Article on what technology can bring to Rowing

About a month ago I was asked to write an article for the May edition of the UK rowing & regatta magazine talking about how using technology in rowing can help with rowing, and in writing it I tried to not only talk about the big/well known/well used bits of tech (i.e stroke coaches/telemetry) but to also touch on other pieces of tech where I feel there are real benefits that could be had in using to monitor not only your rowing, but also recovery time which can be equally as important in getting the best performance possible on race day.

Sadly my article didn’t make the final cut for the magazine but I have shared it below for your consideration

The aim in competitive rowing is to make the boat go as fast as possible to win on race day. So it’s important to get the most out of every session; to make sure that every stroke you take is improving both your technique and fitness, and importantly continuing this improvement, session by session, so you reach your peak on race day.

Sports technology can help by making it easier to measure every aspect of your training and identifying where improvements can be made. Measurements like monitoring a rower’s power during a stroke – something that is a much more accurate data source than boat speed since power is unaffected by external factors like wind or current – can give a much better insight into how the rower is working, but as well as this there are other measurements that can be analysed to help improve the athlete by making sure they are working to improve their own weaknesses. Products like a lactate tester can be used during long endurance pieces so you can ensure that they are working in the correct training zone, or running a lactate step test (where you perform several 4min pieces with 1 min rest between, stepping the wattage up each piece and taking lactate during each rest to find you lactate profile) to find the rowers lactate threshold, and using this information to individualise their training plan.

There are benefits to be had using sports technology outside of training as well, for instance, ensuring that rowers have adequate rest between sessions. Using electronic training logs make it easier to their day/week/month training workload and, and with 24/7 heart rate tracking devices measuring resting heart rate, you can see how they are responding to those loads and whether you need to adjust their training in response.

These are just some of the advantages of sports technology but what are the drawbacks?

Often it can take time to set up the equipment each time you use it and extracting the data can eat into your valuable available training time. Also when using a new piece of tech, like a full telemetry system, it can be easy to become overloaded by all the additional data being presented. And if you don’t have the context of what the ideal result should be then it’s easy to lose focus on your primary aim of making the boat go as fast as possible on race day. Spending time understanding the biomechanics of rowing, for example on the website Biorow, can be useful for identifying what you should look for in the data being collected

Adding new pieces of technology can make it easier to track and analyse your rowing and help to identify how to improve, but you must balance these benefits against any potential drawbacks before deciding to include the technology in your training And it is key to remember that the technology is there as an aid only, an over reliance on technology may take the focus away from the need for a rower to learn intuitively through feel the boat handling skills needed to get the most out of the boat.

Here are 5 products I am looking forward being released in 2016

  1. Nielsen Kellerman’s EmPower Wireless Oarlock A wireless power recording oarlock, which will support the already popular NK GPS 2.0 speedcoach and make it easier and cheaper to adopt – I like the direction NK have gone with this, as supporting their already excellent NK GPS device is a clever move, however there is no information about price or idea when it will be coming out – and with important updates to the NK GPS software (that should be relatively easy to push out like enabiling a smartphone app to download workouts off the device, rather than needing a PC) seem to take a long time for them to release – fingers crossed tho

  2. Oar Inspired – A fully modular wireless telemetry system, ranging from the RowCom GPS screen up to the full rower power measurement and the first truly affordable system that has been announced, priced well below current models on the market – With the announcement last year that Australia Rowing will be collaborating with Oarinspired to release the product I am hopeful 2016 will be the year they make it to the market – another product I have my fingers crossed for!

  3. – An online training log in a similar vein to other online training logs, but with the difference that this is specifically for rowers and they are looking to work with other rowing manufacturers to collect all your rowing training data in one place, making it easier to track your overall training load

  4. FitPal – A comfortable stick-on heart rate monitor which allows 24/7 HR tracking, good for tracking time training and time recovering –  personally I really dislike HR straps and the restriction you feel with them – but wrist based sensors don’t work with rowing so this is the next best thing

  5. Lily Drone – The 2015-16 season seems to already be the year of the drone footage, but a waterproof/floating drone is probably a good idea to consider for a watersport! 



About stelph82

I am a rower who is a lot of a technology geek as well!
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20 Responses to Article on what technology can bring to Rowing

  1. Boris says:

    Nice post. FitPal seems to be interesting; looks like to be similar to AmpStrip

    • stelph82 says:

      Yes it’s basically the same as ampstrip, tho I remember they make efforts to distance themselves from them and to point out they were a completely separate company – it’s still a great idea tho so hopefully this time it becomes a reality

      • RIchard says:

        Ampstrip was getting very close to the Oakley ‘O’ logo in design, I would say too close. They even had T-Shirts just like the Oakley T-Shirts. I think they would have come to market if it had looked a lot more like the FitPal 😉

      • RIchard says:

        Ampstrip is/was a better name than FitPal. FitPal not as awesome sounding at all.

      • stelph82 says:

        No, its quite close to fitbit really – mind you they can call it whatever they like if it works as advertised I wouldnt care!

      • Boris says:

        FitPal sound also very similar to MyFitnessPal – or at least like a shortcut version of it. This naming (FitPal) this could lead to issues (lawsuit). 😉

      • RIchard says:

        I am wondering about the stickiness of the adhesive. If people sweat underneath where it is stuck on surely it loosens. In medical situation I guess maybe they have tested it with people with fevers. But serious sweating with exercise might be more extreme.

        Does look really awesome though. Just needs built in GPS.

      • stelph82 says:

        Agree with the stickiness, plus there’s no guarantee that for rowing you wouldn’t knock it off still im hoping theyve build into into the design and made it pretty sticky!

        Problem with GPS would be the battery reduction, it would seriously cut into long life currently advertised

  2. RIchard says:

    Good Article Tom I bet it was close to getting in, it was worth reading anyway. I’m not all of the way through R&R yet but If any thing your article gave their regular writers some things to also cover 😉

    • stelph82 says:

      Thanks! Yes there’s an article in there that talks about technology/telemetry use and I think the two were similar enough that one had to be left out sadly – still it was good for me to research and write it and am still able to share it online

  3. RIchard says:

    Yeh keep it up, great to get your foot in the door and I am sure they will keep asking for articles. You have your finger on the pulse 😉 of exercise Technology inside and out of rowing so sure you can carry on enlightening them.

  4. Did you just publish my shopping list? I know it won’t make me faster but I just love playing with data. An affordable telemetry system would be awesome. I am trying to bring my own modest contribution … More in the coming months on
    For the rowing ‘masses’, low entry barrier and seamless integration with systems/websites related to other sports are important. Plus that we’ve become accustomed to almost free services, which will make it hard for some services aiming at rowers to exist.

    • Richard says:

      Agree, some rowing apps have a difficult market to go into.

      Example – OxBoat and OxCoach (iOS) for showing people on the bank where I am in races. Also works as a basic stroke coach. Both the in boat and on bank apps are free, made for fun it seems by some Oxford Bump racers. RowApp released something very similar with added extra of course timing and stats but service is not free. However Strava also does course timing once segments are set up, again for free. So two free apps almost replaces the one paid for.
      There are a lot of apps that over lap and so give some functions for free that others charge for.
      Ergdata and Painsled is another example of not leaving a lot of market space for ErgStick.
      LiveRowing seems to have got its pricing about right for its service as all it is really offering is the racing on phone apps, filling a gap RowPro hasn’t. LiveRowing lacks users, maybe a month or two free could change this, and would put RowPro in trouble.

      It’s a tight market space!

  5. rowperfect says:


    Deeply slow to respond to this brilliant article.

    1 – really sorry the magazine fell through…. 2 – BUT….can we publish it?

    I love this because it’s so helpful.

    If you are amenable, we’ve got a slot on 6th May


    On Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 10:45 PM, rowingmusings wrote:

    > stelph82 posted: “About a month ago I was asked to write an article for > the May edition of the UK rowing & regatta magazine talking about how using > technology in rowing can help with rowing, and in writing it I tried to not > only talk about the big/well known/well used ” >

  6. Richard says:

    Any news on any of the rowing gates from OarInspired, YePP or NK?
    I can not see any updates anywhere and would have thought news would be about to break on at least one of them shipping some time soon?!

  7. Richard says:

    Another stick on Heart Rate monitor coming on to the scene, this time from china –

    Even has reviews of users which is a bit weird as would suggest people are out there using it. It’s amazing how well presented the products can be on crowd funding websites.

    This one seems to have a mega fast timeline. Delivered in September 2016

  8. Richard says:

    Just thought I should add to my above comment. the SenseOn appears to have shipped to some degree, but has received very negative feedback on its Indiegogo & Facebook pages. No App support, Adhesion issues and not being able to contact CardioCycle as issues mentioned.

    FitPal is in development and most recently shows a proto type working, not the greatest of models to demo a fitness product ;-P FitPal did have issues with its name, so I think this will hit market with a different name but this is unclear.

    Amstrip refunded, the PR with stick-on HR monitors is not great at the moment. Biggest worry is still with adhesion.

    • stelph82 says:

      Thanks for the update, I have to admit I lost track of these hr sensors with no news for a while – I can totally see adhesion being an issue unless they used a particularly heavy adhesion like they use on waterproof plasters?

  9. rowingblogs says:

    I know the plasters they put on your arm after donating blood are super sticky as they kill to pull off and even in the shower they don’t want to budge without pain, so maybe something like that. They would have to be super waterproof as the sweat forming underneath is going to want to wash them loose.

    There was also a BioRing – that was shut down, sounds like money disappeared 😦

    (This is Richard, logged in with my WordPress account that I am playing with)

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