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?

Rowing Technology 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.

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 enabling 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. row.rs – 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!

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