Rowing is a tough sport, our default position is to pull harder, do more mileage, do more sessions. More is better. But more of what?
Everything in our sport changed once the Berlin Wall came came down in November 1989. Suddenly East German rowing coaches were released onto the world. The west had been training by doing lots of short hard pieces, a session such as 10 x 1000m at race pace was not uncommon.
The East German coaches who gained paid work in national federations and clubs all around the world introduced us to steady state, and lots of it. It took them quite a bit of time to convince athletes and coaches that it would work. After all how could paddling around at 18 strokes per minute for hours on end make you better at 2000m racing. We now know it does and the rest is history!
Rowing in 2017 is about to have it’s next revolution, and it is not the collapse of North Korea and the influx of their national coaches. It is the internet of things. Yes, internet connected device in your boat, on your ergo, collecting all your data and send it to the cloud.
As was the case in 1989, people will take quite a bit of convincing. We are a conservative bunch us rowers, but we are also smart. We as a sport, will finally be able to measure exactly what we do in virtually every training session. We will know how much work (Watts) we have produced, we will know how efficient we were when we produced those watts (heart rate) plus we will be able to compare it to our speed and know how well we are going. And all of this without wasting any time having to write things down.
Sounds a bit far fetched….. I don’t think so.
Imagine a typical day for an athlete on training camp doing a three session day.
06:30 Athlete is woken up by the alarm on her smartphone, she sits up in her bed and can’t even remember what day it is. “What is my training today…?” She looks at the notification on her phone, it tells her that she just slept 8.5 hours (5.5 of which were deep sleep), she weight 72.3kg, 0.1 less than yesterday. Her minimum heart rate and respiratory rate both bottomed out nicely and it shows that she is in good shape and ready to do her three session.
07:00 Breakfast. No need to do her morning monitoring as the sensor in her bed (which she uses at home as well) has produced all the stats on her app notification. It has also been sent to her coach, who has no need to bother her at breakfast because he knows she is in good shape and has already seen the session and crewlist on her phone. He can spend his time managing the ones who have woken up feeling less well.
07:30 At the boatshed. Her heartrate monitor is already on and has her GPS unit in her hand. She gets into the boat connects the wireless GPS device to the Telemetry in her boat. Everybody in all the pairs has it permanently fitted on their gates. So off they go to complete their 20km session with pieces in it. She know what her target wattage and stroke rate is for each piece.
09:55 They finally get off the water and have the debrief. The coach is standing there discussing the pieces. Showing them the results of the session on his tablet. All the speed (GPS), power (Telemetry) and stroke rate is already compiled on their system. The information had been sent to the cloud as they were getting their blades and walking back from the pontoons.
10:10 Second breakfast every rowers favourite meal in the world!! Everybody is relaxed and chatting. A few of the athletes open their smartphones to see how their personal data compared to the same session last week, one of them even shares it on social media.
11:30 Weights in the gym. Here everybody has their own individualised programme which is on their smartphone. Again HR monitor is on and accelerometers are attached to each bar as they move through the session. Because the accelerometer is connected to the smartphone all the data is being collected. The app tells the athletes if they are producing enough power. The days of just lifting the number of reps on the programme are gone, they are set to do as many reps they can whilst staying within a prescribed power range. If they start to lift the bar too slowly (ie. reduced power) they are informed by the app.
13:00 Lunch, thank god for that! Our athlete is pretty pleased with herself because she has just produced the most watts per minute she has ever done in a weights session. But now for a rest as there is a long cross-training session this afternoon.
15:30 Wakey Wakey. Arms and legs feel so heavy and sore. “I can’t do this….I can’t”. But again she drags herself out of bed, a quick snack and some water and off to they gym we go, Heigh ho Heigh ho it’s off to the gym we go.
16:10 1st 45minutes are on the stationary Watt Bike. She know that she is to maintain 220W for the 45 minutes, then after a 5 minute drinks break 45minutes on the Concept2 Ergometer at 195W. All the while the coaches tablet is connected to her heart rate and wattage from each piece of equipment. The coach realises on his tablet that with 15 minutes on the ergo her heart rate to wattage ratio is slipping and is way off her norm. So he taps her on the shoulder and sends her in for an early shower.
19:00 A quick review the day’s training. Today was the day when she has produced the most wattage ever. Great!, but will she pay a price for it tomorrow. Only tomorrow will tell….
Does this sound far fetched? Maybe but I think it will be possible in the later half of 2016. Who knows in the run up to Tokyo 2020 we may have enough data to help athlete maximise their training efforts.