Unsure about technique

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Unsure about technique

Postby mcjamil » January 10th, 2017, 12:24 am

Hello.

I've been rowing on my own on and off for a few years. (I'm 40 years old, 5'7" and 200 lbs.) For the last several months, I've focused on improving cardio fitness (starting from being a couch potato). I've been doing so with just my erg for the most part, but I've recently started the C25K program for beginner runners as well. My rows since last fall have mostly been 5K or 10K pieces.

Given my age and fitness level, we can reasonably estimate that my max aerobic HR is 135. To focus on building a solid aerobic base, I'd like to train at this HR level (or just below it) for my 5K/10K pieces and do intervals on alternate days while running on the C25K program.

My problem is that I cannot achieve the sort of times that folks on these forums seem to achieve on "easy" pieces. I cannot tell if this is a lack-of-fitness thing or a lack-of-proper-technique thing (or both).

For example, here are results of chosen sessions (between September and last week) with variable stroke rates:
Time Meters /500m s/m Avg.HR

24:47.8 5,000m 2:28.7 31 144

52:39.8 10,000m 2:37.9 29 145

26:00.3 5,000m 2:36.0 25 143

56:48.7 10,000m 2:50.4 25 142

27:01.1 5,000m 2:42.1 16 132

59:46.2 10,000m 2:59.3 15 125


From this data, it appears that:
1. my speed is slow compared to apparently everyone else on these forums; and,
2. my HR is high even for my slow speed (even when the avg. HR is under my target of 135 - as for the low s/r 5K and 10K examples - the latter half of the relevant session always exceeded that target).

So, could I please get some advice? Should I row strapless for a while to eliminate risk of bad technique? Should I watch HR and keep it below 135 at all times, even though this would mean decreasing splits and times even longer than the ones listed above? Should I aim for a fixed low pace (2:45 for 5K and 2:55 for 10K) and hope that - in a few months - I'll be able to do this faster at the same HR? Or should I stop analyzing this stuff and just get on with it?

M.
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Re: Unsure about technique

Postby Anth_F » January 10th, 2017, 5:01 am

Train a lot more often!! It appears to me, given your stats etc and how long you have been rowing, times should be much faster than that.

As for technique we can't give much until we see it... so try posting up a video.
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Re: Unsure about technique

Postby Rod » January 10th, 2017, 5:05 am

Drag Factor is a big influence on technique and you haven't mentioned it so it may be helpful to ask if you understand it and if so what Drag Factor are you using?

Just in case...here's some information;

http://www.concept2.com/indoor-rowers/t ... etting-101

I'd also suggest looking at this training plan as it influences a lot of indoor rowers and has some good information that will help you and show you what you need to do to be able to row faster;

http://thepeteplan.wordpress.com/the-pete-plan/

Lastly, at 5'7'' and 200lbs you are going to benefit if you can reduce the 200lbs but that's another story I guess! Good luck with it, I'm looking forward to following your progress.
Last edited by Rod on January 10th, 2017, 5:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Unsure about technique

Postby GJS » January 10th, 2017, 5:23 am

Hey M

You may have more aerobic scope than you think. Plug your numbers into the calculator here and see what you get. (With a max hr of 180 and a resting hr of 60 my aerobic bands are UT2 126-144 and UT1 145-156.)

http://www.freespiritsrowing.com/forum/ ... calculator

When folk refer to 'steady state' rows they are usually referring to efforts that largely stay within the UT2 band and last for 40+ mins.

Try and get a grip on a good, sustainable stroke rate. Rates in the high twenties and mid-teens tend to be unduly costly. For UT2 something around 20 is good. Perhaps a touch lower for the very tall and a touch higher for the short.

While rowing strapless normally helps, entirely possible to row strapless and still have a disastrous technique. If you're unsure, throw up a video as Ant says. We all love a video.
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Re: Unsure about technique

Postby jamesg » January 10th, 2017, 7:27 am

just get on with it?

That's always a good idea, if not a sine qua non. I'd say what you could get on with would be the main factors, for a few months:

Distance.
5-10k a day is what's needed for endurance. HR 145 is not too high as you've seen.

Style.
100 Watt (pace 2:30) at rating 31 says you need a better stroke. 100W at 20 should be doable, if not easy. Suggest you see the C2 video and the written instructions:
http://www.concept2.com/indoor-rowers/t ... que-videos

Adjustments.
Low drag (max 130 drag factor) and low feet will help your style and leg use, by improving posture and pull speed.
76y, 188cm, 86kg, MHR 170. 3km/h in water, 10km/h on. Last 2k (1-16) 8.10@26
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Re: Unsure about technique

Postby Anth_F » January 10th, 2017, 9:07 am

I actually only just noticed your stroke ratings for the sessions, the rates are very much all over the place which would suggest the technique needs some work.

There are many great instructional videos on youtube to help you out with this. And then it's just a case of working on technique drills etc for a good while until you have a solid foundation on your technique. Only then, start to think about the numbers, IMO :idea:

Thats what i did, spent the first few weeks developing a good technique from following several of the youtube videos and it's really stood me in good stead.
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PB's (2k)7:23.2 (5k)19:48 (6k)23:58.8 (30:00)7518

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Re: Unsure about technique

Postby jackarabit » January 10th, 2017, 11:48 am

Try and get a grip on a good, sustainable stroke rate. Rates in the high twenties and mid-teens tend to be unduly costly. For UT2 something around 20 is good. Perhaps a touch lower for the very tall and a touch higher for the short.


Rating low (18-22spm) at low drag (110-120 drag factor) with a fast drive and leisurely recovery (1:2 or 1:3 time ratio) will eventually sort your peer group pace problem. Your willingness to do continuous work for 25-60' is a plus for aerobic conditioning no matter how inefficient your stroke may be at this point. You'll get there.
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Re: Unsure about technique

Postby mcjamil » January 10th, 2017, 6:02 pm

Anth_F wrote:Train a lot more often!! It appears to me, given your stats etc and how long you have been rowing, times should be much faster than that.

As for technique we can't give much until we see it... so try posting up a video.


Thank you for the response, Ant! Yeah, I think I need to post a video. Any specific rate/speed I should consider for the video?

Anth_F wrote:I actually only just noticed your stroke ratings for the sessions, the rates are very much all over the place which would suggest the technique needs some work.

There are many great instructional videos on youtube to help you out with this. And then it's just a case of working on technique drills etc for a good while until you have a solid foundation on your technique. Only then, start to think about the numbers, IMO :idea:

Thats what i did, spent the first few weeks developing a good technique from following several of the youtube videos and it's really stood me in good stead.

I just showed a subset of sessions at different rates to show that all my sessions aren't at the same rate, and that I'm slow at all rates. :( In other words, the rates aren't all over the place by accident; I was deliberately trying to row those distances at different rates to find one I'm comfortable at. I've probably rowed a million meters by now, with about a quarter of that since last September (about 40 sessions in that time).

Rod wrote:Drag Factor is a big influence on technique and you haven't mentioned it so it may be helpful to ask if you understand it and if so what Drag Factor are you using?...

I'd also suggest looking at this training plan...

Lastly, at 5'7'' and 200lbs you are going to benefit if you can reduce the 200lbs but that's another story I guess! Good luck with it, I'm looking forward to following your progress.


Hi Rod, thanks for the comments. Yeah, I'm familiar with the drag factor/damper setting stuff. Mine is set at 104, so that's not the problem, I think.

I've thought about doing the Pete Plan several times (especially the beginner version). I haven't for exactly this reason that I fear I have bad technique and I don't want to solidify it. Maybe that's silly on my part.

Regarding my weight, well, yeah. :) I should have mentioned that I was 232 lbs in August, so - by switching to a doctor-ordered Mediterranean diet and with an emphasis on this regular exercise routine - I'm already ~30 lbs lighter. My goal is to be 160 lbs, but I suspect that'll take all of 2017.

jamesg wrote:
just get on with it?

That's always a good idea, if not a sine qua non. I'd say what you could get on with would be the main factors, for a few months:

Distance.
5-10k a day is what's needed for endurance. HR 145 is not too high as you've seen.

Style.
100 Watt (pace 2:30) at rating 31 says you need a better stroke. 100W at 20 should be doable, if not easy. Suggest you see the C2 video and the written instructions:
http://www.concept2.com/indoor-rowers/t ... que-videos

Adjustments.
Low drag (max 130 drag factor) and low feet will help your style and leg use, by improving posture and pull speed.


Thanks, James! May I ask by what you mean by 145 isn't too high? (Just to be clear, I don't mind rowing at 145, but it's right where I transition to not being able to hold a conversation.)

Hmm. 5-10k a day. OK. I was doing that earlier, but the C25K running stuff (which I'm doing every other day, and during the intervals of which my HR regularly hits >170) threw me off and now I'm rowing only once or twice a week. Perhaps I need to re-focus on rowing for a bit. But, in any case, I don't think this solves the speed problem. I'm not improving.

I've seen the C2 videos and read their instructions. (And watched a bunch of other YouTube videos about technique as well.) In my mind, I'm following proper technique. (Though, I strongly suspect, I'm clearly not.)

Yeah, 100W at 20 rating is definitely not easy for me. Here are the broken-down results from such a session from October:

Time Meters /500m Watts Cal/Hr s/m Avg. HR
25:00.1 5,000m 2:30.0 104 657 22 148
5:04.0 1,000m 2:32.0 100 644 22 132
4:52.8 2,000m 2:26.4 112 685 22 143
4:51.9 3,000m 2:25.9 113 688 22 150
5:21.1 4,000m 2:40.5 85 592 21 157
4:50.4 5,000m 2:25.2 114 692 24 159

Note the HRs. This is clearly not easy aerobic exercise for me. I was breathing hard and sweating up a storm.

jackarabit wrote:Rating low (18-22spm) at low drag (110-120 drag factor) with a fast drive and leisurely recovery (1:2 or 1:3 time ratio) will eventually sort your peer group pace problem. Your willingness to do continuous work for 25-60' is a plus for aerobic conditioning no matter how inefficient your stroke may be at this point. You'll get there.


Thanks, Jack. I do appreciate the good wishes. Yeah, I'm not lacking enthusiasm. And a lot of my rows (especially in past years) did exactly as you suggest: rating 16-22 at low drag (~100) and 1:3 recovery. But I'm not getting better (where "better" is defined as more efficient).

gjs wrote:Hey M

You may have more aerobic scope than you think. Plug your numbers into the calculator here and see what you get. (With a max hr of 180 and a resting hr of 60 my aerobic bands are UT2 126-144 and UT1 145-156.)

http://www.freespiritsrowing.com/forum/ ... calculator

When folk refer to 'steady state' rows they are usually referring to efforts that largely stay within the UT2 band and last for 40+ mins.

Try and get a grip on a good, sustainable stroke rate. Rates in the high twenties and mid-teens tend to be unduly costly. For UT2 something around 20 is good. Perhaps a touch lower for the very tall and a touch higher for the short.

While rowing strapless normally helps, entirely possible to row strapless and still have a disastrous technique. If you're unsure, throw up a video as Ant says. We all love a video.

Thanks Gary. These UT bands are new to me, so I'm grateful to you for introducing me to them. I get that the notion corresponds roughly to the idea of HR zones. My numbers are similar to yours, though my resting HR is higher (~70). I understand that, and - agreed - I'm trying to do work in UT2. But, to stay here, my speed would be 2:45/2:55 for 5K/10K at 20 s/m, and I'm trying to understand why it's so slow. As Jack said, 100W (or 2:30/500m) at 20 s/m - for example - should be "easy" (and thus in UT2?), and it's not.

I guess I need to post a video. I'm happy so many folks here are willing to watch me do my thing, but I'm kinda embarrassed at the idea. I'll get over it. :/
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Re: Unsure about technique

Postby Rod » January 10th, 2017, 6:33 pm

mcjamil wrote: I'm familiar with the drag factor/damper setting stuff. Mine is set at 104, so that's not the problem, I think.

I've thought about doing the Pete Plan several times (especially the beginner version). I haven't for exactly this reason that I fear I have bad technique and I don't want to solidify it. Maybe that's silly on my part.

Regarding my weight, well, yeah. :) I should have mentioned that I was 232 lbs in August, so - by switching to a doctor-ordered Mediterranean diet and with an emphasis on this regular exercise routine - I'm already ~30 lbs lighter. My goal is to be 160 lbs, but I suspect that'll take all of 2017.


Well done on the weight loss, you certainly have the enthusiasm for this sport I think you just need a bit more self belief....we were all ''slow'' when we started!

You would do very well to raise the Drag factor from the 104 you are using as that is I think far too low because given your height I would think you are not getting as long a stroke as taller rowers and probably not easily able to go close to the cage end at the catch. If you raise the DF it will speed up the deceleration of the flywheel so you can accelerate it better with your shorter stroke. It's the acceleration of the flywheel that the monitor measures.

I would suggest trying 110, then moving it up by 5 points a time (per session) until you get to 130 to see what feels best, I would think 130 would be the right one but see what you think.

I'd also suggest starting the Pete Plan for beginners now as you will enjoy watching yourself speeding up....you can't fail to do so I promise!

Don't get too hung up on technique....it sounds like it's nowhere near as bad as you were saying.......so just give it a bash....I reckon you'll be fine...good luck with it!
59 year old Lightweight male. Based in Sussex, just south of London, England. Best 2k recently.. 6:59.2 on 15th February 2017
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Re: Unsure about technique

Postby jamesg » January 11th, 2017, 2:35 am

May I ask by what you mean by 145 isn't too high? (Just to be clear, I don't mind rowing at 145, but it's right where I transition to not being able to hold a conversation.)


That's one definition of UT1.

In numbers, at age 40 the average (not necessarily your) MHR is 220-40 = 180. If your rest rate is 60 you have a calculated range of 120. So top UT1 would be 60 + 0.8*120 = 156, and AT over 160. So you're probably safe at 145.

However we can't use HR bands as a training tool if we have no data of our own. No problem, rating and Watts (or Pace to some extent) tell us exactly what we are doing and we don't need to know our HR to realize it's time to slow down and/or have another go tomorrow.

Technique serves to get a hard fast catch with the legs, where our muscle is. Using the legs lets us go slow (ratings 20-25) while the boat goes fast, which is the object of the exercise, and 100W at rate 20 is just that. The ratio, 5, is in line with your height and in due time will seem easy.
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Re: Unsure about technique

Postby aussieluke » January 11th, 2017, 4:19 am

jamesg wrote:
May I ask by what you mean by 145 isn't too high? (Just to be clear, I don't mind rowing at 145, but it's right where I transition to not being able to hold a conversation.)


That's one definition of UT1.

In numbers, at age 40 the average (not necessarily your) MHR is 220-40 = 180. If your rest rate is 60 you have a calculated range of 120. So top UT1 would be 60 + 0.8*120 = 156, and AT over 160. So you're probably safe at 145.

However we can't use HR bands as a training tool if we have no data of our own. No problem, rating and Watts (or Pace to some extent) tell us exactly what we are doing and we don't need to know our HR to realize it's time to slow down and/or have another go tomorrow.

Technique serves to get a hard fast catch with the legs, where our muscle is. Using the legs lets us go slow (ratings 20-25) while the boat goes fast, which is the object of the exercise, and 100W at rate 20 is just that. The ratio, 5, is in line with your height and in due time will seem easy.


If you want a simpler formula that MAY NOT BE PERFECT but will give you a safe number to work at to be sure you are not going too hard, try the Maffetone 180 forumla, and be honest about yourself with the additional deductions/additions.

https://philmaffetone.com/180-formula/
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Re: Unsure about technique

Postby Anth_F » January 11th, 2017, 10:03 am

mcjamil wrote:
Anth_F wrote:Train a lot more often!! It appears to me, given your stats etc and how long you have been rowing, times should be much faster than that.

As for technique we can't give much until we see it... so try posting up a video.


Thank you for the response, Ant! Yeah, I think I need to post a video. Any specific rate/speed I should consider for the video?

Anth_F wrote:I actually only just noticed your stroke ratings for the sessions, the rates are very much all over the place which would suggest the technique needs some work.

There are many great instructional videos on youtube to help you out with this. And then it's just a case of working on technique drills etc for a good while until you have a solid foundation on your technique. Only then, start to think about the numbers, IMO :idea:

Thats what i did, spent the first few weeks developing a good technique from following several of the youtube videos and it's really stood me in good stead.

I just showed a subset of sessions at different rates to show that all my sessions aren't at the same rate, and that I'm slow at all rates. :( In other words, the rates aren't all over the place by accident; I was deliberately trying to row those distances at different rates to find one I'm comfortable at. I've probably rowed a million meters by now, with about a quarter of that since last September (about 40 sessions in that time).



Aww, i did actually later think maybe they weren't accidental and actually experimental, sorry for the confusion.

As for the video, show doing some 20-23r would be good to examine and assess technique. And just go at a pace you are comfortable with at those rates.
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PB's (2k)7:23.2 (5k)19:48 (6k)23:58.8 (30:00)7518

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Re: Unsure about technique

Postby hjs » January 11th, 2017, 10:17 am

Re video, best to do a few paces and rates. One at your know normal going, one at low rating 20 and one at a faster pace. Al three say for one minute.
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Re: Unsure about technique

Postby drm7 » January 13th, 2017, 11:39 am

I just started rowing on the Concept2 recently, and I'm in a similar position. I'm a little older (48) and lighter (175lbs) and have very little cardiovascular training background. As a result, my heart rate is pretty high on longer pieces - even at a "slow" 2:15-2:20 pace, and pretty much maxxed out on intervals (at just above 2:00 pace).

Based on what you've written I'll give you my beginner-to-beginner $0.02

1. Don't worry about being "slow" if that is what your body is telling you. There are a LOT of people on this board who are "new" to rowing, but have huge CV bases from cycling or running. That makes a big difference!
2. You can probably push your heartrate up a little bit, especially if your weekly volume is low. If you are training 5-6 days/week, then you start creeping into burnout territory if you don't watch the intensity. I am only rowing 3x/week, so my H/R is in the high end of the range.
3. Go ahead and do the beginner Pete Plan (which is what I am doing), and follow the instructions on pacing. Set a reachable pace on your longer pieces, and just worry about matching that pace as you add distance. What I found is that I am steadily getting faster each week (even with longer distance), because I am improving my technique.
4. Improving your stroke efficiency and power will reap the most gains in the short-term. I've been able to lengthen my stroke and improve my drive, and that alone chopped 2-3 secs off of my long distance pace.
5. Consider bumping up the drag factor to 110, then 115, after you get your stroke dialed in. It helped me get a LITTLE faster, because it was a better match for my leverage/size/skill.

Apart from that, listen to the other guys on the board. They have TON of experience and know what they are talking about! Just don't feel as if you are competing with them, because they have spent years developing their technique and cardiovascular systems.
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