BY ANDY ANDERSON
PHOTO BY ED MORAN
Good morning, Dr. Rowing,
I’m writing with a query that, when it popped into my head, took me unexpectedly. After almost 35 years of rowing, it’s one which I hadn’t thought of till now. It’s about an odd factor with optimistic numbers. Ever since I began rowing, coaches have at all times listed stroke rankings in even-number increments. As I stated, I by no means gave it a thought all these years and questioned should you may clarify the rationale?
After I was a youthful rower, even-number ranking appeared to be pure for me. As a stroke (my common seat), coxswains and boat mates praised me for having the ability to hit stroke charges exactly. As I’ve gotten older, it has develop into more durable to hit even-number charges. My pure rankings appear to be odd-number ones. It turns into irritating when attempting to observe the stroke charges of a coach’s exercise. My physique simply prefers odd-number rankings.
Is there a bias in rowing towards odd numbers? Is it as a result of the stroke seat is an even-numbered seat (two, 4, or eight)? Or is it some deeper conspiracy towards odd numbers? I’d actually wish to know. If I may simply cease worrying about hitting even-numbered charges throughout my exercises and give attention to my health and imperfect stroke (sure, after 35 years I’m nonetheless studying to row properly), I’d be a lot happier.
Matt, you’re far too modest about your rowing talents. Absolutely, anybody who was a world champion within the light-weight 4 (in 1993) and a national-team athlete for 2 extra years earlier than heading to medical college doesn’t have to be so self-deprecating.
However to your query. I’m going to skip over the sentence “As I’ve gotten older, it has develop into more durable to hit even-number charges.” A number of retorts counsel themselves. “Effectively, duh!” And “Don’t inform me that you just get extra drained in your 50s than you probably did in your 20s?” Why even the good British oarsman James Cracknell, who rowed to victory with Cambridge within the 4.2-mile Boat Race at age 46 in 2019, was heard to confess that it’s more durable to do at his age. “I’m seven years older than one of many man’s dads,” he identified, including that he was too drained to rejoice their win.
The world does certainly skew in the direction of even numbers. As I kind this very column in Microsoft Phrase, I’ve a selection of font sizes, the overwhelming majority being even numbers–though weirdly, there may be the choice of seven.5. You’ve most likely heard the outdated noticed about two eyes, two ears, one mouth. Higher to see and listen to than to shoot your mouth off, proper? There’s symmetry in even numbers.
Some attention-grabbing analysis has been achieved on odd/even numbers. When 185 individuals from completely different nations, cultures, and religions have been requested what their favourite quantity was from one to 10, 49 % selected seven, 24 % stated three, 19 % chosen one, and solely eight % picked one other quantity. So, it’s not like individuals are prejudiced towards odd numbers.
However in one other revealing examine, when two random numbers have been flashed onto a pc display and the topic was requested to press a button solely when each numbers have been both odd and even, it took 20 % longer for the topic to press when the numbers have been odd. The conclusion: It takes our brains longer to course of odd numbers. Even numbers require much less considering. And that’s most likely a very good factor when requested to hit a sure ranking.
Different individuals within the psychology of numbers have postulated that even numbers really feel extra homey and pleasant than odd numbers. Even numbers are used extensively when looking for scrutiny and a focus isn’t the target. The corollary to that is that whenever you need to hyper-focus on a quantity and want to decide on one which calls for consideration, strive utilizing an odd quantity.
In case you have a toddler close by, ask her to rely by two’s, beginning with two. Simple, proper? Now how about beginning with one? Sooner or later it will get extra awkward; the numbers don’t simply roll off the tongue. It appears to take extra focus when coping with odd numbers.
I do like your idea that it has one thing to do with the stroke seat being an excellent quantity–a minimum of right here within the English-speaking world. In lots of European nations, the stroke is one and the bow is eight. That sounds bizarre or downright incorrect, doesn’t it?
Are you able to think about a coxswain calling a settle after which saying, “Nonetheless too excessive. Take it down three!” After all not. A few of this will likely simply be an ingrained behavior, however I additionally think about that if a name got here to “Take it up three,” everybody within the boat would assume, “Why three? We have to be in bother.”
My conclusion is that the coaches who designed your exercises didn’t need you to fixate on the quantity; they used even rankings as a information, and never a commandment. Do you might have perfectionist qualities, Matt? Are you even maybe a contact obsessive? Chill. Come over to the nice and cozy and fuzzy even aspect.