As a coach I always wrote the water and erg sessions as distance and everything else as time. But I think the time has come in our sport that we challenge our operating behaviours and better understand why we do things the way we do and if they are the best way of operating.

When writing a training programme many coaches write the planned training in km or miles. The reason is very clear, coaches know their stretch of river and they know how far the athletes need to row in order to get a ‘full run’ in. But it is a slightly blunt programming tool, and in this day and age of collecting training information it is misleading when trying to figure out how your planned training compares to your actual training.

Here are a few case study’s to put this into context.

Training programme is 20km paddle with bursts. You planned to go out in the Men’s VIII, the 6 man is sick so it is three pairs and a single.

The eight planned to paddle at a pace of 1:45.0. In order get the same training effect they would have to paddle at 2:11.0 in the 1x and 2:04.0 in the pair. That means over 20km the 1x would row for an extra 16 minutes (19.9% longer) and the 2- about an extra 12 minutes (16.8% longer).
That means that in order to do the same training programme you would have to adjust the 1x to 16.2km and the 2- to 17.1km

You write a club programme for a Saturday morning, 16km with 2x2000m at rate 26. In the club you have LW1x and a HM8+.

They are of a similar standard, then they are both doing very different sessions.
LW1x – based on boat speeds lets say the session will take about 77 minutes with about 25 minutes at rate 26 within that
HM8+ – the session will take about 55 minutes with about 18.5 minutes at rate 26 within that

That is a much longer and tougher session for the LW1x. Now it may be that you want her to do the three pieces in the same way and that it will take her longer to execute the session, but maybe you will need to adjust the rest of the programme in order to keep them on a similar programme.

You have written a programme for 160k this week on the water.

It ends up being a very windy week. That means that the crews spend more that 65% of the time paddling into a headwind. The 160km week ends up taking at least 10% longer than normal. That is like doing an extra session on the water in the week. Plus they will have paddled most of the week at a higher intensity due to fighting the headwind most of the time.

If you have cycling, rowing, and erging in your programme you will not be giving everybody the same training programme even though it is the same on paper.

Athletes will complete distances for each training type with differing levels of ability. Say you have 12km erg, 20k row and a 100km bike ride in your weeks plan. The big fella, your ergo king will be on the ergo for hardly any time at all, but if he is rubbish in the single he may be out there for along time and actually get very little training benefit. Then out on the bike his lightweight buddy will kill him on the climbs and will have already finished his flat white before the big fell peels himself off the bike.

If you use time to set training programmes instead of mileage, then you are going to write a programme that when executed will be more uniform across your athletes. The only variable then becomes the intensity at which each session is done.

he last three years working on Rowers and meeting with many new coaches and physiologists has changed my perspective, and if I ran a rowing team again I would programme everything on time. Within Rowers we have built in the flexibility to write the training programme by distance or time, but we recommend programming by time.