Acceleration Curves at 24 to 40 spm

I had RIM running in the boat today (as usual) and since I haven’t rowed at these high rates before, I decided to take a look at the stroke accelerations and see what flaws I could see.  Turns out they are readily apparent.

First, for comparison, here are some nice steady state strokes at 23 and 24 spm.

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See that nice smooth drive at 23 SPM (purple).  Then as the rate goes up to 24, you can start to see the appearance of the double hump in the drive.  That’s is me opening my back early.

Next, here are 3 sets of strokes when I was trying to hit targets of 26, 28 and 30.  They actual rates were a bit higher.  I guess I was over eager.

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The double hump continues to be more pronounced and you can begin to see two other flaws.  First is a disturbance at the finish (around 0.8sec).  That is me starting to get sloppy as I try to get back up the slide more quickly.  The other is a gradual rise in acceleration during the recovery (starts at 1.2sec at r30).  But still, not horrible.

Now we look at r34 and r36.  These are a bit harder on the eyes.

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The double hump is now significantly more offensive, there is a pronounced blip at the finish and I am clearly accelerating as I move up the slide versus maintaining a steady speed from the handles all the way through the legs on recovery.  The miracle here is that I actually rowed at these rates at all.

Lastly the ugliest of the bunch.  Here are three blocks of strokes at 38 to 40 spm.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 12.55.28 PM

Same flaws as before, only more pronounced.  It appears that going from 38 to 40spm does not enable me to make the boat go any faster.  In fact, now the double dip is so pronounced that acceleration goes almost all the way down to zero in the middle of the drive.

So, what to work on.  I need to work on not opening my back.  I think the prescription is a set of 20 stroke intervals between 30 and 36 spm with enough paddle time so that I am working on technique instead of fitness.  This will get into the program next week after the race.

If I can master this drill, I can rule the world!!!

I just saw this post over on rowing related.

It was Megan Kalmoe’s contribution to the Best Rowing Drills series on the web site.

There was one drill called Top Quarter, where you go from catch to quarter slide and repeat.  It looks like it stresses balance and timing in a very challenging way.

I have a lot of trouble confidently maintaining balance going into the catch.  If I can get this drill mastered, I think I’ll be a lot cleaner at the catch.

Lactate Testing Equipment and Procedure

I use a lactate plus meter, which you can get from

The meter costs about $250.  I bought a starter kit that included lancets, test strips, alcohol wipes and a DVD of lactate training information, this set me back about $370.  The test strips get expensive.  They cost $46 for a box of 25, or nearly $2 per strip.

I use lactate measurement to try to make sure that I am doing steady state training at an intensity that maximizes fat metabolism and develops increased aerobic capacity.  Through various posts over on Rowing Illustrated, it seems that the magic range for steady state training is from 1.6 to 2.0mmol/l.  Above this level, improvements in aerobic capacity and training power stall, but in this range, long term improvements can be achieved.

Lactate will vary over time during a steady state workout.  It will initially rise, and then fall as the metabolic processes that use lactate as an energy source kick in.  Then a period of stasis where lactate should be roughly correlated with training power.  Finally, when muscle fatigue begins to set in, lactate levels will rise.

For consistency, I always measure lactates after 20 minutes (or sometimes 5K).  Here is how that works.

Before starting I set up everything.  I get a lancet in the little lancet machine.  I take out 1 test strip, and an alcohol wipe.  I have one wet paper towel and one dry one.

When I finish the piece, here is what I do:

1.  I wipe both hands with the wet paper towel

2.  dry them with the dry paper towel

3.  swap my left ring finger tip with the alcohol wipe

4. Prick my finger

5.  Get a drop and wipe it with the dry paper towel

6. Put the test strip in the meter, which turns it on

7.  Make sure I have a nice beefy drop on my finger (do a little squeezing if I don’t)

8.  Touch it to the end of the test strip and wait 13 seconds

9.  read the meter

All of this takes just about 1 minute.  I usually take a drink and stretch a little bit and then start my next piece 2 minutes after finishing the first.

All of these steps are basically to try to avoid having sweat contaminate the reading, which causes false high readings.  I’ve gotten pretty consistent at this point.

Static Erg Stroke Analysis

Today was the first time I have erged without slides since trying to implement the changes to my stroke.  It wasn’t a stellar session, but I thought it would be instructive to see how things compare between static and slides.

I did a rate ladder with 1 minute at r18, 1 minute at r20 and 1 minute at r22.

My feet were not strapped in and the erg is equipped with a core-perform seat which I had set to wobble to force myself to maintain upper body balance.

Looking at the film, I can see that I am struggling with the new stroke.  I am trying to maintain a good upright posture, but tend to slump at the finish.  I am also not completing the body swing before I break my knees.  The stroke looks better at r22, but the sequencing is still wrong.

I may have to resort to some pause at body over drills to try to get the new positioning right.

Comparison of before and after rowing styles

Here is a frame grab from the video I posted on Wednesday.  I am mid recovery.  At this point, my arms are extended, my back should be in the catch position and I am starting to roll up the slide.  I have drawn a line from my knee to my hip, then to my mid back, and then to the back of my shoulder joint.  You can see the shallow angle that my hip is making.  Essentially, my hips are rocked back in the same position through the whole stroke.


Compare that to the video I uploaded after figured out what was going on.  I am consciously trying to sit up and hinge at my hips during the recovery.  It is the same moment in the stroke.  The yellow lines are from the picture above.  The blue lines are the connecting to the same points in my mid back and shoulder as the first picture.  So, this is about a 25 degree change in the angle that my hips are making with my back.


The good news is that this conforms more closely with what a stroke should look like and enables a great deal more back swing.  The bad news is that trying to make this change after rowing 16 million meters on the erg is horrifyingly hard.  It’s like walking with a stone my shoe.  The other thing is that by hinging on my hips, I am rolling over my sitz bones every stroke.  Today I tried a C2 seat pad with sitz bones holes and that helped a bit, but I am still sore in those spots.

This is a very hard thing to do.  I hope it helps in the long run.

Sit up straight! Suck in your gut!

I was obsessing about how bad my rowing looked in the videos that I posted and I was really puzzled by why I could see no real lean forward even though it felt like I was doing it while I was rowing. Then it stuck me. I’m actually not as fat as I look in the video! 😀 It’s really that my posture sucks! I am really slumped over and my back is very curved at the catch. It also explained my hand position. My hands weren’t too high, my chest was too low!

The reason I don’t see layback or lean forward is that the bottom of my back (and my hips) are a not moving. All the movement is coming in the middle of my spine. With that in mind, I decided that the best coaching advice for me would be remember what I always heard in junior high.

“Sit up Straight!”
“Stop Slouching”
“Suck in your gut”

Did I mention that it was not a very nurturing environment?

So, I tried to keep that in mind today and, woo boy, was it hard. It was like writing with my left hand or trying breath on the wrong side when swimming the crawl. Entirely unnatural. But effective. I could sequence the recovery better. It was more taxing from a CV perspective since I wasn’t used to it, but I think it’s the right adjustment.

What do you think?

Video of rowing on slides

After my steady state session today, I took a little bit of video to see how I am doing in terms of “fixing” some things in my stroke.

Here’s the video:

Looking at the video, here’s what I see:

  • I am pulling in too high.  Essentially, this seems to be caused by me not pulling my upper arms back enough at the finish.  Could be a flexibility issue, or just a bad habit
  • My shins are a little past vertical at the catch, so I am over compressing at the catch.  I am not sure how great a sin that is.
  • At the beginning of the recovery, I break my knees, just a little bit, and then recover with my arms and body and then my legs come up.  I suspect that I should keep my knees locked down until I have my body in the catch position would be more efficient.
  • I have very little lean forward.  Part of this is the excess weight I am carrying, but I suspect that it may also be related to body dimensions, and the angle that my thighs at at when my shins are vertical.