C2 static watts vs NK Empower Oarlock watts – A personal comparison

Just a short post on some findings using the Empower Oarlock – I am working on a review and I promise I will try and get it out as soon as possible! In testing the gate I had been wanting to compare two  equivalent workouts on a concept 2 ergo and the water to see whether it is possible to use the information on one to use the other – for example if you have set training wattages on the erg, could you use the same wattages on the water? To test this I decided to run a common FTP test to see how each compares to the other.

For those of you that aren’t aware of FTP (functional threshold Power) – it is basically an invented value that is described as the power that you are able to hold for an hour, and is closely correlated to a 4mmol blood lactate level (read about lactate testing here) but as it doesn’t require the costly blood testing method so is a cheap way of getting a similar result and to then be able to set training zones.

A workout for an hour flat out doesn’t sound like much fun however, and so in cycling it is common to run a 20” test and to then use 95% of the power for your FTP – rowing however is slightly different, I don’t know about you but I know my 6K score and my hour score are not 95% of each other! More commonly its around 80-85% and so one recommendation is to do a 20” at rate 20 and use 100% of that value to get your FTP.

Below is the table which shows the outcome of the two tests


As you can see I averaged 30 watts more on the water than on the erg which I wasn’t expecting – the conditions for the water workout were challenging (head wind and chop) so I thought I would see an impact on power with me battling the conditions as well as the workout, also interestingly other users of the Empower gate are seeing lower values on the water than they are seeing on the erg


As a side note the difference in wattage between on the water and on the erg that I am seeing is a similar value to the difference I used to see when I was comparing rowperfect and static ergo scores – so using lactate testing an sticking to 2mmol I would see 20-30 watts more on the dynamic than the static


It is too early to conclude what this means as of yet – just from my data and Rod Siegal’s it does seem to suggest that the comparability between the empower watts and ergo watts varies person to person so you can’t use training zones set on the erg on the water (and vice versa), it would be recommended to run the tests on both to work them out.

EDIT: another thing to add is that as I am sculling and the NK is recording one side power only (bow side in my case) and then doubling it then this could be skewing the results I favour if the water session – i.e. If I am putting more power out on bowside then I could be getting a false high result for the overall

My previous experiences do seem to suggest that the rowperfect may be a better tool for hitting the same watts as you would see on the water. Of course the only way to test this is to repeat the 20 min test on the rowperfect….. great….

Posted in Biomechanics, Rowing software, Rowing Telemetry | 12 Comments

ErgIQ review – connecting your PM5 to your Garmin watch

ErgIQ is an app that has been developed to run in conectIQ – Garmin’s app development software – and let’s you connect your Garmin watch directly to your PM5 monitor to directly record data to your watch for uploading to Garmin connect. The app itself is still in Beta and you can read more about and interact with the developer in the forum.

To install the app – make sure that you have a supported Garmin device and that your PM5 is updated to the latest firmware – personally I am using the Garmin Vivoactive HR which as I reviewed earlier is currently one of the best GPS watches for rowers available and is available on amazon for £179.99 at the time of writing.

To install – go to the Smartphone app and click on the connectiq store

Now search for ergiq

And the app will install to your device once you next sync and when you open the app you’ll see this screen

To run the app, first set up your PM5 so it is ready to detect the Garmin. Select more options

Then select turn wireless on

Your Garmin will connect by ANT+ so press connect with Ant+

Now on the Garmin you should see a pair request which lists a 4 digit number which is the last 4 numbers of your monitors serial number.

One you press yes you will see the same screen as when you opened the app on your watch, but now it will say “row” in the top left in green


And now you’re ready to go! Note that you don’t need to press start or stop or anything – just program the workout into the PM5 and then once you are done and you press menu on the PM5 then the Garmin app automatically ends and records the workout. Workouts are recorded on one continuous feed as well so even during “rest” parts of intervals it is still recording your HR (providing you connected your chest belt to the PM5) and wattage.

As with any workout now when you next open the Garmin app you will see your workout – however you will notice the data is unusual

Trust me I took more than 12 strokes this workout!

The issue is with the level of access that Garmin allows developers – at this time connectiq apps are not allowed to record data to the main Garmin fields – instead they have to record the data to Connectiq fields instead, and if you go to the more detailed data in the app (second tab) and scroll down you will find it

And in the graphs tab

This is great for connectiq – however not if you want to share your data to other training sites like Strava as they don’t recognise the connectiq data – so you get heart rate and cadence data however therefore details power are all blank.


EDIT : it’s worth noting that it’s possible to link ergIQ and a smartphone app to the PM5 at the same time as a nice backup – so ErgData or PainSled at the same time as ergIQ – nice!


In Summary then – the app works really well for its intended use of getting your rowing power data into Garmin Connect – once you have loaded the app and connected it to the PM5 its completely hands off in logging the workout and then automagically uploading it to Garmin Connect which is brilliant – however it is less good if you want to do something else with your data…. sadly due to the current restrictions meaning the app can’t record to the main data fields and has to use the ConnectIQ fields instead that means the essential power data is blank when the file is synced elsewhere like strava – making it only as useful as the standard indoor rowing app Garmin comes with anyway – and that has less steps to perform when running the apps.

Therefore I would have to say if you are only interested in putting data into Garmin and you have access to a PM5 then this app is perfect, however if you have any interest in copying the data elsewhere or you have a PM4 or earlier then ergIQ currently cannot help until Garmin allow the correct fields to be updated – and you should look to options like Painsled uploading directly or ergdata uploading through Rowsandall as your best options.

Posted in Biomechanics, Gadgets, Rowing software, Rowing Telemetry, Smartphone Software, Training | 5 Comments

Other sites using TRIMP for rowing

Adding on to the post yesterday on the StravistiX – Sander has updated his blog with a post talking about other sites that use TRIMP and comparing his data across a number of sites – worth a read!

Over on RowingMusings (read that blog!), a recent post discussed Stravistix, a Chrome plugin to add some stats to Strava. The most interesting add-on is a Fitness & Fatigue graph, based on the TRIMP measure of your training load. SportTracks and TrainingPeaks also have something similar implemented. The PC version of SportTracks has a plugin that…

via Using Fitness, Fatigue and Training Load graphs — Rowsandall

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StravistiX – A Strava plugin which can help with rowing

StravistiX is a chrome plugin for your Strava account that lets you track your workouts over time and gives you an idea how your fitness/fatigue is changing over time. How does it do that? Well it basically uses your recorded heart rate and uses it to calculate your Training IMPulse or TRIMP. TRIMP was originally developed by Dr. Eric W. Banister and basically it represents the amount of heart stress during an activity: the longer you go at full throttle during an activity, the more TRIMP of activity goes up.

The nice part of this is that although TRIMP was originally created for running, it has been shown to also work for weight lifting, cycling etc – essentially any sport including rowing AND the plugin is completely free (although the author welcomes donations!).

But what does it do? Well when you load the plugin it scans your Strava data and then shows you a graph of your TRIMP for all the days you have workout data – It looks quite confusing at first but it is actually pretty simple.


Training results in both a positive and a negative effect – The positive effect is called fitness, and the negative effect is called fatigue. Fitness and fatigue can combined to provide a value of form or Performance.

The graph shows three lines

· the orange is your fitness and that is a long term view of your training over the last 42 days

· the black is your fatigue and that is your short term training load over the last 7 days

· the grey is the difference between fitness and fatigue and is used to judge if you are training the right amount to get fit without burning out which is called Form

  • +25 < Form : Transition zone. Athlete is on form. Case where athlete has an extended break. (e.g. illness, injury or end of the season).
  • +5 < Form < +25 : Freshness Zone. Athlete is on form. Ready for a race.
  • -10 < Form < +5 : Neutral Zone. Zone reached typically when athlete is in a rest or recovery week. After a race or hard training period.
  • -30 < Form < -10 : Optimal Training Zone.
  • Form < -30 : Over Load Zone. Athlete is on overload or over-training phase. He should take rest!

So in general terms

· Fitness is the slowest to increase (or decrease) over time

· Fatigue goes up and down much faster than fitness over time

· As Fitness goes up, you are able to sustain more fatigue/workload that you could before – and need to keep increasing fatigue/workload over time to keep your fitness increasing

It is a very nice model since it allows you to have a rough view to make sure that you are training the right amount to get fit without getting ill and it also predicts how your fitness/fatigue will respond over time and so provides a rough way to taper for events to make sure that you are ready for an event


For example after today’s workout my form is -24 and optimal for improving fitness – if I did no training then the model predicts that I would hit the “freshness zone” (and be on top form) on the 6th Feb


So to summarise – StravaistiX can help you track your fitness, check to make sure you’re working hard enough to increase your fitness and give you an idea how to taper enough to make sure you are fresh for race day. Now although StravaistiX was originaly set up for running/cycling, I believe the general principle should also help apply to rowing as well (physiology is physiology after all) and at the very least it gives you a way to compare workouts and compare the intensities of different types of workouts.

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The 2016 rowingmusings Rowing Tech Xmas list

Well it’s the time of year for a Good wish list, so I thought I’d throw together a short list of some of the better gadgets out there for rowers just in case anyone needed a last minute idea for a present!



Three solid choices really, if you have the money/row on a river so current cancellation is important/think you’ll ever consider getting the Empower Oarlock then it’s the NK every time.

If you’re happy with just GPS and want to save a little money and think some of the additional features like course correction is useful then the Coxmate GPS is worth a shot

If you’re just after rate, the active tools activerate gives you excellent build quality and some useful extra features like check to help improve your technique


NK Empower Oarlock

No brainer this one really – although only just released it’s immediately shot to the top of the list for anyone looking to get into power on a lower budget, the more expensive options like peach innovations/BioRow are still a better option for people to get the most detailed data on their rowing, but for most of us the empower oarlock does enough for our needs of giving accurate feedback on power/length and rowing efficiency 



Still the best out there imo, the Tickr range as a whole is excellent due to the fact that it broadcasts on both ANT+ (for C2 and Garmin) and Bluetooth (smartphones, NK etc) at the same time but the extra features of the X include an accelerometer so when using the Wahoo app it can track your cycling/running cadence for cross training and can even count the reps you do when you run their body weight circuit app, and internal memory so you can always be able to download the HR data after a workout to the Wahoo app even if there is a problem recording during the workout (got to love backUp data)


Garmin Vivoactive HR

Personaly recommend the Vivoactive HR, if you can’t quite stretch to buying one the Polar M400 is a good budget alternative however I think the Vivoactive HR’s ability to actually track stroke rate directly is a huge plus that is worth the extra, and if you have the money the Fenix 3 does the same and has a inch more premium look

KYMIRA IR sportswear

I have been happily using KYMIRA gear for a while, it’s very very comfortable and warm in the winter but also not overly oppressive in the summer – the price is high for compression type gear but not hugely so than the main named brands and the fact they also provide the IR benefits is a big plus to me


Parrot Bebop 2 

As time goes on more and more drones are becoming available at prices that make it easier to think about buying one. Now with my recommendation, although there are more feature complete drones like the DJI Mavic, the parrot bebop 2 is a similarly compact drone which is considerably cheaper than the DJI Mavic and yet still provides excellent stabilised videos, offers features like follow me/waypoint flying etc with smartphone apps and has a battery life of 20+ minutes. I have the skycontroller which means it can fly for several km but if you are wanting to carry less bulk then the drone works well with just a smartphone to control it  
Id welcome anyone else’s thoughts or recommendations?

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NK Empower gate starts to ship

Buff said really, NK have started to ship their gates out to people who have already pre-ordered 

As I’m in the U.K. I’m hoping there will be an announcement of availability over here soon, plus announcements from data management companies (Rowe.rs for example) how users can start using the power data in training since a major part of using power data is the analysis between rowing 

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HOCR and hands on with the NK Empower Oarlock

Last weekend I was able to attend the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Massachusetts in the USA – I was excited to go, both because I was racing in the Club 1x event but also because I knew that NK would be there and they would be displaying their new NK Empower Oarlock. Long time readers may remember it was this time last year that the oarlock was first announced and was on display then, albeit a non-functioning mock up. This time round it would be a fully functioning unit and so I was keen to get some time to get some hands on use.

As mentioned before, the NK Empower Oarlock is a wireless power meter that is designed to work with their current NK GPS 2.0 device, their own website has a lot of information listed here so I won’t go into too much detail other than listing some of the main points that came across in the discussions and that I found interesting when talking to the NK staff

  • BATTERY LIFE – The Empower gate is powered by a single AA battery which can last for around 8-20 hours depending on the quality of the battery, they admitted that currently a low battery warning is only displayed on the back of the gate with a flashing red light (less than ideal) although they are working towards having the GPS show a low battery warning with a future update
    • One NK GPS connecting to multiple Empower Oarlocks (e.g. a sculler with two gates) – Technically possible, however at launch NK is limiting this so that you can only connect one Empower Oarlock to one GPS at a time, which I think is fair –since when you are sculling the output of the two gates would be largely similar (otherwise you wouldn’t go in a straight line) I would say even if it were possible it would only be worth the cost if you were seeking the highest world champ/olympic levels, the rest of us would get plenty of important data from just the one gate. One Empower Oarlock  connecting to Multiple NK GPS (e.g. a rower and a coach seeing the same data) – This is where the discussions got interesting, currently it is not possible due to the use of Bluetooth smart which only allows a 1:1 linked relationship (see the description of disadvantages of BT smart here) and so if the empower gate is broadcasting to the rowers GPS, it cannot broadcast to the coaches. This, however doesn’t mean that the proposal of a coach seeing the data at the same time as the rower isn’t possible and couldn’t be added in the future (I talked through a couple of options with NK with how this may work in future, for example adding adapters to the GPS which can re-broadcast to the coaches device) it would just require additional hardware. Plus, as they described to me there, there is nothing stopping the rower and coach handing over the one NK GPS during an outing so that the rower or the coach is getting the data at different points in the outing.
  • CALIBRATION – There are two measurements that need calibration
    • Power – Measured through the pin and it is calibrated in house before the product is shipped, no need to re calibrate once this has been done in the shop
    • Angle – Measured in relation to the metal plate at the bottom of the gate, this does need calibration but only once when the gate is added to the boat, first to align the plate at the bottom then you attach the adapter (included) which is used to set a couple of calibration positions and then it doesn’t need calibrating again unless you move the gate to another boat

  • DISPLAY – There are two main ways that the data can be displayed, either the “classic” view or, as I think of it, the view which includes rate/split, or the “skill” view where it doesn’t show rate/split – removing rate/split might seem a little odd but often in a crew boat you might not want to see that and rely just on the power details. There are around 20 different data fields you can present and you can choose the one to display and then also scroll through the fields using the buttons on the GPS 2.0 – note that you can’t set the fields to automatically scroll through the fields, but NK are looking into doing this in the future and I think
  • IN USE EXAMPLE – They actually described an example of how the demo units are being used now – the coach starts off with the unit and watches the crew to see what technical improvements can be made, as an example say the finishes are off – the coach can view the finish slip/angle whilst watching the crew and decide who should change and by how much – they then stop the crew and hand over the GPS along with the numbers they have to hit so that now the rower can row and see the numbers they are getting and aim to get the correct ones

Overall – I am still quite positive about the NK Empower Oarlock, yes there are some drawbacks to the product as a whole (mostly around people wanting more complex set ups like connecting multiple gates and overlaying multiple rowers data) but given the slightly technophobic rowing market they are entering (and also the complexity of the product in general) it is definitely wise for them to start with a simpler product and focus on easily quantifiable numbers first (watts, degrees).

On the cost of $649 – The cost may seem relatively high but is actually pretty comparable to cycling power meters and its generally a given in cycling that if you are looking to reach your peak potential, that using a power meter is the best way to do it,  and in rowing you will actually also get the additional support for technical improvements (like being shown your catch slip and being able to work to improve it) in a way that cycling power meters cannot – essentially making the Empower Oarlock even better value for money than cycling power meters

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