brain figure it out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop- cue, routine, reward becomes more and more automatic. Eventually a habit is born.
Understanding how habits work, earning the structure of the habit loop, makes them easier to control. Once you break a habit into its components, you can start making changes.
Habits never really disappear. They are encoded into the structures of our brains, and that is a huge advantage for us, because it would be awful if we had to relearn the rowing stroke every time we row.
Most rowers and coaches habits have occurred for so long that they don’t pay attention to what causes them anymore. I coach rowers that do things on their rowing stroke that clearly make them slower and I ask them why they do it and they don’t know. They just do it because they have been doing it for a long time.
Charles Duhigg- The power of habit-