Adrian Cassidy from the Rowe.rs app encourages us to adjust how coaches and athletes view rowing data.
Data is only useful if you can use it and so we should understand the metrics and their implication for rowing boats.
Increasing speed requires power
There was an interesting article on the BBC website during the Tour de France in 2018 explaining the difference between the performance of a top club cyclist and a world-class cyclist.
The article made the comparison that in 2011 Bradley Wiggins won the British Road Race Championship in 19:44 and the top amateur athlete Sean Eden did it in 22:33, that is a difference of 15% based on time. But on power, the difference is 50%. 470 watts for Wiggins and 312 watts for Eden.
So in order to get to the top and gain 15% in speed Eden will have to train so that he can develop 50% more power for the best part of 20 minutes. That is a huge leap.
The Concept 2 Ergo is the same
If we compare both of the World indoor records for Men and Women on the Concept2 Ergo over 2000m then we can see how similar this comparison is
- Olena Buryak (Ukraine) 6:22.5, that a split of 1:35.6 and 400.6 Watts
- Josh Dunkley-Smith (Australia) 5:35.8 that is a split of 1:23.9 and 592.6 Watts
Comparison Josh is 13.9% faster on time, but Olena will need to up her wattage by 48% to get that performance.
What does this mean for normal people
It means that maybe you thought you only needed to improve by 5% to get from 6:40 to 6:20, but actually, you need to improve by 15.8%.
I feel this has a huge impact on athletes when they are setting goals. It makes them realise the commitment required to make that kind of jump.
- If you want to improve from 7:40 to 7:20 then it is a 14.2% improvement
- If you want to improve from 6:40 to 6:20 then it is a 15.8% improvement (not 5%)
- If you want to improve from 6:00 to 5:40 then it is an 18.8% improvement
Measure wattage not speed
The time has come in rowing, that we should start measuring wattage as a matter of course. Also start setting targets based on wattage not off time. It is only giving people an inaccurate sense of how much they really need to improve in order to make the gains they want.
The interesting question will be when we can easily record power data from the boat what the comparison is like.
Below is a results sheet showing the wattage requirements for certain 2000m ergo scores, just to give you an idea of the power required to achieve these results.