“Rowing Faster” <– Great book. Here are some thoughts on Chapter 6

I’m on a business trip and found myself without internet and had some time to kill, so I was rereading a terrific book.

Rowing Faster, by Volker Nolte

Chapter 6 in the book is by Ed McNeely who has been associated with the Canadian Rowing team and is titled “Rowing Physiology”. This single chapter is worth the price of the book in my opinion.

He provides references for the split of aerobic vs anaerobic in 1K, 2K and 5K races.

– 1k about 50/50
– 2k about 80/20 (could be up to 30%)
– 5k about 90/10

He includes the definitions and explains aerobic threshold, anaerobic threshold, and VO2Max. Then things get very interesting.

He describes a diagnostic test to measure anaerobic fitness. I think I will need to give this a try sometime when there isn’t enough suffering in my life. It is a modification of the wingate test which is usually done on a stationary bike. Here’s the procedure.
– You need a way to record the erg stroke by stroke. I think you can do this with ergdata. I know you can with rowpro. Worst case, you can set up a video camera to watch the PM.
– 10 minute warmup
– set up the PM for 1 minute work, and 1 minute rest.
– row the first minute as you did your warmup, nice and easy
– during the rest, grab a sip of water and continue to paddle lightly until there are 3-5 seconds left in the rest.
– Then crank it up. The objective is to pull as many watts as possible in every single stroke. You can use any rate as long as you are rowing full slide. Do not pace yourself. This is an all out test.

What will happen is you will get about 15 seconds in and you will begin to fade. Then you will fade some more. Then eventually, it’s all over and you can puke in the bucket you stationed next to the erg. From the stroke by stroke data you can get:
1. Peak power: Your highest wattage any any single stroke
2. Avg power for 60 seconds
3. Anaerobic Alactic Critical duration: This is how long it takes to drop off 10% from peak power.
4. Anaerobic lactic critical duration: This is how long it takes to drop off to 35% below peak power.
5. Drop off: percentage difference from peak power to lowest power

The test is most useful when used as an indicator of progress. So, a training program would use this test every 4 weeks or so to see if anaerobic performance was getting better. But just as a diagnostic, here’s what the book says.

– Peak power: There’s a table of benchmarks for men and women. For a heavyweight 52 year old rower like me, peak power should be 850-1050W
– Avg power: 680-820
– AACD: should be longer than 20 sec
– ALCD: Should be longer than 40 sec
– Drop off: Should be less than 35%

If you miss on these parameters, it might be a good idea to include more peak power and short interval work in your routines if you are focusing on 1K and 2K races.

But wait, there’s more! Then he goes on to his suggestions for the best balance of fitness variables for rowing. The variables he is talking about are:
– VO2Max
– Aerobic Threshold
– Anaerobic Threshold
– Peak Power

He suggests the following tests to determine the wattage associated with these thresholds.
– VO2Max: The dreaded 2km test
– Anaerobic threshold: 6km test
– aerobic threshold: 75 minute test
– peak power: 30 second sprint

Based on his measurements of the perfect specimens available to him, he asserts that the ideal ratios of these different paramaters are:

VO2Max to peak power: 40 to 45%
Anaerobic Threshold to VO2Max: 80 to 85%
Aerobic Threshold to VO2Max: 65 to 70%

So, he suggests that at the beginning of a training block, you do these tests over a week or so, with adequate rest between them, and then use your results to figure out if you should prioritize aerobic, anaerobic or power training. Which I think is pretty cool.

He goes on to talk about training volume, a subject that we’ve touched on in a number of threads. He is definitely in the “miles make champions” camp.

Anyway, I think that I will probably do the suite of tests at the end of the head racing season to help me figure out a training plan for indoor racing. I highly recommend the book, especially to OTW rowers. Only about a third of the book would be useful to indoor rowers, but it is a well researched and concise description of strategies to train for the unique demands of racing 2k.

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15 thoughts on ““Rowing Faster” <– Great book. Here are some thoughts on Chapter 6

  1. sanderroosendaal says:

    I have that one in my library, so will probably pack it for my trip to Hazewinkel. So working back from my 2k test I would be in 1:18 – 1:20 range for peak power (I have no data), 1:50 – 1:52 for the 6k (my actual PB is at 1:51.6) and 2:01 – 1:58 for the 75 minute test (I row the 60 minute at 1:57.3 pace and the half marathon in 82 minutes at 1:57.7 pace). So that would point me either to power or to anaerobic training …

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  2. bendredman says:

    As another data point, last year I did:
    Peak Power = 753W (after quite a bit of specific training for that)
    VO2Max to peak power: 40 to 45% – Actual 45%
    Anaerobic Threshold to VO2Max: 80 to 85% – 84% (from a 5km rather than 6km)
    Aerobic Threshold to VO2Max: 65 to 70% – 72.4% (from 60m rather than 75)

    I don’t do enough 2kms to do this on a regular basis though!

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      • bendredman says:

        I’m not so sure about that! I looked at the numbers in the book, had most of the metrics except Max power, so tried that. I was way down, so focused on that, and got it up by over 100w. So slightly massaged figures! It didn’t noticeably improve my 2km tone sadly, although I wasn’t doing enough tests to talk say one way or the other. Seemed to help my starts though

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