One of the primary reasons that I wanted to get expert coaching was to make improvements in my rowing technique. I figure that there are three elements to achieving good boat speed.
- Lose weight. (5 kg is worth a second of pace at least just in reduced displaement)
- Improve fitness
- Improve technique
I know how to do number 1 and 2. Those items are determined by the amount of time I have to train, work commitments, willpower and desire.
Technique is tougher. I know good rowing when I see it, and I can see that there are things wrong with my rowing, but I want some expert guidance to figure out what needs to be fixed first and by what means.
Since I am using a remote coaching arrangement with Marlene Royle, that means that I have to record video and share it. I did this over the winter and I think I made some good progress on improvement the mechanics of my stroke, especially the recovery.
Now I am back on the water, and before I get too set in my ways, I wanted to take some video in the boat and start fixing stuff.
I have seen all kinds of arrangements to take video. If you are lucky enough to have a live, local coach, it’s very simple. They film you from the launch. Without a coach, you have to figure a way to mount a GoPro or some other camera on the boat. The easiest is to mount it on the stern deck, but then you don’t get to see a lot of the body work in the stroke. To get that you need a side view.
To get a side view, I picked up a trick from Larry Tait. He figured out how to mount an old rigger backstay to the end of his rigger, and then put his gopro on the end of the backstay. This gets the camera about 6 feet out to side, and with the wide field of view, that’s more than enough to see the whole stroke.
I described it a bit more detail and included pictures of the setup here.
So, I set myself up and went out for a row. I had about an hour, so I decided to do a bit of a free form session. I would do 6 minute easy rate ladders consisting of 3′ @ r18, 2′ @ r20 and 1′ @ r22. To spice it up a bit, I decided to throw in a few practice starts, just to see if I remembered how to do them and to see how good my balance was at the catch.
Here’s the whole session
And here’s the video….
The first video is the first rate ladder. During the 2′ at r20 I was making my way through the s-turn.
After the first 2 ladders, I reached the dam in Waltham. I did a set of four starts after I turned around. A couple of them were OK.
After a couple more ladders, and a few more starts, I did one last short ladder, just 10 strokes at each rate from r18 up to r28.
Looking at the video, I see a whole bunch of issues.
- Sad to say, I’m heavier and balder than I was the last time I did side video in the boat. :-(.
- I am not sitting erect enough in the boat, my hips are rocked too far back throughout the stroke.
- I am not completing my rock over on recovery before I start to slide.
- Blade depth looks OK to me, although it looks like my hands are arcing up right after the catch and then leveling out. The last ladder looks worse in terms of “rowing over the barrel”.
- As you can see, I struggle a bit with balance. I lightly skim my blades on recovery.
- Some strokes have a pretty pronounced pause at the finish.
And here, or pure entertainment value is my worst start of the day. I caught a crab and nearly flipped
The look on my face as it happened was priceless.
The great thing about rowing is that it keeps you humble!