Garmin Interview about GPS and Rowing

Jessica Myers, Senior Media Relations Specialist at Garmin was kind enough to respond to my request for an interview about their GPS units and their suitability for rowing. She also passed on a couple of photos - one of their facility in Olathe, KS and the other of the Garmin Forerunner 305 - one of the units she recommends for rowers.

The interview doesn't provide any of the technical details that I might have liked to see. I had hoped that the first question might have led to something more for our readers. I did ask for more, but this was all the information that was available. In fact the responses really don't respond to any of the criticism about using GPS in rowing. On the other hand she does provide a few interesting bits - such as the availabliity of a floating unit, and the availability of an (I'm sure pricey) 5 Hz units.


[RS]: One of the criticisms form rowers is the frequency of measurements. My unit returns measures every second (1 Hz) - are there units available now, or coming soon, that sample more frequently?

[Garmin]: With a WAAS enabled unit (which most GPS devices now have), the GPS update rate is once per second. The exception to this is with some aviation units where the GPS update rate is faster (5hz update = 5 times/sec). With the one/second update rate, GPS does a great job of calculating an overall speed, but it does not always provide as thorough information in relation to acceleration and deceleration.

[RS]: How is velocity calculated exactly? Is it based on previous postions? In other words, does it truely reflect the velocity at that moment in time - if not, how far back in time is the measure going (we are interested in even tenths of seconds here).

[Garmin]: I can't provide you with specifics on the algorithms we use to calculate the velocity because it's proprietary.

[RS]: Another concern (though some would say benefit) is that on-water measures are relative to land - so that a boat sitting still, but in a current, would register a velocity. Is there a way to calibrate the unit - in effect to define what is zero velocity to take currents out of the equation?

[Garmin]: No, we don't currently have a way to calibrate the unit so that it takes current out of the equation.

[RS]: The extra maps for the units are (relative to the cost of the unit itself) a bit pricey - I realize they give a great deal of information but some coaches are really only interested in a small body of water less than 10 km in any direction - would there ever be an option to obtain a more detailed map, but of a limited area?

[Garmin]: I can pass on your request about having cartography cards with smaller segments of information. One of the reasons the cards are divided as they are is because the primary audience that purchases this mapping data is fishermen. As you might expect, they often prefer to have more information so that they're not limited to one area while on water.

[RS]: Are there any materials on your web site that you would recommend people look at?

[Garmin]: Regarding info on our website -- it depends on what type of info you want. If you're looking for basic GPS info there are several places: and If you want more information about WAAS (which is what I referred to above that makes GPS more accurate):

[RS]: Are there any of your units in particular that you would recommend for us to use?

[Garmin]: We offer several different GPS units that your readers might like. If they want a unit that is more devoted to fitness, I recommend the Forerunner 305: I've personally never tried this unit rowing, but I know of others who have and they like it. Note, the Forerunner 305 doesn't show maps, so if maps is important you don't want this unit. If you do want maps, the top of the line unit is the 76CSx. One of the nice things about this unit is that it floats. It also has our new, highly sensitive GPS receiver (SiRFstarIII receiver) that lets it acquire a signal faster: If you want a unit with a faster GPS update rate, the GPSMAP 496 has a 5hz update rate. The 496 is an aviation unit, and therefore has lots of other features that you're probably not going to want or need. It's also costs a little more because of the aviation components that are on the unit. Another popular unit on the water is the Foretrex: Windsurfers especially like this unit because it lets them keep their hands free while still monitoring their speed and tracking their waypoints. As with the Forerunner, this unit doesn't do mapping, but you can take all of the waypoints acquired on the unit and download them to where you can see your tracks on a variety of maps including Google Earth. has a free and subscription portion, so you can always check it out for free if interested. It has a very big following and is very popular with those doing water sports.

[RS]: Many thanks for your time.

[Garmin]: I hope this information is somewhat helpful. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

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Great Psychology and Excellence Resource Includes Rowing Content

The Zone of Excellence site by noted Canadian Sports Psychologist Terry Orlick provides quite a number of resources worth reading for free. The site is focusing on excellence in all areas, so you will find articles about such fields as surgery, musicians and being an astronaut in addidion to all of the sports resources.

This site is rich in content whether you are looking for information to help your rowing, or for your life away from the water.

Also available from the site:

The Journal of Excellence - all issues online are free

Articles available for free

and one free book- Psyched: Inner views of winning

The book includes two chapters about rowers:



and (note the interesting title)



There is a lot in those chapters and several more interesting chapters from other sports - well worth a look.

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Heat Acclimatization and the Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science

The online Sports Science Journal is a growing resource for all athletes and coaches. As part of this site they are building an on-line encycolpedia of sports medicine and science. There are a few posts that are useful at this time of year for many of us. Heat Acclimatization and Jet Lag are two that come to mind in the competitive summer season - for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere at any rate!

One wonders if they are considering moving to a wiki-format to allow more people to edit the articles on the site and allow it to grow a bit faster - but I expect the desire to kep the site on par with peer-reviewed journals in print will prevent a shift to wiki.

Heat Acclimatization

The Heat Acclimatization article notes that the body does indeed adapt to exercise in the heat. It takes 14 days for complete adjustment - but that different body systems change at different rates. The adaptaions in days 1-5 improve cardiovascular control, such as an increase in plasma volue, while in later days 5-8 thermoregulatory adaptations are maximized - combining the cardiovascular control with increased sweat rates and earlier onset of sweating. Sodium Chloride (salt) losses in sweat decrease in days 3-9. It is interesting to note that several of the adaptations appear to be to maintain short-term stability as after complete adaptation occurs things like salt losses in sweat and plasma volume return to pre-acclimatization levels. One wonders if, like altitude training, a period in a hot humid environment could provide some temporary improvements useful after return to a normal environment. Indeed, after acclimatization there is a reduction in muscle glycogen utilization and a decrease in lactate production.

The article also describes the effects of various forms of heat illness. Interestingly, het cramps are mentioned - likely due to a loss of salt. They mention that cramps may be partially a result of drinking "lrage volumes of hypotonic water" - in other words, large volumes of plain water with no electrolytes - as in a spot drink. This is a mild effect, the more serious effect known as hyponatremia and described in a previous post. All forms of heat illness are reduced by acclimatization.

On a related note - while an increase intake of fluids is required in hot enviroments, it does not assist the acclimatization per se - it only mitigates the effects of the heat.

It is noted that the key factor in acclimatization is increased core body temperature - and can be achieved even exercising in cool environments f the intensity of exercise is enough to elevate core temperature. Although I cannot refer to a scientific study, I have read before of Ironman triathletes going to Hawaii training in realitively warm environments wearing excess clothing to simulate the hot humid conditions of Hawaii.

What does this mean for me?

1. If you are going to a hot enviroment to race, you will need to acclimatize for as many as 14 days.
2. Some of this can be done before travelling to the hotter environment by adjusting training intensity, and possibly by ensuring enough clothign is worn to maintain a higher core temperature.
3. If training for long periods of time in a hot environment use a sports drink, not just plain water.

Related posts:

Fluid replacement - when and what should I drink?

Hydration in Rowing

Too Much Water - Hyponatremia

Hydration and Coxies

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Exclusive Interview with Concept 2 about the Model E Ergometer

Bill Patton has been in marketing with Concept2 for the past eight years. He also built the online ranking/log application that many rowers have enjoyed over the years. He is also the technical web developer for Concept2. Bill was kind enough to answer a few questions in an exclusive interview for Rowing Science readers.

This is a follow-up to our original posting about the new ergometer.


[RS]: People were excited to see the new Model E - can you tell us a few of your favorite new features?

[BP]: I think the slightly higher seat position is going to be popular with certain segments - people who perhaps aren't as flexible as they once were, those who row in gyms with less than clean floors, or those who want to be higher in order to see their surroundings better. In addition, the PM4 is going to be of interest to many rowers in health clubs, boathouses and clubs who want to set up frequent fun races - since they will be able to do this without needing a PC (or even connecting wires, if setting up small wireless races).

[RS]: Would you describe this an a major upgrade, or an incremental one? It seems interesting that you have gone from one model/one price to almost a two-tiered product now. Is that a conscious change? Can you tell us why it was done?

[BP]: I think the PM4 represents a major upgrade for us - the wireless mode alone took a great deal of R/D effort - and reflects a major innovation. The physical structure of the E would be in my opinion an incremental change. I would also have to say that the concept of offering two models at once (both the Model D and E will be available for sale) represents a departure from over 25 years of offering only one model at a time for sale.

"We anticipate that most indoor racing will be done on Model D's with PM4's."

[RS]: What does C2 envision happening at ergattas now - Model D or E? PM3 or 4?

[BP]: We anticipate that most indoor racing will be done on Model D's with PM4's.

[RS]: Having the racing features built in to the PM4 sounds exciting - does this mean two ergs can line up and race? How will this work? Do you have any screen shots of the PM4 in action that you can share?

[BP]: Without using a PC you can now race up to 8 PM4's at a time. This is supported by the additional software/hardware that is built into each PM4. Any PM4 can then act as a 'race creator' - controlling the set up and starting of a race. From the creator PM4 you can set up the race (distance/time specification). The remaining PM4's (up to seven additional) can then join the race. The 'race creator' then starts the race after all competitors have joined.

After the race has started each PM4 displays information about your own position relative to the others in the race - until the conclusion of the race at which time you can see the final finish times of all racers.

(in this view, you are lane three. Lane 2 is 20 meters behind you. This is the view that is displayed for 2-4 racers. The display changes to a more numeric display for 5-8 racers.)

[RS]: How long has the new Erg been in development? Is there a planned product cycle - by this I mean, can we expect that you are already getting down to planning the Model F?

[BP]: The E and PM4 have been in discussion for about 2 years now. Concept2 is a company of innovation, and is run by two inventor/engineers. They are always working on new ideas and products - making it impossible for me to even guess when the next machine may appear.

[RS]: You must have a few things that were left on the concept planning table - is there anything that didn't make it into the final machine or PM4 that you would like to see in future models?

[BP]: That is a long list! I'll leave them for a surprise for future products.

[RS]: How does rowing on the Model E feel different - what can rowers expect to feel on the new machine?

[BP]: Some people have said that the new nickel plated chain gives a slightly smoother feel when rowing - beyond that there is little in the way of 'feel' differences - the front end and drive train are exactly the same between the two models.

[RS]: Thank you Bill for taking the time to share your experience with Rowing Science readers.

[BP]: You're welcome. If there is anything else I can do for you, please ask.

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Coaching Styles - Poll of the Week

In the previous post I referred to the "Madden Minute" and John Madden's take on the importance of being yourself as a coach.

What style of coach has been the best for you as an athlete? Do you prefer the dominating, strong personality? Do you prefer the introspective, intellectual coach? What do you need to make you fast?

Please take part in the newest poll of the week - in the sidebar to your right. Then, if you can leave a comment for all to see about that coach.

Share your thoughts on coaching styles and we will compile some of the comments for everyone to read. Link to your favourite coach's web site if you have one - are you an NCAA rower now - link to your site! A school rower? Tell us about your best coach and link to your site.

Focus on Psychology

Uh, pardon the pun!

We have covered some topics in physiology, some in technology, and there are some tech issues coming soon, so what other sciences need some coverage? Please send comments if you have topics you want covered.

Today I was listening to the "Madden Minute" on the radio with NFL broadcaster and former coach John Madden. Strange person to give me thoughts for a rowing web site. He made a strong point though - as a coach you have to be yourself. You can look to other coaches for inspiration, you can model their tactics and their approach to the sport, but in terms of personality you can only be you. A quiet thinker cannot become a domineering, angry coach just because he admires someone else. So - applications to rowing - plenty I'm sure, but it leads me to thoughts about psychology - which is essentially what Madden was talking about. Athletes and Coaches give it a wide variety of importance in their training from zero - typical probably - to those who insist that at high levels very little except psychology separate crews.

A few interesting links for you to peruse: has an article on the Psychology of Rowing, based on what the author read in Modern Rowing by Paul C. Wilson (Stackpole Co.: Mechanicsburg, PA, 1969).

The article concludes with some advice for coaches:

1. The coach should avoid frightening the crew with hyperbole about how hard the workout is going to be -- such comments cause the crew to hold back their maximum effort. It is the oarsman who makes himself fit, not the coach. The motivation must come from within.

2. The coach should tell the oarsperson at the beginning of the outing the intended duration of the workout, the distance to be rowed and the distances of the intervals so that she can calculate how many meters of maximum effort will be required. In this way she can reach exhaustion at the end of the workout.

3. The coach should offer, at the beginning of a workout, an optional interval to be done on the condition that the crew feels that it can manage it. This enables the crew to bring itself to exhaustion if the workout the coach planned hasn't.

4. The coach should avoid taking the crew to the point that it has to give up. "It is pointless for a crew to row with no spirit or strength." In these conditions, technique fails and bad habits are ingrained - hanging at the catch, missing water, incorrect proportion of back and leg motion, and washing out, etc. can all result from trying to save energy. Progress is made when the crew is tired, but can still apply nearly as much power as when fresh. The psychological effect of giving up is that morale, self-esteem, and pride are destroyed. The oarsman distances himself from his performance, and becomes accustomed to giving up - even anticipates it so as to prematurely bring it on. Finally, the oarsman has learned to "crack" under pressure and psychological help may be needed to correct the problem.

This article includes links to several other rowing specific articles on psychology. Interesting reading.

Athletic Insight is an online journal that publishes sport psychology articles regularly. If you have a keen interest, this is a good resource on the web. The articles are academic, and definitely not rowing-specific. But they do cover a wide variety of topics.

Unlike many topics there don't seem to be a great deal of net resources on sports psychology. I have enjoyed some excellent books that deal with mental preparation and provide many tools for goal setting, competition and pre-competition plans and more. In a few upcoming posts I will refer to some of these tools and how you can incorporate them into your training and coaching.

Have you found good resources on the web, or elsewhere? Share them with all of the readers here in the comments section.

See Sports Psych Books at

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Welcome Problogger Readers

Thank you to all the problogger readers who have come in response to the "what I would do differently..." project. I have appreciated the comments that have been sent my way - I'll see what I can do about incorporating a few of them in the coming weeks.

New rowing post will be up tomorrow at some point - On a related note, I have had two more requests for interviews accepted in the last two days. One from C2 on the new Model E, and another from Mike Vespoli so that we can address some rowing shell technology topics. Stay tuned for more from both of them.

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New Concept 2 Model E Ergometer

I am holding this post at the top of the site as I expect many people will be excited to see it. Scroll down for new posts as they are added!

Model E Erg Rowing Indoor
Model E Erg Rowing Indoor
This is from the concept 2 message boards, posted by C2 site administrator "C2Bill":

On September 1st we will begin offering the new Model E Indoor Rower in addition to the Model D. The Model D itself is changing slightly (see the end of this post for more detail).

Concept2 Model E Indoor Rower available Sept 1 The Model E is the 5th generation of our successful Indoor Rower. It includes all the proven features of the Model D plus the additional features described below. Model E Features:

The frame is 6" higher, positioning you at a comfortable seat height
One-piece leg design for greater stability and solid feel
Nickel plated chain for low-maintenance and a clean look
Longer monitor arm makes it easier to reach the PM4
Fully enclosed chain housing for easier cleaning
Powder-coated frame is sealed with a clear top coat for extra durability.
Light metallic gray finish with dark blue-gray accents.
PM4 Performance Monitor is standard on all Model E Indoor Rowers.

PM4 Features The PM4 includes all of the features of the PM3 plus these additional features:

The PM4 has the on-board computing power to support machine to machine racing, both wireless and wired.
Built in Compatibility with Suunto heart rate technology (chest belt provided) which offers improved transmission and eliminates interference from nearby rowers.
Rechargeable battery pack is included with the PM4. As you row you will actually be recharging your battery. The battery pack can also be recharged by connecting the PM4 to a PC through the USB port.
The PM4 has increased memory capacity to allow for future expansion and features The Model E will be available for delivery September 1st, 2006. Pre-orders are being taken now.

The photo above shows the new Model D alongside the new Model E. The graphics on the D have changed slightly on the monorail and there is a new framelock and footstretcher design that makes it easier to separate the two parts for storage or transport. The new Model D, with the PM3 or the PM4, is available for delivery September 1st, 2006. Pre-orders are being taken now. The current Model D is in stock and available for immediate delivery.

There are price changes as well as a few modifications to the model D:

Model D w/PM3: available first week of August

Qty 1-4: $850.00 + shipping

Qty 5+: $800.00 + shipping

Model D w/PM4: available Sept 1

Qty 1-4: $1,000.00 + shipping

Qty 5+: $950.00 + shipping

Model E: available Sept 1

Qty 1-4: $1,200.00 + shipping

Qty 5+: $1,130.00 + shipping

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Fix this Blog!!

A great blogger's resource is who are running a group writing project - "What I'd do differently if I started my blog again." I am writing this post in response - but I am opening it up to you as well - send your comments and add to the discussion please. If you have a blog or other web resource I would be happy to link to it as well as thanks for your efforts. Let's title it - fix this blog! Be critical please - but kind, I don't have as thick a skin as I should.

So - to Fix this Blog here are the Top Six things I would do differently:

1. The blog URL is dumb - I originally planned on just doing something simple to see what blogs are all about. What could be more simple than a "daily erg workout?" The problem is twofold - who wants to erg when its 90 degrees out, and frankly - daily workouts are boring to produce (and read). I would have started out with "" I do own the domain now, and it does point to this blog (try it!) but it only redirects to the original URL so there is no help with search engines and it screws up the stats I get - you wold all look like you came from rather than where you actually were before coming to this site.

Does anyone have an easy solution? I can't afford to host it myself right now. All the pages have already been indexed on the original URL and that is what people have already bookmarked!

2. I would have started offline - or at least not publicized it. That would avoid a few issues - one, I could have let it evolove to what it has become and then two, I could start with a bunch of content already written with a better URL!

3. I'd use a three column template - still working on it, but I don't like how some things in the sidebar are pushed so far down and I really don't have the time to fiddle with the template too much.

4. I'd have found a way to get more feedback from users - so far it is limited and I know it can help improve what I'm doing! What topics are most read? I tried a few five star ratings, but nobdy used them. I'd have a form to send in ideas or requests for topics perhaps?

5. I'd have categories for posts that would be easily accessible - want to see everything on biomechanics? click here! That sort of thing. I can still do it - there's time.

6. I'm not sure I would call it a blog! I think I'd call it a site! Why? So far no luck getting the biggest resouorce on the net to link to us - because Row2K has a "no links to blogs" policy. I think this is more than a rant about my team or my life - I get their policy - but I wish it were different, because they could increrase readership with just one link!

Those are the biggest things that come to mind right now. It isn't perfect, but it is evolving and I think I like where it is going. I like the incremental changes and the growing readership. And I appreciate the feedback from those who have given it.

Do you have things to add to the list? Add comments - please!


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Dr. Mirkin on Maximum Heart Rate

I enjoy listening to, and reading articles by Dr. Gabe Mirkin who certainly doesn't pull any punches when he gives an opinion.

In this posting he lends some very interesting insight into the old 220-age formula for finding maximum heart rate. Now readers of this site should know that I would never be a fan of such a generic formula, and I know most of you are more sophisticated than this - but I love the story of where it comes from. I normally explain that the formula reflects averages and as such fits almost nobody - but to see where it really comes from - wow!

I should say that Dr. Mirkin's explanation of what drives maximum heart rate isn't too thorough either - he is an MD with a keen interest in sports but he is not a specialist or a physiologist. There is a lot more to it than leg strength!

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WEBA Sport RowX - The ultimate in on-board data?

For those of you who wish the ultimate in on-board data while rowing check out the Austrian WEBA Sport web site. Their Row-X outdoor product gives acceleration, velocity, forces at each oarlock, and heart rates. This is the sort of data available only for expensive biomechanics studies. IT is all displayed in a monitor about the size of the ergometer performance monitor. It also includes the "Expert" software package that promises "complete biomechanical analysis."

The software gives some exciting data easily - drive time, recovery time, "rhythm" - drive/recovery as a percentage. This data alone could make for some outstanding feedback from training sessions and technique work. Also force per stroke, peak force, time to peak force, even the oar angle at which you produce peak force. Want more - how about angles at the catch and the finish - and a measure of slippage - the angles at the catch and finish where you produce less than 20 Newtons of force. How about distance per stroke, or a check factor. It seems to be a gold mine of information. These are but a few of the measures - oh, yes and they are reported independently for each arm. Check out the list of data.

If you are a self-confessed rowing geek like I am, you should find this a very interesting piece of equipment.

Have any of you tried this yet? I would love to hear more. I have a call in to the WEBA reps for more details, but there is nothing like first hand information so send your comments if you have them.

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New Study on Exercise Requirements for Children

A new British study is changing the recommendations for the minimum daily exercise requirements for children. The authors, who studied children age 9-15, recommend children get a minimum of 90 minutes of exercise each day, to prevent heart disease and obesity.

This isn't strictly a rowing report - but it is interesting information in the age of video games and the internet. Parents of rowers should feel good - how many training sessions last less than 90 minutes?

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Bike or Boat - Which is the Better Value?

Are rowing shells expensive? Well, yes of course. But with the Tour de France on we decided to compare - top of the line bike with top of the line boat. An American web site lists the Canadian Cervelo Soloist Carbon at US$3400. A Canadian Hudson 8+ goes for US$25,500. That's only $2833 per person (including the coxie). Of course the boat doesn't get flats - but it also doesn't go up mountains. I wonder if the Cervelo floats?

Seriously, considering that you're getting one of the best boats in the world, and many clubs will use it for far more than 9 people - it's a pretty good deal isn't it?

Close Racing

This photo from rower's world, posted on The Angry Platypus Blog got me thinking about technique. Of course the difference in that race could be attributed to just about anything. But, whether it was the Lance Armstrong as a rower series, or the discussion of the impeller's ability to reflect intra-stroke changes in technique, no matter how we break down the science of rowing, technique always comes into play.

Let's take a 2000 m race as being about 220 strokes - more for some, less for others but there's an approximate number. What could you do to improve your technique and add one cm to the length of each stroke - just one little centimeter. How much length do you normally miss at the catch? Multiply by 220 and what do you get? 220 cm, or 2.2 meters (7.22 feet) a lot more than the race in that photo was won by. Small changes can make a big difference 2000 meters later!

Training Intensity Poll Closed

The pool "How do you set your training intensity?" is now closed. Thank you all for the fine response.

Results are as follows:

  • 38% Heart Rates

  • 28% Based on Feel

  • 16% I Just do what I'm told by my coach

  • 9% Based on lactate testing

  • 8% There is only one intensity - 100%

  • 2% I just try to keep up with my crew!

I expect that these results are indicative more of the readers who are interested in this site, than of rowers in general. I would have expected the last two to be higher up in the general rowing population. I would think that most athletes just listen to their coach. It is encouraging though that there is a core group out there - more than a third of you - who use heart rates to monitor your training.

I wonder what percentage of those who monitor with HR or lactates row in singles? It would seem to be much easier than in a crew boat - any comments?

Coming Soon - New Poll of the Week - What technology do you use in your training?

In2Rowing adds GPS to a cox box

Today we look at the cox box alternative produced by upstart company In2Rowing that includes a built in GPS receiver so that it can also provide distance and velocity measures. It is exciting to see someone trying to break into the market and provide some competition for Neilsen-Kellerman as competition breeds innovation!

Whatever your take on the GPS vs Impeller debate, it is exciting to see the velocity-distance unit combined with the cox box so that big-boat crews won't need both a cox box and a speed coach to provide all the information that they need. It is also exciting to hear that the In2Rowing gang are continuing to innovate, looking at including an accelerometer in their product. This could provide some interesting opportunities for researchers to conduct research on a fairly large scale with affordable equipment. Unfortunately the drive to innovate at In2Rowing has them continuing to push the envelope, rather than bringing a product to market. I would encourage them to get something out there!

If anyone has tried one of the handheld GPS units, you'll know how cool it is to get back from training and overlay your session on a map using the GPS software (I have used the Garmin unit). In2Rowing have perhaps one-upped them at least for coolness - as we can't evaluate the usefulness compared to Garmin's Motion-based web software- by having their sessions overlay on Google Earth! NK also has download capabilities so we will have to be careful not to get too focussedon the GPS units cool-fact and consider the usefulness of these capabilities in all units - see tomorrow's post on off-water analysis on training with the various options available to rowers. I have tried the Motion-based option with my crews, but was reminded of it by my most frequent reader and commenter "anonymous."

In2Rowing's Nathan Seidle responded to my inquiry by sending a lengthy comment:

The In2 is a funny beast. It was part of the reason I started Spark Fun Electronics ( which is now a rapidly growing electronics company. We are young, idealistic, and dumb when it comes to marketing, but we love to play with electronics.You've got a really good Blog going! Great breakdown and as far as I can read into it - a very balanced look at tech on rowing shells....

The real kicker with the In2 is that we have access to so much technology through Spark Fun, that we keep trying to pack it into the In2. First it was GPS, then data logging, then accelerometer data. We've tried hard to keep it under control but I believe we are a few weeks away from our pilot run. We already have list of 10-15 testers and inquires from enough programs to keep the heat on.There will always be the debate between GPS vs. Impeller, but we don't really mind and neither does NK. We've had a lengthy chat at HOC last year where In2's booth was opposite NK's much larger booth. Chris (I actually completely forget the name of the head marketing there) was really excited to see more competition in the field. NK felt like they always took the heat from rowers when their units broke or when their design hadn't changed in years. And after attempting to build my own water-proof (read coxswain proof) enclosure, I have nothing but the utmost respect for their bomb-like built units - they stand up really well!What we plan to offer is more technology, more data, and more ease of use. It can be the greatest widget in the world, but if no one can install it, calibrate it, or keep it stuck to the boat, customers will look elsewhere. When I was on the Univ. of Colorado crew team, we could only afford two units for our 12 shells. One coxswain always seemed to forget one of the Speedcoach units, and the other never could troubleshoot the wiring when things didn't work.Just checking in to the NK site, looks like the new Speedcoach XL3/4 went from advertising a 9 mile range down to a 1/4 mile range. They hit the same barriers we did with power output and antennas near water (horrible for range).

I don't know if his comments about the Speedcoach XL are correct or not - nor can I imagine any coach monitoring from 9 miles away - but we will have more on the XL soon direct from NK.

Coming tomorrow

Off-water workout analysis options!

Other Posts in the GPS in Rowing Series

Series Intro

The NK Position

Nolte Study

Or try the Kleshnev Straw for a low-tech solution

Rowing Biomechanics Newsletter - a new tool in the GPS vs Impeller Debate?

To go with the spirit of the GPS in Rowing series, I would like to point out another of Dr. Kleshnev's newsletters. In the April 2004 Rowing Biomechanics Newsletter he presented a simple gadget for measuring velocity - a straw on the stern of the boat! Give it a read. I think it's safe to say that GPS and Impeller both do a better job - but it wins on price! In fact it also beats GPS in a current.


Volker Nolte Study on GPS vs Impeller for NK

We seem to have hit something with this series, with today being a record day for readers - double the previous day. More importantly, we have some impassioned comments - all from GPS users, but replied to by NK! Any passionate stroke coach users out there?

As promised for today I present the study by Volker Nolte as published in the NK 2005 Catalog. I hope that they don't mind this copy as I have no way to host their catalog - I would be happy to provide a proper link to the full catalog if it becomes available.

First my comments after reading the study.

Dr. Nolte's comments are presented quite clearly. A few points though to highlight:

GPS calibration is automatic. The Speedcoach calibration requires a known distance. If you don't have one - how will you create one accurately?

The accuracy measures suggest that for a few strokes with the GPS off by 1-15 m it will be extremely inaccurate, but it is also 1-15 m off for ANY distance. The impeller though is listed as 1-2% off for any distance. For a 2000 m course then, assuming only 1% error it is off by 20 m. The GPS would seem to do a better job, and gets even better as the distances get longer. NK seems to understand this though (see yesterday's post for the hint at combining the two technologies).

It is widely reported that on a body of water with a current the GPS will be wrong - which basically means that the satellite will see a boat that is stopped, but sitting in a current, as moving. The impeller though won't move while sitting still in a current. I would think that for distances this is in favour of the GPS - rowing courses do not change their length based on a current. Nolte would seem to agree, as under GPS, with current, he lists the measurement of distance over ground as a positive.

What the reports of current vs. still water do report correctly is the registered velocity - sit still in a current and the impeller reports zero velocity - which is what you would want if you use velocities to indicate training intensities. The GPS does not accurately report what you are accomplishing as an athlete with respect to velocity.

If all you care about is average pace for training intensity - again, each unit has its strengths. In still water the GPS would seem to win - but in a current the impeller wins - though again, it needs to be calibrated.

What most reports seem to rely on to discourage the use of the GPS is the rate of reporting. If the impeller can report at around 100 Hz an athlete can see virtually instantly how their technique affects their velocity. As a feedback mechanism for technique this is vastly superior to the GPS, which reports only once every second. The GPS then is only good for AVERAGE pace or velocity, not INSTANTANEOUS.

Garmin who have a considerable share of the handheld GPS market have agreed to an interview and I hope to have them address some of these concerns. NK will also be providing more information, so stay tuned for more.

Nolte's Study follows:


With emerging technology and affordability of GPS, coaches and rowers often ask why NK's speed measurements still rely on an impeller. Below is a recent article written by Dr.Volker Nolte, an expert on biomechanics as well as internationally accomplished coach and rower, comparing GPS and Impeller based speed measurements:

Thanks to the improvements in technology, it is now possible to give rowers invaluable feedback about their performance in the boat. Electronics developed at a pace that was unthinkable a few years ago measures time and distance with minuscule sensors and computer chips. The computer then calculates related quantities like stroke rate and speed, displays it on monitors and still is small and light enough to be used in a racing shell without any measurable influence on the performance of the rower. Therefore, it is understandable that more and more rowers
utilize such equipment.

Rowers use electronic feedback equipment to direct their training towards very specific, but different goals. High performance athletes want to control their training intensity to gain the desired fitness improvements in the most effective way and look for feedback during their races. Recreational rowers need information to direct their power output for health reasons. Researchers use training and race data to analyze performances for physiological, biomechanical and strategy studies.

For each of these tasks, it is critically important that the feedback one receives from the equipment is correct. The electronics provide indicators that potentially have very serious and important consequences for the rower. In case of incorrect data feedback, athletes may choose inappropriate intensities that do not lead to improvements, or even put the athletes' health at risk. Obviously, researchers need proper data to interpret their findings correctly.

Therefore, it is very important for any user to know exactly which data the respective equipment provides. In general, two different methods are currently utilized to measure the quantities mentioned above: Impeller and GPS.

Impeller measurement is based on the principle that the water sets it in a motion that corresponds with the speed of the boat that it is attached to. The motion of the impeller is directly dependent from the flow of the water relative to the boat. This means that the movement of the boat relative to the water is measured. Sensors in the boat record the spinning of the impeller to calculate the required data.

Global Position Systems (GPS) measure the position of the receiver as a place on the earth's surface. If the receiver is connected with the boat, GPS is able to track its movement and can calculate various data from that. This means that the movement of the boat relative to the ground is measured. Below, you find a comparison of the two measurement systems.

(Data from tables presented as photos - click on image to see original size.)

In conclusion:

Despite its very simple usage, GPS systems have to be operated with care. The information generated by GPS is potentially extremely inaccurate, especially when used on a body of water with current. Used without consideration of this fact, the training feedback could harm an athlete's development or even health.

The impeller system, however, clearly shows advantages when calibrated properly. When not calibrated, the impeller system will still show accurate, corresponding changes in speed.

Interview with Dr. Valery Kleshnev of the Biomechanics Newsletter

Today we also are fortunate to present an interview with Dr. Valery Kleshnev.

A few days ago, I introduced blog readers to the Rowing Biomechanics Newsletter published by Dr. Valery Kleshnev, and highlighted the current issue. I have been in touch with Dr. Kleshnev this week and he was kind enough to give an interview to give some context and background for his Newsletters.

[Rowing Science]: Can you tell us a bit about your background? I believe I first discovered your work through the AIS and I see that you are now in Great Britain. How did you get started with Rowing Biomechanics?

[V. Kleshnev]: I was international level rower between 1975 and 1986. My main achievements are: Gold on FISA junior champ in 1975, silver on 1980 Olympics and bronze on 1982 Worlds (all in 4x). I was graduated from St.Petersburg sport uni in 1984 and defended my Ph.D thesis in 1991. From 1986 I worked in St.Petersburg sport research institute and provided support for National and city teams in rowing. Biomechanics was my main area of interest. In 1998 I got a job of rowing biomechanist and moved to AIS. I really enjoyed work with Australian coaches and rowers, which are ones of the best in the world. Since 2005 I work in EIS as a National Biomechanics lead. Rowing is still in main focus of my interests.

[Rowing Science]: Do you have a main area of research today, within rowing biomechanics?

[V. Kleshnev]: The spectrum of my interests is quite broad: from blade hydrodynamics till muscle efficiency. In near future I'm going to look closer on rigging issues and boat setup.

[Rowing Science]: What was your motivation in starting the Newsletter? Am I correct that you are trying to focus on key topics that are accessible to all readers, not just scientists?

[V. Kleshnev]: Scientific papers in special journals are good for scientists, but very often they are difficult to understand for coaches. Papers have to have a standard format and it is time consuming to write them and correspond with reviewers. As a practical scientist I didn't have time to do it. Therefore, in 2001 I've decided to create my own publication, which has higher efficiency of transfer of information and knowledge to coaches.

Another important purpose was necessity of receiving feedback from coaches. Some scientists work in this way: they research something, which is interesting for them or currently "fashionable" and then look for practical application. Quite often this sort of research has no practical meaning or even negative impact. Feedbacks from coaches allow me to do research, which is "coach driven" and can be directly applied into practice.

[Rowing Science]: Why did you make it freely available to all nations, when presumably you are employed by one country to make their athletes faster?

[V. Kleshnev]: Firstly, science has international nature. It is not possible to make significant progress if you work in isolation. Therefore, scientists have to exchange information, which they usually do in journals, conferences and on Internet. All these sources are internationally available.

Secondly, the wider feedback from coaches -- the more research ideas I can pick up and use them for my practical work. It is naive to think that I publish all my findings.

[Rowing Science]: Do you have any particular articles that you are most proud of - that you would like to draw special attention to?

[V. Kleshnev]: I'm really proud of my theory of rowing temporal structure-- micro-phases of the drive (RBN 2004/1-2). I was able to explain things, which nobody explains before: character of the boat acceleration curve and why some athletes faster in the boat than on ergo.

(RS - for this publication see: RBN 2004/1 and RBN 2004/2

[Rowing Science]: There are many styles of rowing around the world and many say that "as long as we all do the same thing, we can go fast" I was particularly impressed by the openness of Kip McDaniel who has moved from Harvard, to Cambridge and now the Canadian National Team in this regard (posted on his weblog at the Rowing News site). Yet, does your research not in some ways aim to find the "optimal" style - something your latest newsletter on front loading the drive might suggest?

[V. Kleshnev]: Obviously, any research should aim making things better. However, for a number of reasons (subjectivity, statistical misinterpretation, inadequate modeling, etc.) there are researches, which play negative role for practice. I always try to be objective and use co-called "common sense" in my research. I'm not a blind fanatic of one of the styles, but I try to find and show some evidence, which explain why one style is better than another. However, every rower is made of different bones, tissues and brain. So, something could be good for one rower, but another style is better for another rower.

[Rowing Science]: Is there one thing that stands out in your research that you wish more coaches and athletes would implement?

[V. Kleshnev]: In my publications I try to encourage coaches to think more and use more intelligent methods of training. So, the things I wish more coaches and athletes would implement are knowledge and "common sense".

[Rowing Science]: Is there anything else you would like to comment on?

[V. Kleshnev]: I'd like to remind to coaches and scientists about their responsibility for athletes' carrier. If coach has no time or wish to develop his knowledge, then he should realize that his mistakes would cost years of athlete's hard work wasted for nothing. The same can be applied to scientists, whose misleading conclusions could be very expensive for athletes and coaches.

I would like to thank Dr. Kleshnev for his generous contribution to the Rowing Science Weblog. I will continue to include postings that highlight his work in the future. As a reminder, those who sign up for the Rowing Science Newsletter will get e-mail links to all future issues of the biomechanics newsletter delivered right to their inbox.

If you enjoyed this post or other information on the site, subscribe to the Rowing Science Newsletter for regular updates and exclusive insider information for subscribers only.

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GPS in Rowing - the Neilsen-Kellerman Position

This is the second posting in the series on GPS in rowing.

Frank Biller is charge of World Sales of Watersport and Timing Instruments for Nielsen-Kellerman (NK) and also happens to frequent the Rowers World Forum, was kind enough to offer some comments on behalf of NK for this series. In his comments he refers to "the study" by Volker Nolte. I will post some comments about the study in the next few days.

"...I am more on the user side than the development. However, being a small company and having long background in the sport, I do a fair amount of development as well.

GPS would be great, for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, the technology is not accurate enough for speed measuring of boats (rowing and paddling). Perhaps in the future there will be a solution that is affordable and more useful. In addition, no matter how high the signal frequency, it does not eliminate the "current issue" when rowing on water with current (which by the way includes many lakes as well).

...I think the study gives you a great overview on why we don't use and recommend GPS. Perhaps in the future we may incorporate it with the impeller for a combination, e.g. speed measurement with impeller, distance measurement with GPS on standing water, as well as a calibration routine that runs in the background. But then again, we are in a budget tight sport, and costs go up very fast.

The impeller is truly a great method for measuring boat speed versus the water. Depending on the speed of the hull it measures the speed around 100 times per stroke and averages the measurements exactly per stroke and displays it as such. Due to high variance in speed throughout the stroke this is important, as single readings do not provide much useful information. In addition, it's cheap, easy to install, produces very minimal drag (0.2 % in a single, less in bigger boats) and is being used by almost every top crew internationally."

This seems to sum up NK's position nicely, and I'm thankful that Frank was kind enough to offer his thoughts. It is intriguing to think of a combination device that includes GPS and the impeller - did Frank let some development work slip, or is this just wishful thinking? I have also been granted an interview with one of the NK developers and I should be able to follow up soon with more details on this posting and more. I have some plans for that interview that don't relate to the GPS question - but I'll keep that one quiet for now and just suggest that you stay tuned for more exciting things soon.

I would encourage readers to look at the comments for yesterdays post which include some interesting thoughts from experienced, and enthusiastic, GPS using rowers. I will include some of them in the summary posting for the series.

New Series - GPS in Rowing

Today I present an introduction to the next series in the Blog - The use of using GPS in rowing. I have noticed more and more coaches putting their hand held GPS receivers in with their crews to see what information it can give them. People are excited about getting velocity and distance data and being able to log their workouts for later display on their computers. They use it to give feedback on technique changes and more. In a slightly different role, many a coach has used their GPS units to lay out courses for training, racing and time-trialing.

GPS has the reputation amongst the general public of being incredibly accurate - after all, it can pinpoint your position anywhere on the planet. But is it really that accurate? How useful is it in rowing? How does it compare to the more accepted impeller on the NK SpeedCoach, in terms of accuracy, and general features for coaches? How useful is it for laying out a course?

If you patrol the various message boards for rowers you will quickly see some of the benefits of GPS - the units record every second of the workout for later downloading, velocity and distance measurements are available without adding a speed coach to the boat, no impeller is required on the hull, measurements are relative to land so distances are not affected by currents. On the other hand, you will also see many criticisms, most notably that the GPS is in fact not all that accurate (up to 15 m off for a single position), it ONLY records every second so changes within a single stroke can't be seen, it does not measure relative to water so velocity measurements will be affected by currents and more. We will examine these in some detail during this series of posts.

I was kindly given an 2005 Nielsen Kellerman (NK) catalogue by reader Frank Biller who is the Nielsen Kellerman Head of World Sales for watersports and timing instruments. This catalogue included a paper by Dr. Volker Nolte comparing GPS with the NK impeller. Dr. Nolte most of you will know as the editor of Rowing Faster; he is one of the most well-respected experts on the biomechanics of rowing. The findings in this paper will be presented in one of the next posts in this series.

Mr. Biller was also kind enough on behalf of NK to do a brief interview about why they don't currently use GPS in their systems, and the possibility of using it in the future. Look for the interview in another upcoming post.

Finally, In2Rowing is developing an alternative to the NK Cox Box that has GPS built in. It looks like an intriguing product. It includes 256 MB of memory to record workouts that can later be downloaded and overlaid on Google Earth Maps! I have invited them to do an interview as well for publication. I hope to have something soon, but will present something on this product regardless soon as well.

There is much to examine in this series, and along the way I will include a few other topics that come up so that those of you who are not excited about GPS have something to look forward to as well. In the meantime who out there has tried GPS in a boat? Are there any heavy users of the SpeedCoach who may have innovative ways of using it?

Please share your experiences with us in the comments or e-mail me.

Sodium Bicarbonate Loading in Rowing

I came across an excellent review, including comments by the sport scientists who reviewed the article, at the Web Site today on Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) as an ergogenic aid. This is commonly called "soda-loading" and involves ingesting a fairly significant quantity of baking soda in water an hour or so before an event. The alkaline bicarbonate ion is believed to buffer the acid produced by anaerobic exercise. The authors note that, "There are sufficient data to suggest that buffering agents can improve performances in such events as the 400-m sprint, 1-km cycling time trial, and Olympic rowing." Admittedly, the article is almost ten years old, but it does provide interesting reading. If anyone has experience with this, or knows of more recent work in the area please add your comments!

"...There are sufficient data to suggest that buffering agents...can improve performances in...Olympic rowing."

The article details many studies and some impressive improvements in performance in events lasting as long as an hour. In fact, in international events the benefits may be equivalent to a good taper, and could gives enough of a benefit to put an athlete into the medals. It should be noted though that it also potentially comes at a price - serious gastrointestinal problems for some, not to mention the ethical question of using a substance in abnormal quantities just to enhance performance.

Reading Matthew Pinsent's excellent book, A Lifetime in a Race, I was a somewhat surprised to see him write that two of his teammates in the GB four in Atlanta (not certain but I know it was an Olympic final) were soda-loading before the race. The fact that they did it is testimony to the belief amongst elite rowers that it works. The fact that they didn't all do it though also is a comment on the possible problems I would suggest.

I did try this for one erg test as a university student years ago, out of curiosity. I came away feeling that it had given me a false sense of security and that I had gone out far too hard as a result. I didn't ever try it again, but more testing might have helped me find a way to make it more useful.


Matthew Pinsent - A Lifetime in a Race (

Neutralize Acid to Enhance Performance, L R Mc Naughton, B. Dalton, J. Tarr, D. Buck; September, 1997;

Dr. Stephen Seiler Weighs in on Lance Armstrong as a Rower

Dr. Stephen Seiler is one of the leading sport scientists today whose research takes a strong interest in rowing. I have cited his web site here frequently. Recently, he was kind enough to respond to my request for a one question interview on this topic: "what if Lance Armstrong were a rower?"

His very interesting response follows:

Sure , that is a typical kind of "comparative physiology question" that is interesting.I have followed Lance and the Tour for years, so I have a good idea of his specific capacity and his "numbers".

Rowing differs from cycling in a number of ways. In rowing, because the athlete's weight is supported, the expression of aerobic capacity is more relevant when made in absolute terms (or actually scaled in relation to body mass raised to the 0.75 power) and not VO2 per kg. Lance comes out less dominating here because of his lower body mass, and lower absolute capacity.

Secondly, rowing selects for a tall athlete with a relatively long torso and longish arms. Armstrong was pretty average anthropometrically, even if he was biggish for a cyclist. Even the lightweights are quite tall relative to their body mass. In fact lightweight rowers seem to be an extremely homogenous group anthropometrically. The combination of aweight limit and the advantage of being tall seems to carve out elite lightweights with almost cookie cutter similarity. Armstrong would have come up light (and short) as a heavyweight and short as a lightweight.

...Lance has a GREAT engine for sure, but my educated guess is that he would not have been nearly as dominant in rowing....

So, Lance has a GREAT engine for sure, but my educated guess is that he would not have been nearly as dominant in rowing. I am sure he could have been a very good lightweight, but there is no guarantee he would have been a world champion.

Along these same lines, there have been examples of very good Kenyan runners trying (for several years) to develop as cross country skiers. They have been awful. Despite their big per kg capacity, they are just too weak and naturally small in the upper body and probably the legs as well to perform well as XC skiers.

And, in general we have to recognize that at the really high levels of performance, body build, inherent motor skills, and lots of other details can go a long way in determining which sport an athlete is most likely to excel in. Lance made the right choice with cycling.

I gave a lecture on 150 years of developments in rowing and the science of rowing faster recently. I will soon be making the PowerPoint presentation available at, so stay tuned there if you are in to rowing.

regards,Stephen Seiler

Stephen Seiler Ph.D FACSM
Associate Professor
Faculty of Health and SportService
box 422 Agder Universiy College
4604 Kristiansand, Norway

Warm-ups blog link

Check out this article on the Fletcher Sport Science Web Site about warming up.

It adds value to my original post, and I appreciate how the author bases his words on published evidence.

Far too many athletes test and race without proper warm ups - and it clearly affects their performances.

More on Armstrong versus Rowers

For a while it seemed that the Lance Armstrong as rower discussion was behind us, but I couldn't resist biting when I saw a comment over on the Concept 2 message board. Some good points are raised, but unless my information is wrong, the suggestion that Lance has a "relatively low VO2 max, and abysmal anaerobic capacity."

I will agree with Mr. Henrik's concerns about comparing the two sports - he makes good points. And the concern about Lance's physical proportions translating to rowing are also well founded. And comparing rowing and cycling values of Vo@ and thresholds are a bitr of an apples and oranges debate, but suggesting Lance has a low VO2 and "abysmal" anaerobic capacity seem a bit harsh.

The Sports Injury Bulletin site notes Lance's VO2 max is 83.8 ml/kg/min which as a relative number is excellent, and as an absolute number - which some would suggest is more relevant to rowing since there is less an effect of having to carry your weight around as in cycling up mountains - it works out to 6.285 L/min - also not bad compared even to your average heavyweight rower.

Not one to just believe anyting written on the web I looked for published evidence and found it. I would encourage you to read this article from the Journal of Applied Physiology - arguably the most prestigious scientific journal where sports scientists publish their work. The article is by Dr. Ed Coyle of the University of Texas who has tested Armstrong for years, and is summarized in some very accessible language here.

Coyle notes Lance's VO2max ranges between 75-85 ml/kg/min and as an absolute number it works out to around 6 L/min. He also reports a lactate threshold of 4.5-4.7 L/min in the 1992-1993 season. No values are reported from more recent tests.

Also, Dr. Fred Hagerman, one of the most well-known rowing researchers in his 1984 paper reports the VO2 max of "elite oarsmen" to be "6.1 +/- 0.6 L/min", and he also reports values of 6.25 L/min for the 1992 US Olympic team as seen on Stephen Seiler's site - all values similar to Armstrong. As Armstrong is much lighter than your average heavyweight rower his VO2 max when corrected for bodyweight at 83.8 ,is much greater than the 70.9 reported for the US Olympic rowers.

Of course it is also well-known that the VO2 max recorded will vary between sports so we are comparing apples to oranges here to some degree. It is also true that VO2 max is but a small piece of the puzzle in performance. What about anaerobic threshold?

VO2 at anaerobic threshold was reported at 85% of VO2max in rowers (Steinacker J M (1993), Physiological aspects of training in rowing. International Journal of Sports Medicine.14(Suppl 1):3-10). Lance's comes out at 77% of VO2 max - but this too is a bit of apples and oranges, partly due to the cycling vs. rowing issue as well. Also we have the problem that this percentage for rowers was not from elite rowers - those with a much higher VO2 max may not have the same high lactate threshold percentage. In fact, one striking example of lactate percentage not being all it's cracked up to be is from another study by Coyle that found that trained patients with ischemic heart disease can have thresholds at close to 100% of their (admittedly small) VO2 max (Journal of Applied Physiology, 54:18, 1983). Even if you accept the comparison and put Lance below most rowers, his anaerobic threshold is hardly "abysmal."

I'm sure there is far more to the discussion - please add your comments as we all learn from examining the topic. I would be interested in more information from Mr. Henrik. He actually mentioned Lance's anaerobic "capacity" which is a different thing from threshold - where did this data come from?

Rowing Biomechanics Newsletter June 2006

Many people out there are familiar with the Rowing Biomechanics Newsletters. Casually surfing the net you are likely to bump into them in all sorts of places.

Their author, noted rowing and general sports biomechanist Dr. Valery Kleshnev, maintains a web site where he makes the newsletters publicly available. In fact, he grants permission to copy and send them to anyone as long as you credit him as the source. If you would like to receive these newsletters, sign up for the Rowing Science Newsletter and you will automatically receive notification of each issue in your inbox!

As of the June 2006 newsletter Dr. Kleshnev is up to issue 63 -quite an impressive repository of information for coaches and athletes.

The June 2006 issue answers the question: "Why is a front loaded force curve more efficient?" or in layman's terms - why should you lengthen the catch, even though common teaching says it is inefficient and "pinches" the boat.

The answer is split into two parts - why a long catch is not a waste of energy and why the front loaded drive is more efficient.

His answers are essentially that a) no energy is wasted with a long catch - but it does produce a heavier oar gearing and b) the front loaded drive while producing the same total amount of force and power does it with a more even power distribution - the back loaded drive requires double the peak power to maintain the same total power.

Another interesting comment is that this difference is not as apparent on the erg - a back end loaded drive is more likely to be successful on the erg.

Check out this issue and others on the web site and don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to receive notification when they come out.

Blog Link

While not the way we'd like to see it done, the East Germans were a sport science superpower. This blog post raises the question about the Chinese, possibly being the new East Germans.

First Light: The Next Great Rowing Superpower?

Are you using the right tools? Funny rowing video.

An amusing commercial for Craftsman tools on the video site Veoh.

The preview in easy to see - you have to download their software to see the full version - not worth the trouble as the resolution isn't that much better.

The Decline of Sports Science in the USA?

A few readers raised the question as to why more rowers don't make use of sport science testing and exercise prescription. With that in mind, I stumbled upon this interesting article titled "The Downfall Of Sports Science In The United States" reprinted from Strength and Conditioning Journal (April 2004) Volume 26,Number 2, pages 72-75 in the US Olympic Coach E-Magazine.

The authors argue that, "sports-science training does not occur on a systematic basis in the United States" and that this will, "result in increased rates of injury, unpredictable and unstable sports performances, and poorer competitive standings for U.S. athletes in the world."

It certainly doesn't answer the question, but they do pose interesting points. I was trained in "exercise science" but it had such a firm research slant to our program that work that would translate to actual sport performance was few and far between - presumably because there is little money in research available for sports specific work. I didn't get much training until I gained one of the USOC internships that they mention (and criticize somewhat) in the article.

Rowing in Canada Science and Technology Museum

As we like to think a bit about science I thought I'd mention this link for the Canada Science and Technology Museum with a bit about Canadian rowing.

Who would you like to see rowing? Poll Closed

The poll we have been running for a while has now closed. Readers prefered the folloing in the question: "Who would you like to see row?"

Lance Armstrong: 45%
Oprah: 19%
Yao Ming 19%
Michelle Wie 13%
David Beckham: 3%
Tiger Woods: 0%

Interestingly, one reader pointed out that Lance did try to learn to row a single, but gave up after two flips. Zeno Muller also pointed out that Tiger does row! I'm assuming on the erg only?

A new poll is now active - lend your opinion please!

Using Heart Rate for Finding Training Intensities

A few resources on using heart rates for training.

There is an excellent and comprehensive article at PP Online in the UK.

Polar has a substantial guide on finding your max HR. It also includes a good deal of information about max HR. In it they mention, amongst other things:

Max HR is genetically determined; in other words, you're born with it.
Max HR
does not reflect your level of fitness.
Max HR
is sensitive to certain variables such as altitude, drugs, medication.
Max HR
cannot be increased by training.
Max HR
does not decline with age.
Max HR
tends to be higher in women than men.
Max HRs
that are high do not predict better athletic performance.
Max HR
cannot be accurately predicted by any mathematic formula.
Max HR
does not vary from day to day, but it is test-day sensitive.
Max HR
testing requires the person to be fully rested.
Max HR
testing needs to be done multiple times to determine the exact number.

Chris Carmichael in his book "the Ultimate Ride" notes that based on his experience, he uses an average heart rate as collected in an eight minute test for assigning training zones. He feels that an average rate on a maximal test better reflects what the body is doing than any momentary maximal value that might only be reached for a few seconds. It is difficult to translate his experience to rowing, so I only mention this for interest. However, given that he works with an eight minute test it does leave you wondering if useful information could be determined in a 2000 m erg test.

Most training systems also used HR to prescribe zones. For example in the training "bands" presented on the Concept 2 site.

A few thoughts:

All the debate and research would understandably leave one thinking that if you go out and buy a HR monitor you will quickly have access to very precise training intensities. While it is interesting, and clearly provides a better guideline than just guesswork for most athletes, I would argue that there is still a huge variability component. This is why elite athletes look to the more precise testing that is available to them. Consider this:

From PPOnline article:

"For Joe, with his HR max at 190 bpm, using Swain et al, his target HR range is 143-168 bpm, ..."

These researchers are trying to find a formula that will predict based on simple to find values (e.g. age, or max HR) something more complex and harder to find (percent of VO2max). Essentially, they are finding an average that does a good job, but does not predict perfectly for almost anyone.

Now, this is a huge this case a range of 25 bpm to stay in an aerobic training zone.

There is a thread of discussion over at the Concept 2 Forum, including this interesting excel plot of one poster's data (click on it for a better view). I think it nicely illustrates my point. This athlete has a maxHR on the erg of approximately 190 BPM, like Joe above. Looking at this athlete's lactate data, the entire range (143-168) falls below his 2 mmol threshold. Not bad - but not nearly as precise as it could be. It also doesn't ever kick into the aerobic training zone above 2 mmol and below 4 mmol.

Based on the Concept 2 bands this athlete's UT2 band would be between 105 and 133 BPM (55-70% of maxHR) and the UT1 band would be between 133 and 152 BPM (70-80% of max HR). We can see from the lactate data though that both bands are well below the 2 mmol value which occurs at 173 BPM.

This may be a reflection of this athlete's well-trained state. Max HR does not change with training, but the lactate threshold certainly does this case to the point of shifting his real training zones well beyond those prescribed by a simple HR prediction.

I do not suggest that these results for one individual makes HR training wrong! That would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater so to speak. I'm just illustrating what athletes look to more precise testing.