Heads Together and Row: Time to dig deep

24 January 2019

Heads Together and Row: Time to dig deep

After six weeks of the highs and lows of life at sea, Heads Together and Row are now well into the final 500 nautical miles of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and drawing ever closer to the finish line in Antigua. In their latest blog post below, Dr Caroline Rook and Ole Petter Anfinsen, who are following the team’s progress for Henley research, explain that while the end of the race is (almost) in sight, now is the time they’ll really need to dig deep.

The end is in sight

Our team at sea are preparing for the final lap of their massive journey across the Atlantic, but even though they are getting closer to the finish line they still have the most challenging part ahead of them. Not only fighting the sea, but themselves now that mental and physical resources have been tested for weeks. It is likely that the crew are both physically and mentally exhausted and need to find the motivation to give everything they have left to reach the finish line - not just by themselves, but as a team. This is the time to find support deep within, their inner strength, and dig deep to find the source of motivation that led them to sea. Heads Together and Row will be able to make it through the finish line soon with the following lessons from top athletes, described in a previous Henley blog:

Recovering energy

During the last few weeks the team will have build up more capabilities and physical strength. Their bodies will have ‘super-compensated’ for the physical challenges they have been put under and will have reached a new, higher threshold of tolerance or maximum performance. However, even though the team will now be able to perform at a higher level, their sources of energy have only been consisting of pre-packaged meals, and the lack of sleep will have drained their resources. As mental and physical ‘fuel’ are running low, now is the time to pay attention to the delicate balance between showing maximum effort and using recovery time as efficiently as possible

Leading as a team

As mentioned in our previous blog, different team members might step up as leaders at different times during the race depending on their skills and expertise, as well as momentary energy and positive attitude. The team will experience high demands and high stress levels now that they are getting close to the finish line. So great flexibility is required to build on the strengths and expertise of each crew member!

Thriving under pressure

Top athletes competing in Olympic events have learned how to show maximum performance even during high pressure. They are able to stay focused on their goal even when faced with a multitude of distractions or obstacles. The rowing team will also gain a lot by treating small failures (or mistakes) as learning opportunities that will help them to successfully reach the finish line. Another key aspect is to focus on successes along the way - not just to see failures as learning opportunities, but also acknowledging small wins.

Celebrating the small wins

Research has found that people who are driven by intrinsic factors are more able to handle stress and have less chance of burning out, in contrast to those who are driven by extrinsic factors (i.e., external rewards such as a price or bonus). An important factor in handling the pressure and curve-balls that are being thrown at our team at sea is to celebrate the wins along the way, while pursuing one’s inspiration.

So even though our team has not yet crossed the finish line, we hope they are keeping their spirits high and are more motivated than ever – to finish, not for others but for themselves and the cause!

Henley Business School is working with Heads Together and Row on a research project looking at individual and team resilience. Click here to find out more.

Watch Dr Caroline Rook talking about resilience in the video below, filmed before the team set off.

Today's update

As of 1600 GMT on day 44, here’s how the team are getting on:

Position: 17 degrees 9.04 N, 054 degrees 17.43 W

Speed/Direction: 3.7 knots @ 252 degrees

Distance rowed: 2293 Nautical Miles (2638 Miles)

Distance to go: 429 Nautical Miles (493 Miles)

12th in Fours crews

17th overall

Visit the Heads Together and Row website to find out how you can support the team and their charities.

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For more information, contact the Henley Press Office by email at pr@henley.ac.uk or by phone on 0118 378 8676.