The Olympics kick off Friday, Feb. 9 and we chatted with Olympic rower and world record holder Grace Luczak. Find out how Grace trains and her thoughts on indoor rowing.
Grace holds two world records and is a three-time world champion and six-time national champion with USA crews. She was named one of the 2016 top 10 female rowers in the world by World Rowing.
In 2016, she was part of the USA women's rowing team and took home fourth in Rio.
Training like an athlete
Rowing races are 2,000 meters — about 1.25 miles — and that can take 6 to 7.5 minutes depending on the team, Grace said. Despite the low race mileage, rowers train as many miles in a week as a typical marathon runner.
“We’re racing for a mile and we do the same amount of volume,” she said.
Grace’s workouts are based around cardiovascular training. She trains in different boat classes throughout the year, spending much of her time alone or in a pair.
When she’s not on the water, Grace spends a lot of time on the rowing machine, or erg. Without the distraction of the water and a teammate, she said, being on the rowing machine helps build up the mental toughness she needs during races.
She and her teammates take on the same workouts and are ranked weekly. The rankings are progressive throughout the year and guide team selection.
A common workout is 2x6000: Row 6,000 meters, rest 7 minutes, then row 6,000 meters. The catch? The second section must be faster.
“It’s pretty tough,” Grace said. “Lots of burn and lots of mental fortitude is being built during those workouts.” Doing the workout as a group makes it a lot more fun, Grace said.
“That’s the nice thing about coming to Row House. It’s a similar environment where people are all working out together and there’s that community,” she said. “However hard the workout is, you’re sharing that experience together. I think that gives you confidence to push a little harder.”
Grace says she has enjoyed seeing the rise of rowing in the past few years. “Rowing is a total body workout. It’s a great community sport.”
Grace grew up playing different sports, including volleyball and basketball. “A lot of them I literally grew out of,” she said — like field hockey where the sticks weren’t long enough anymore.
Her mom read a New York Times article encouraging parents of tall girls — Grace is 6’3” — to get them into rowing. Her freshman year, Grace joined her school’s rowing team.
“When I first started I thought it was very relaxing, then you realize there’s a whole other intensity level to it.”
She made the Junior Nationals and competed in an Olympics test event in 2008. She rowed at Michigan freshman year, then transferred to Stanford in California.
Rowing on the water
Grace encourages those who enjoy indoor rowing to get out on the water. (Keep an eye for Row House's on the water events this summer!)
“It’s really nice to get outside” she said. For first time rowers, Grace says, helps to be in a larger boat with people who have rowed before. “You definitely have the benefit of being able to mimic what’s being done around you.”
Another pro tip: “If you’re ever in trouble, just put your oar in the water.”
Keep an eye out for Grace around Columbus Circle. If you see her, say hi!