Head Race Prep Rate Ladders – and: To Program Workouts or not to Program Workouts?

Most on-the-water rowing electronics units (SpeedCoach, CoxMate) and smartphone apps (CrewNerd) offer programmable workouts. This looks attractive for complex interval workouts. You don’t have to keep an eye on time or distance, and in the resulting report your sets and intervals are clearly marked. It also eases up the processing after the row.

There are also disadvantages, though. The first one is that programming the workouts in the app/unit is a hassle and it is prone to errors.

If you are coaching a group of boats doing the same workout, you would have to make sure that they all start at the same time, and, in case you are doing distance based intervals, you have to hope that the recorded GPS or impeller distance will remain similar between the units in the various boats.

And even when rowing single, you sometimes have to abandon a workout because of traffic, because you are running out of lake, or other reasons. Finally, if you want to set up your unit/app in such a way that it shows other parameters than time or distance, you have a problem (unless the app has audio signals, such as CrewNerd).

It just takes away the much needed flexibility.

So, lately I have started to just record everything as a “just row”. I start recording when I push off the dock, and I finish recording when I arrive back at the dock. This gives me the maximum flexibility, but I do need two devices for some workouts (to see time and distance on the Garmin, when the SpeedCoach is set to stroke length, power, stroke rate, and work per stroke). The other problem is that it makes it a bit more work to figure out when the intervals start and stop, when I want to create a workout summary, like this one:

Workout Summary - media/20170404-104046-Sanders SpeedCoach 20170404 0741amo.csv
Workout Details
00|01855|10:00.0|02:41.8|156.6|18.0|137.4|150.0|10.3 - WU
01|01118|05:00.0|02:14.1|201.6|22.2|161.1|167.0|10.1 - tail
02|01019|04:50.0|02:22.4|224.5|23.8|170.0|175.0|08.9 - head
03|01178|04:56.0|02:05.6|244.0|26.1|174.6|181.0|09.2 - tail
04|01106|04:58.0|02:14.7|248.4|26.9|179.7|186.0|08.3 - head, w coach
05|01191|04:54.0|02:03.5|266.0|28.2|178.5|185.0|08.6 - tail, w coach
06|01057|06:04.6|02:52.5|125.8|18.9|146.8|163.0|09.2 - CD

I do have to mention that tidying up an interval summary from a “just row” workout is one of the advanced features of rowsandall.com. The interval editor allows you to “insert” the intervals after the fact. It takes a bit of time to figure out what exactly the durations are if you didn’t exactly stick to the script of your training plan, but it is worth it.

This training was 5x5min/4min at 22,24,26,28 and 30spm. During the fourth interval I caught up with our head coach training one of our men in the single. This guy was doing the 24spm while I was doing 28spm. So I shortened the break between interval 4 and 5 and after 2.5 minutes did the 30spm next to the guy (rowing the 26spm).

He did beat me. I am also convinced that if I want to row the head race at 30spm, I should lighten up my stroke much more. I don’t think I will row faster than a 240W average, coming Saturday. Still, at 30spm, I find it incredibly difficult to keep the Work per Stroke and the Power in the right ball park. In the beginning, I just push too hard, and towards the end of the set, I get fatigued and am working below the average.

myimage (12)

In the fourth interval, I was struggling a bit with the coach launch’s wake, until the coach noticed, and waited for me to pass him. This was great, because he gave me some valuable feedback on my rowing. Basically, when I get tired, my chest collapses on my knees at the catch, whereas I should be pushing my belly button to touch my upper legs. So in the final 30spm interval I tried to work on that (and keep up with the guy doing 26spm), which resulted in going out at around 300W. After 2 minutes, I got presented the bill for that. Had to rate down and “survive”, which unfortunately also meant that my “fatigued rowing technique” was clearly visible (too curved back, head not held straight). It is also clearly visible in the metrics plots:

You can very clearly see fatigue in the plot of Work per Stroke and Average Force. I am just not fit enough to keep that 300W effort for that long (at the end of a workout).

Well, that was a very useful workout. And if had “programmed” it, I wouldn’t have had the flexibility that I had today and I wouldn’t have got the coaching.

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