Thoughts on cycling’s new automatically adapting training plan and how it could be done for Rowers

Anyone who is following developments in the cycling world over the last few years will know that there are a number of cheap/easy to use automated training plans for cycling that were set up based on your FTP (functional threshold power). FTP  is described as the maximum power that you can maintain for an hour of work which in cycling it was found that this was 95% of the maximum power you could do for 20 mins, so many sites built up training plans/bands using this idea – this was always hard to relate across to rowing because the ratio of “FTP” to 20mins is very different in rowing, there is no way I could maintain 95% of my 20min test power for an hour! This made it hard to use a site set up to automatically recommend a training plan as they are often the cheapest/easiest for people who are uncoached to get access to a training plan that is adapted to their own weaknesses.

Recently however several sites have started to talk about the fact that you are “more than your FTP” – recognizing that FTP isn’t the only part of your fitness profile, and so companies like of Xert and Sufferfest’s have begun to focus on the whole range of your fitness profile. Xert are doing this by analysing your training data and adjusting your training on the fly to ensure you are working out efficiently (read about it here, its very cool) but more interestingly in relating to rowing is how sufferfest are impletmenting the post FTP era by having you do a “Full Frontal” training plan where you do multiple tests in order to map out your profile and then comparing it to “ideals” it then adjusts your training plan to focus on your weaknesses

How does this cross over to rowing? Well a Danish Researcher Kurt Jensen has previously modeled the rowing “Golden curve” using data from the Danish National Squad which demonstrated the ideal relationship between the following tests:

jensen

  • 10 second all out average power wattage was 173% of the 2k average power
  • 60 seconds all out was 153% of the 2k average power wattage.
  • 6k power was 85% of 2k average power
  • 60 minute ‘hour of power’ average power wattage was 76% of 2k average power

This curve demonstrates what you should be hitting for each of the tests, if you are lower than one of the numbers then you know that that is an area where you need to improve (there are more details and a neat calculator here). If you read through the link to the Sufferfest Full Frontal you will notice that this is very similar to the types of test that Jensens curve was recommending.

With this in mind its easy to see how a rowing test methodology could be set up an automated training plan using Jensens Curve theory. Each rower would start with an average training plan using Polarised Training method (80:20 aerobic to  High Intensity), but that would be automatically adjusted following the Jensen Tests to cater for the rowers individual area of weakness – i.e. if their 10 second power was down then more max watts workouts would be included, if their 60 min average wattage was down then the amount of Aerobic training would be increased. Tests could be set to be repeated every 2-3 months to reset the training to your areas of weakness – this idea is already used by the Australian squads testing protocol in parallel to the lactate testing as a cheaper/less time intensive way of testing more frequently, so it is known to work and so all that would be needed would be a way to automate this process on a site.

In theory then this would be one way of a site to be set up to give rowers a cost effective way of setting their own training plans that can automatically update over time as your fitness changes and target your own specific weaknesses over time.

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Posted in Biomechanics, Training | 4 Comments

Rowperfect – connecting a tablet and how to upload your workouts to rowsandall/strava/TrainingPeaks

The Rowperfect was the first (and arguably still the best) Dynamic ergo available to rowers, unlike the more common “static” ergo like the standard Concept 2 with a seat that is free to move on a slide, a Dynamic ergo has both a seat and also the flywheel free to move on a slide, something that brings an additional technical aspect into using one and exercises not only your cardiovascular system but also your technique and muscle memory as if you try and row the rowperfect without good sequencing of the body of the stroke you’ll end up clanging into one end of the slide!

First of all the most important thing to get with your rowperfect is the computer adapter which allows you to connect a tablet and android app to the rowperfect, this increases the usability 100,000% as it allows you to set workouts, connect a HR monitor and also see your force curve and other metrix (like power, energy per stroke etc) live while you are rowing. The computer connector is available from RowWare for the original rowperfect and RP3

Once installed you also need to have an android device – any will do but I find the ideal screen size to be an 8” tablet – any that has USG OTG should work, I have a Lenovo tab which works fine (excuse the crack, the tablet still works despite that)

The cable needs a fat “printer” style USB B like the one in the photo to a micro USB to connect the adapter to the tablet

The RP3 has an official mount which you can buy, and for the Rowperfect I used a grip mount which works well although I am sure there are other options

You’re all set!

Now a downside to the RP in relation to the concept 2 is that C2 have made great strides into making it easier to log, download and share your workouts on training sites like TrainingPeaks, Strava etc and unfortunately the RP3 app doesn’t natively support that – however there is a way to share the workouts if you go through rowsandall and pleasingly it is all possible via mobile so you don’t need to fire up a PC.

So to summarise what you will be doing, you will be emailing the workout from the app to Rowsandall, then in Rowsandall you will be exporting it to the site of choice (strava/TP ect) – a little bit of a faff but it works well with those sites recognising the cadence/rate, heart rate and power.

Firstly email the workout CSV to yourself which will email you a link which you can click on to download the workout CSV

Then save it to dropbox

Then email the workout to workouts@rowsandall.com making sure to send from the same email address that you are registered to the site with

And then in Rowsandall your workout is ready! You can review the workout in detail here, and also export it to strava/trainingpeaks etc using the “export” button to the services you have linked

A few too many steps really, mostly because there doesn’t seem to be a way to download and email the CSV directly from within the app (otherwise you could just email it directly to rowsandall from the app), however its good that it does work as it makes it easier to track the rowperfect workouts in your training log of choice.

It’s great to have this feature as it makes it easier to track all your workouts in your logging site of choice, in future it would be excellent if rowsandall allowed more detailed analysis of your power curve like you can with the NK empower gate, and if rowperfect updates their app to export to rowsandall directly

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Testing two singles using the NK Empower Oarlock

Thought this might be of interest, this weekend I ran a comparison between two singles using the NK Empower gate and I thought people might find it useful to see the data collected in the test – to avoid any bias and to keep the focus on the data I have avoided naming the two brands used.

The format of my test was to do a loop 4k on the Henley Course doing a 1000m piece downstream at around rate 20 followed by a 1min piece at 32. I then switched into the second boat – I used the same set of blades in all tests and made sure both boats had the same rigger span, and that when switching the gate over kept it on the same side (bowside) and calibrated once I had switched.

The conditions were good with only a little stream, although it must be noted that a slight wind picked up for the pieces in boat 2 – the wind was blowing downstream making it a tailwind for the 1000m piece and headwind for the 1min

Boat 1 – 1000m piece

Average rate –  20.86spm

Power – 263.40 watts

Catch – 67 degrees

Finish – 46 degrees

Effective length – 98.7 degrees

Peak Force Angle – 22.11

Pace – 2:00

 

Boat 2 – 1000m

Average rate – 20.25

Power – 279.45

Catch – 74.38

Finish – 42.89

Effective length – 101.57

Peak Force Angle – 22.37

Pace – 2:01

 

Boat 1 – 1min piece

Average rate – 32.62

Power – 413

Catch – 66.60

Finish – 43.75

Effective Length – 96.48

Peak Force Angle – 30.81

Distance – 264m

 

Boat 2 – 1 min piece

Average rate – 33.31

Power – 453.88

Catch – 70.76

Finish – 40.68

Effective length – 97.02

Peak Force Angle – 30.19

Distance – 254m

 

Although I think the results were skewed a little by the wind (particularly in the 1min piece I think), I think in general it looks like Boat 1 has done better in the tests. Despite shorter drive lengths and lower average power it was still the faster in both the 1000m and 1min tests.

Interesting that despite significantly different catch and finish angles between the boats the peak force angle was the same when at the same rate?

 

Below are a couple of graphs from rowsandall comparing the data

bokeh_plot

 

bokeh_plot (2)

Posted in Biomechanics | 4 Comments

NK updates their calibration tool

Over Henley Royal I found out that NK had updated their calibration tool, basically to make it considerably more durable than the original one, which as I was already on my second one (which I had also broken) was great news!

The photos below compare the old (left) with the new, you can see that the A,B,C,D markers are all in the same location but that rather than the original thin plastic they have now thickened the plastic throughout so the new tool should be hardier

Good to see continued innovation and support of users with small tweaks like this to make the product more durable, I was getting worried I might start spending a fortune on the original ones!

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Autofollow Drone and sculling

I have already shared this video on social media, but felt it is worth writing a short post about as well.

Before I start talking about using a Drone, I will say make sure to check you local laws on drone usage, and also emphasise to err on the side of caution – Personally I always go out of the way to make sure I don’t film anyone else (these were filmed at stupid o clock before anyone was awake) – to be safe the smartphone controller is on a mount on my usual NK strokecoach mount meaning I can quickly stop and take control if I think I need to

The Bebop 2 is actually an “older” drone (there are several more modern ones out there like the DJI Mavik for example) but what the bebop does have going for it is good third party development support which has ended up meaning there are a number of smartphone apps that add a number of additional features that the official app does not – and the app I used for this video (Bebop Pro) is one good example of this as it adds a number of features like VR support and follow/track me.

Drones  are excellent at getting unique footage, and there are countless videos now of rowing squads using them – but they are always launched and controlled by someone on a launch/on the bank and being a single sculler I had neither of those options, so I had wondered about using a follow me function to get the outcome I wanted.

The Follow me feature is pretty standard and is usually what I ended up using for the following shots – basically it tells the drone to just follow behind and it is as easy to start as launching the drone, getting it into position and then pressing the button (note you have to be within 25m for it to work) – it doesn’t matter if the drone isn’t directly behind you when you start the drone will eventually take up position behind you

Track me is slightly different in that the standard track me keeps the drone in the same relative position, so if the drone is infront of you when you press track me – it will try an stay there – this is what I used for the other type of shots – it is also possible to pan the shot as well where you can set a speed and the drone slowly pans around keeping you in shot.

Another note – the bebop 2 doesn’t have collision avoidance, so it will quite happily fly into a tree if it gets the chance! So you need to keep an eye on it.

I am very happy with the video and think the Bebop 2 and app is a great option for drone footage – however just to note that the follow me feature does use the battery power very quickly (I suspect due to the fact it is trying to follow the surge and slow of the boat through the stroke) and, as mentioned, it doesn’t have any collision avoidance – but if you take this into account, have a quiet stretch of water which is clear of trees and are able to find one for a good price it is well worth a look

Before I start talking about using a Drone, I will say make sure to check you local laws on drone usage, and also emphasise to err on the side of caution – Personally I always go out of the way to make sure I don’t film anyone else (these were filmed at stupid o clock before anyone was awake) – to be safe the smartphone controller is on a mount on my usual NK strokecoach mount meaning I can quickly stop and take control if I think I need to

The Bebop 2 is actually an “older” drone (there are several more modern ones out there like the DJI Mavik for example) but what the bebop does have going for it is good third party development support which has ended up meaning there are a number of smartphone apps that add a number of additional features that the official app does not – and the app I used for this video (Bebop Pro) is one good example of this as it adds a number of features like VR support and follow/track me.

Drones  are excellent at getting unique footage, and there are countless videos now of rowing squads using them – but they are always launched and controlled by someone on a launch/on the bank and being a single sculler I had neither of those options, so I had wondered about using a follow me function to get the outcome I wanted.

The Follow me feature is pretty standard and is usually what I ended up using for the following shots – basically it tells the drone to just follow behind and it is as easy to start as launching the drone, getting it into position and then pressing the button (note you have to be within 25m for it to work) – it doesn’t matter if the drone isn’t directly behind you when you start the drone will eventually take up position behind you

Track me is slightly different in that the standard track me keeps the drone in the same relative position, so if the drone is infront of you when you press track me – it will try an stay there – this is what I used for the other type of shots – it is also possible to pan the shot as well where you can set a speed and the drone slowly pans around keeping you in shot.

Another note – the bebop 2 doesn’t have collision avoidance, so it will quite happily fly into a tree if it gets the chance! So you need to keep an eye on it.

I am very happy with the video and think the Bebop 2 and app is a great option for drone footage – however just to note that the follow me feature does use the battery power very quickly (I suspect due to the fact it is trying to follow the surge and slow of the boat through the stroke) and, as mentioned, it doesn’t have any collision avoidance – but if you take this into account, have a quiet stretch of water which is clear of trees and are able to find one for a good price it is well worth a look

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Recommended Podcast – Browshowpodcast

With thanks to Sander who helped me stumble across it, I wanted to write a short post to strongly recommend you check out the browshow podcast (link below)

Featuring Rod Siegel (sports scientist) and Bill Tait (rowing coach and technology enthusiast) the podcast shows some great insights into what sports science can bring to rowing and coaching without getting too overly technical, with two of the last podcasts focusing on planning the perfect training plan and also using Power meters in rowing, its defiantly worth a listen if you have any interest in rowing tech and how they’re able to get coaches and sports scientists working together to get the most out of the athletes.

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Concept 2 logbook now exports to Strava, TrainingPeaks and FitBit

Previously an issue with the concept 2 ergo was that although it was very easy to upload the data to their logbook (either using the C2 logbook card or more recently their ergdata app), moving that workout data along to another training plan site (like Strava or Trainingpeaks) was more challenging making it hard to log your land based rowing workouts in those sites.

Thankfully as of the 7th May C2 have now made it easier to integrate with other sites so you can now log your workout using the ergdata app (and keep adding up those meters towards the million meters challenge) but also automatically export it to one of the above sites, or even as a .fit file if your site of choice isn’t listed

https://log.concept2.com/blog/integrating-with-other-platforms

Its really good to see C2 make this update, its perhaps not as intuitive as enabling the automatic sync via the ergdata app, but since you only need to set it up the once and it then automatically will upload your workouts from then on its a great step!

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