Distance per stroke is a great way to get your rowers to think about the way they move the boat. Just as swimmers spend time in the pool trying to cover a lap in the least number of strokes possible rowers should also learn to understand the importance of the effectiveness of each stroke. It promotes an effective drive phase and an efficient recovery phase.
Rowing technology allows rowers and coaches to easily monitor things such as stroke rate and boat speed with the use of GPS technology. The Coxmate GPS and SX units both have the ability to monitor rate and boat speed and will give the rower/coxswain their distance per stroke in real time.
The Firbank Grammar School (Melbourne, Australia) rowing program uses distance per stroke as a training tool for rate capped pieces and interval training. The chart below is calculated off the average winning time over the last 20 years for a particular division at the annual Head of the Schoolgirls Regatta (held in Geelong, Australia with well over 2000 competitors). The average winning time is taken and then broken down into different intensities, ratings and boat speed. From this distance per stroke can be calculated to allow the coxswain to work with the crew to achieve maximum effectiveness from each stroke. Every crew in the Firbank Grammar School rowing program has a Coxmate SX unit with 10hz GPS in the boat with them every session.
Application for Novice Rowing
Any coach will tell you that teaching people learning to row to take time on the recovery is tough. Giving the rowers feedback such as distance per stroke allows people learning to row to conceptualise the notion of time on the recovery in a more intuitive manner.
Application for Elite Rowing
As many coaches will note the trend in elite rowing over the past decade has been toward a higher stroke rate. The New Zealand men’s pair (undefeated since 2009 – 68 races after the Rio Semi Finals) are a good example of this. Using a tool such as the Coxmate SX or GPS unit allows crews to understand their effectiveness at given rates and optimise their stroke rate/rhythm for the best compromise between rating and boat speed. The Coxmate PC Analysis software (image below) provides the ability to compare and establish what is the optimal rhythm for a crew.