Now that the racing season is underway and you are focusing on your main event, what are you doing to improve how you race?

I bet you spent the whole winter measuring your improvement on the ergo as well as in the weight room. Measuring performance on the water is difficult in rowing due to the changing water temperature and wind speed, but we also need to collect and use some meaningful data from there.

The first question you need to ask yourself, is what is a performance. It is not the same thing as a result!!!

You can break a performance down into its constituent parts. In order to judge if you performed well, you need to set targets for each of these areas.

Race Start (Start sequence and Max speed)
Race Transition (from start sequence into racing rhythm)
Race Rate and Rate profile
Race Pace and Rhythm
Race Efforts (pushed or ‘burns”)
Sprint for the line

The quality of GPS that we used in this instance is not good enough to do any real race analysis, we would need to use a GPS system such as Catapult. But we decided to see how well did our athletes warm up. Easy to assume that it was done properly. Also once you know what you are looking at you can check that it was done properly every race. The key is getting the athlete to understand that it is important and that it is in their interest to use the GPS devices, switch them on and upload them to your analytics platform. In the system, the coach is able to see all the crews GPS data in once place, no more need to look at multiple Polar or Garmin accounts.


Using data you collect to see if the athletes are warming up properly.


A case study (names have been changed)

Two single scullers, they have both just raced 2000m Karl has beaten Liam by 1.5% (about 7s). We know from training together they are actually pretty similar. So that means that one of them under performed…

What data was collected?

GPS from both boats
Heart Rate from both boats
The pieces were timed from the lakeside by the coaches.

After importing the data into this is what we could see.

Map of 2000m race at Dorney Lake, Windsor UK


Timed 2000m race


Full GPS Trace of GMT speed for Karl

Warm up – 3 short bursts with the 3rd one over 100% Speed, then a longer piece about 90s at or about race pace. He then did a sprint piece and had a steady paddle of almost 2 minutes. Then went to the start line almost immediately.

Full GPS Trace of GMT speed for Liam

Lots of sitting around with 3 short bursts barely making paddling speed, a longer burst which barely reaches race pace and seems to fade away. Then a short amount of paddling followed by sitting around for a bit.

So what does all that show?

  1. Karl was more explosive out of the start, 5.2s faster, that is most of the margin! You can see that both in the pacing graph and the GPS graph.
  2. For both crews the warm up was very short, assuming they switched the GPS on as soon as they pushed off from the pontoon.
  3. Liam sat around for quite a while before the start.
  4. None of Liam’s warm up bursts were above the pace he raced at.

Liam’s Heart Rate trace

Below is the Graph produced in that shows Liam’s warm up and race. In black you can see his speed trace, in blue the Heart Rate trace. You can see that his heart rate is not very responsive. Hence he is shows that his metabolism is not dynamic enough. 


Karl’s Heart Rate trace

Below is the Graph produced in that shows Karl’s warm up and race. In black you can see his speed trace, in blue the Heart Rate trace. You can see how quickly his Heart Rate rises, this shows that his metabolism is switched on and ready to perform.

On that back this kind of information it enables you to ask some better questions about what is going on. It also gives you some objective data around which you can have a great conversation with your athletes. The key is to get them involved in the discussion, hopefully they will also start asking questions about what they are doing.


Do have a listen to our Podcast by Caroline MacManus, who since then has become the Head Physiologist for Rowing New Zealand. Blog Post: