How Good Is Your Race Day Warm-up! Tip # 2

February 12, 2015

Your race day warm-up is something you should have practiced multiple times prior to race day.  One thing I have learned from having coached hundreds of athletes is that most have never developed a consistent race warm-up plan, they just wing it.  Not getting this right can cost you at the finish line.


Warming up by feel leads to inconsistent training and race day results, but with some practice can lead to a strong pre-race routine that will power you to the finish line. 


Developing your pre-race or pre-interval training routine and getting it right will take time and you will need to go through some trial and error to get it right.


Honing your pre-race routine is best done when you are doing interval training sessions that lead up to key races. 


Below is an outline of a race warm-up model that I use with my private clients and is part of my rowing training programs (digital products).


If you do not already have a solid consistent race warm-up routine why not give it a try just prior to speed interval work that is part of your training program.


Start by doing a general warm-up at about 50% of your current race speed lasting about eight to 12 minutes.


Follow the general warm-up with a series of three short training bursts lasting about 40 to 60 seconds.  The first interval should be slightly faster than your general warm-up speed, roughly 60% of race speed and go for about 40 to 60 seconds then rest for about 90 seconds.  The second interval (40 to 60 seconds) should be at 70% speed and the third at 80% of race speed.   Then rest for 3 to 5 minutes.


Finish your race warm-up with four shorter intervals (about four) lasting about 20 at 90%, 100%, 110% of race speed.  Then and then finish with the last interval at your projected race speed. 


Try and finish your race warm-up about 3 to 5 minutes prior to the start time of your race or training pieces.


It is best to practice your race-warm-up multiple times before you get to your BIG event.  What I have described above works best for races lasting between one and 30 minutes in length.  


Longer races like a half or full marathons for example may only require a general warm-up lasting eight to twelve minutes. Sprint racing one minute or less is a whole different beast especially when running. 


Coach K


“Dedicated to Making You Faster, Stronger, and More Resistant to Injury”


 PS – Please send any feedback or suggestions for topics that interest you in regards to training and racing.

PPS – I have a “Pre-race” document I can send you.  Just shoot me an email and let me know you would like it.


Are boot camp style classes the best fit for you?

May 20, 2014

I am frequently asked about the effectiveness of boot-camp style systems such as CrossFit.  My opinion about these “train hard” programs is always the same: it depends on your individual strength and flexibility deficits, your training history, and your specific athletic goals.  These types of boot camp style programs can be effective, but without a firm understanding of these three areas, all that hard training could actually be doing more harm than good.

To be fair, each of these areas need to be addressed for every individual before starting any fitness training.  However, CrossFit can be a more aggressive style of training and that is why there tends to be a higher injury rate when compared to other training styles.  This is especially true for novice athletes who have not gone through a whole body strength and flexibility evaluation.

The point of training is to improve your condition, not to make it worse.  Training hard is actually easy to do, however, training the right way before training hard takes more effort because you need to have uncovered the answers to the three question we addressed.  Getting this complete picture first will always bring about better results versus just jumping right into “training hard”.  To get the best results, you must start with the “train right” mentality.

Before you jump into a “train hard” program make sure you have a professional evaluate your strength and flexibility issues, and tell them about your training history, previous injuries, and your specific goals.

If you are already “training hard”, having a better understanding about your own deficits will add a powerful punch to your current program as you make necessary corrections.  Taking this approach is purposeful and will help you to get the results you are looking for, instead of just doing a bunch of random exercises that are hard to do, and may not take you where you want to go.

Boot camp style programs tend to allot weight a large percentage of training volume to squatting type exercise movements because they are “hard” to do, especially when done in large volumes with weight added to the body.  While these types of movements can be beneficial to help to primarily build strength in the quads, glutes, and low back muscles, to be most effective, the right attention needs to be paid to the opposing muscle groups.

If your real goal is to be faster, stronger, and more resistant to training related injuries, the “train hard” approach might not be the best way to get there until you do this…

Focus on improving the strength in the muscles that oppose the squatting motion first.  Concentrating on your whole body strength and flexibility is what allows you to reach your real potential in any sport.  Training right means you are focused on what matters, not just training hard.

It makes sense to want to improve the strength of the muscles that propel you forward such as the quads, glutes, and back muscles for most land based sports, but when the oppositional muscles are neglected (those which oppose the primary movers) you might be increasing your risk of getting injured while not actually improving your speed at all.

Balancing your training program can help you get the most out of your strength training program and allow you to train much closer to your true potential.

Train Right, Train Smart, then Train Hard!

Coach Kaehler

How are you finding more length in your rowing stroke?

March 8, 2012

By Coach Kaehler

Are you getting enough reach at the catch?  Tired of your coach yelling at you to ‘get longer’, or fed-up with rigging yourself to row like you’re 6’8”?  The fact is that the length of a rower’s stroke is a common concern for many rowing coaches.  Coaches often single out rowers with shorter strokes and pressure them to produce more length.  Over-reaching is one approach to increasing stroke length, but comes with an increased risk of injury.  Other strategies include lowering feet, reducing footboard angles, changing spans and oars, etc.  To increase their stroke length, many rowers try to get their shoulders, hips, or both further into the catch.  While all of these options or a combination of them may seem ideal, alone, they aren’t effective solutions in the long term.  More important, these ‘quick-fix’ solutions may actually place athletes in greater risks of injury.  A more effective and long-term solution to increasing stroke length is to determine the athlete’s strength and flexibility deficits, and develop and implement an individual corrective program.  Temporary rigging solutions can then supplement this program during the corrective transition.

A rower’s stroke length is primarily controlled by two factors: strength and flexibility.   When both are in good balance, the athlete can get into a strong, powerful, and long position with little effort.  While other considerations also influence stroke length — arm length, leg length, and torso length — these anatomical factors can not be altered.  Instead, coaches and athletes use rigging changes to help modify stroke length, and improve uniformity in a crew with varying body types.  However, using rigging strategies alone to correct possible deficits in a rower’s strength and flexibility is not the best long term solution, and can lead to increased risks of injury.

To effectively improve stroke length, I encourage coaches and athletes to first identify and correct individual strength and flexibility issues,and then explore possible rigging changes.  Strength issues usually improve quicker than flexibility issues, so it may be several weeks or months before rowers should attempt to rig into a more advantageous position, as it relates to rowing power.

When stroke length is short at the catch, rowers often increase reach by increasing shoulder reach, hip reach, or both, with the later being the ideal if both are increased by the same amount.  (Alternate sentence:  When stroke length is short, rowers will try to lengthen by reaching further into the catch with their shoulders (most common approach), hips (preferred approach), or possibly even both.)  While many rowers increase their length by reaching further into the stern with their shoulders while keeping their hips stable as they reach the catch, other more flexible athletes get too deep into the catch to find more length.  However, because these athletes tend to be weak, this solution places them in a greater risk of injury because they get beyond their strength at the catch.  These athletes often hit their Achilles’ tendon of calf with their seats, with knees well past vertical of the ankle joint at the catch.  The relationship between the shoulder and hip joints should be set during the first third of the recovery.  Once this relationship is set, it should remain unchanged for the remainder of the stroke, to and through the catch, and into the first half of the drive.   Athletes who use the shoulder strategy to increase stroke length (compensating for strength and flexibility deficits), will have a less powerful rowing stroke and be more prone to injuries.

To understand the most powerful rowing stroke sequence, consider a heavy dead lift.  With this lift, the hips must move first to get the weight moving.  Then, as bar momentum builds, the back can then begin to isotonically work (shorten) in conjunction with the hips and knees.  Using the shoulder strategy to increase stroke length alters the stroke sequence — the shoulders (instead of the hips) initiate the stroke movement, and therefore lead to a less powerful stroke.

Getting the hips deeper into the catch once the shoulder-hip relationship is set, is an excellent way to increase stroke length and power, especially when the changes in hip depth come from improvements in the athlete’s strength and flexibility.  While changing the rigging (i.e. lowering feet or reducing foot angle) can increase stroke length, it reduces horizontal power in the stroke.  A body-balanced approach to addressing and improving individual strength and flexibility deficits is the ideal solution to finding more stroke length, increasing boat speed, and reducing an athlete’s risk of injury.

An erg is an erg!

January 25, 2012

By Coach Kaehler

Coaches and clients often ask me my thoughts on different types of ergometers (ergs).  With the recent release of Concept 2’s Dynamic Indoor Rower, there’s been an increased “buzz” on dynamic ergs, which are similar to the Rowperfect, which has been around for years.  As ergs evolve, changes in their designs have helped reduce stresses on the body, specifically the passive tissues — bones, discs and ligaments.  Determining which erg is right for you is a issue of personal preference, as well as your ability to tolerate change-of-direction forces.

When comparing a standard erg to a dynamic erg or to a slider, ultimately, the net training effect is going to be small.  For some athletes, however, it may mean the difference between being able to train on the erg or not.   The standard erg offers no change-of-direction momentum to the athlete.  Therefore, athletes are 100% responsible for absorbing the stresses applied to the body as they go from the finish of the stroke to the recovery.  This contrasts with both dynamic ergs and sliders — both of which offer the key benefit of change-of-direction momentum.  To the rower, this means less energy is required to execute each stroke, and less stress potential stress to passive tissues including low back discs, ribs and ligaments.  The energy-saving effect of the change-of-direction momentum is evident when one compares test scores taken on standard Concept 2 ergs against the same tests taken on sliders. Test scores on the sliders will be faster by several seconds (3 to 5 seconds faster for elite rowers on a 2K test).

A percentage of athletes who can not tolerate rowing on a standard erg (because it creates back pain), can however row on the water pain-free.   For these same rowers, boat size also makes a difference — the larger the boat, the less stress on the body at the finish and start of the recovery.   Injuries for all sports primarily stem from the stresses placed on the body as it quickly changes direction.  Rowing is no different.  There are two places in the rowing stroke where this happens: the catch and the finish.   The ability to tolerate these changes in direction is key to preventing training-related injuries.  Both flexibility and strength deficits potentially reduce an athlete’s ability to tolerate these change-of-direction stresses, and could lead to injuries.

On the other hand, if athletes have excellent strength and flexibility in the muscles that control these change-of-direction forces, they can tolerate training on any type of rowing erg.  For athletes previously unable to row on standard ergs, dynamic ergs are ideal for getting them back to erg rowing.  However, there will still be a percentage of rowers who will not be able to tolerate the stresses of rowing on either the standard or dynamic ergs because their strength and flexibility deficits are still limiting factors.  Low and mid-back pain and rib fractures are two clear signs that erg-limiting strength and flexibility issues exist.  For these athletes, identifying  and correcting their individual strength and flexibility deficits offers the best solution.  As athletes improve their strength and flexibility, they will restore their ability to tolerate change-of-direction forces, and return to pain-free erging on any type of erg.

Bottom-line, the erg you choose reflects your personal needs and preference.  If you can’t tolerate the change-of-direction forces on a standard erg, you may find temporary relief on a dynamic erg or slider.  However, beware: I compare this solution to people who have very high levels of cholesterol and take statin medications, but who continue to eat poorly.  In the long run, athletes who can’t tolerate standard ergs should be evaluated for body balance issues (strength and flexibility deficits) and start a corrective program.  Like any effective program, a body-balanced based solution requires commitment and consistency, but offers a more reliable, long term solution to enjoying pain-free rowing on any erg and on the water.

Loosen-up! Tried and true techniques for stretching tight hamstrings

January 11, 2012

By Coach Kaehler

Are you tired of feeling tight in your hamstrings after a long run or row?  Does it feel like no matter how much you stretch, you never feel like you’re making any progress?   While hamstring tightness can be caused by a number of factors, the great thing is you can improve their mobility.  There are two key ways to improve your overall stretching effectiveness and both will make noticeable improvements in your flexibility and post-training discomfort.  I am one of those athletes who must constantly work on my hamstring mobility.  Building these two stretching techniques into my warm-up helps ensure I stay mobile and fluid.

When stretching the hamstrings, the natural tendency is to do the basic toe-touch movement where you are stretching out the entire spine (flexion), hamstrings, and glutes.  The standard for general flexibility is whether or not you can touch your toes.  While this does stretch your hamstrings, it also stretches your back muscles (paraspinal muscles) at the same time.  This is a very common, yet less effective way, to improve your hamstring mobility.

The first key to improving your hamstring mobility is to isolate the hamstrings by eliminating back movement.  The straight leg dead lift (SLDL) in standing is the ideal exercise in this regard.  Done standing, I like to keep the feet about foot stretcher distance apart.  The low back remains in an extended position (concave), while you bend the trunk forward as if you are taking a bow to an audience while keeping you head up as if you are looking at the crowd.  Keeping the entire back stable during this exercise, forces the movement to come from the hamstrings and glutes.  You may notice a burning or fatigue sensation in the low back muscles, but they’re just contracting in an isometric way to keep the back from moving during the exercise.  The same exercise movement can be duplicated in a boat or on an erg as a stretching exercise, where the back is kept in a firm upright position while you go from the finish to the body-over position.  The SLDL stretch is a great dynamic (short hold time 1 to 2 seconds) hamstring stretch, but can also be used as a static stretch (holding 15 or more seconds).

The straight leg raise (SLR), which allows for more control of the spine, is another effective way to stretch out your hamstrings.  This stretch is done lying flat on the floor to stabilize the back.  Support your low back using a rolled-up hand towel — the towel should support your natural lumbar curve but not increase it.  With the low back fixed by the rolled-up towel, slowly raise up one leg with the knee completely extended.  If you’re a rower and you have tight hamstrings, beware: chances are that you’re rowing with your back slumped over into a rounded position, like a general toe-touch.  This position puts additional stress (pressure) on your low back region, which can ultimately lead to injuries.

The second key to effective stretching is to ensuring that elements of your stretching routine are sufficient to making realistic improvements in your flexibility. These elements include: the length of your stretch– how long you hold your stretch; the total stretch time (example: 10 reps of 30 second holds); and the frequency — how often you stretch (example: five times a week, twice a day, etc.).  Static stretching is an excellent way to improve your mobility if the stretch is held long enough.  Effective stretch times run between 30 to 60 seconds, while total stretch time should be at least five minutes per leg.  Last but not least, is consistency — ie. stretches must be done daily.  If you stretch only after training sessions and you’e training four days per week, you’re probably only going to maintain your current flexibility without any improvements.

There’s no secret to improving hamstring flexibility.  It’s straightforward once you follow and commit to a few guidelines: isolate the hamstrings in your stretch by eliminating back movement; hold your stretches for 30 to 60 seconds, do at least 10 reps of 30 second holds, and stretch regularly (everyday, five times a week, or twice a day, etc.).  Following these simple guidelines will loosen-up your hamstrings, reduce your risk of injuries, and allow you to enjoy your activities without discomfort in your hamstrings.

‘Tis the season to shake it up!

December 12, 2011

 Build new elements of endurance into your training program

early in your off-season, to add variety and improve your Body Balance


By Coach Kaehler


Do you keep the same training routine all year-round?  Or do you shake things up at the end of your primary race season?  Regardless of your skill level and training volume, changing your routine gives your mind and body an essential break from training repetition.  Shaking things up a bit also adds variety, helps with your overall recovery, and improves your body balance by using different muscle groups and patterns.


The best time to introduce any new sporting movements into your current training program is right after your primary racing season has ended.  First things first though.  Recharge your body and mind. Take a short but essential rest (detraining) period after your primary race.  Detraining periods can last anywhere from one to several weeks. Once you’re mentally and physically refreshed, it’s time to get back to work.


Adding new endurance sports to your training program keeps your cardio-system sharp, and allows your primary movement patterns to rest and recover.  Sports like running, cycling, swimming, and cross-country skiing are all great ways to add mental and physical balance to your program.  Some athletes completely abandon their primary sport for several weeks or months, while others mix it up but still train in their main sport.  While individual preferences may vary, both approaches can lead to excellent results.


If you do decide to add a new sport (aside from running), you may initially find it difficult to elevate your heart rate to sufficient levels.  For this reason, consider adding in more familiar endurance sports to keep your cardio system challenged.  For example, if you’ve never done lap swimming, you may find it difficult to get into a good rhythm and get a solid cardio session.  Try adding two or three sessions of swimming per week to start, then gradually build-up to a point where you can get a solid cardio workout.  Be patient though.  Initially your muscles will be inefficient because you’re using them in a different way.  Once you start logging in some mileage, your muscles will adjust and you’ll be able to achieve the necessary rhythm to elevate your heart rate.


Working your body in different positions and planes is a key consideration when you’re introducing new cross-training elements into your training program.  Endurance sports can be done in several positions including: upright (running, cross-country skiing), seated (cycling, rowing, kayaking, etc.), and horizontal (swimming).  Triathlon is the one endurance sport that works all three positions, while the others are limited to one or two of the positions.  Including endurance activities in all three planes and positions will work different muscle groups and patterns, and improve your overall body balance.


Rowing certainly has several appealing aspects to it being a non-impact, gravity-reduced sport that uses all the major muscle groups at one time, and it also is low impact.  However, rowing is limited to the sitting position only.  Cross-training (especially with upright or horizontal positioned-activities) in the off-season adds variety to your body and mind, and can help add balance to your program.  Weight training adds similar benefits as it can be done in all three positions and allows for great variety.


Fresh season, fresh perspective; Shake-up your usual training program and enjoy the benefits of variety, reduced staleness and restored energy levels.  When you’re thinking of adding new cross-training activities, consider working planes and positions that are different from your usual sport.  As always, training hard, training smart and making wise choices about cross training will help you improve your body balance and increase the longevity of your sport.

Building effective ‘de-training’ periods into your training program

November 21, 2011

Shift Your ‘Rest’ Paradigm

Building effective ‘de-training’ periods into your training program

By Coach Kaehler

Do you ever take more than one day off of your training program?  Do you, like many coaches and athletes, scoff at the importance of taking longer rest periods leading up to big events?  To many athletes, the term ‘rest’ is perceived as negative and even stressful.  Time they consider ‘unproductive’, or time they think should be used to train even more to further improve their performance.  Let me shift your paradigm on ‘rest’.  Consider time away from training not as ‘rest’ but rather as ‘de-training. ‘De-training is a critical component of your training cycle.  It helps improve your overall performance by creating body balance, reducing your risk of injuries, and preparing your body for even greater training intensities to follow.  ‘De-training’ or the absence of training, and training are two sides of the same coin. To build an effective training program, you must therefore factor in both elements for optimal results on race day.

Planning the appropriate amount of de-training can be challenging, and varies with each situation.  I will say however, that taking only one day off per week on a regular basis as your only de-training period is probably not enough as you get into longer training periods.  The common perception is that conditioning and fitness will be lost by taking more than one-day off in a row.  Belief and trust that longer rest periods do improve results comes from going through the process.  Expect kicking and screaming your first time through a longer de-training period, but the pay-offs will be significant.

De-training can last anywhere from three to 13 days or longer, where the athlete should not take off from training more than two days in a row during these periods .  Longer de-training cycles (five to 13 days) occur between macro-cycles of 12 to 18 weeks, while shorter de-training periods (two to five days) occur between micro-training cycles of 3 to 5 weeks.   Some athletes embrace their time away to rest, while others go off and do extra workouts.  Understanding that rest or de-training is an essential part of successful long-term athletic progression is critical for proper development.  Many athletes have difficulty with this concept.  They’ve been conditioned to view ‘rest’ as an enemy to successful training for big races.  The thought of even a one-day rest becomes a major source of stress.

Periodization which is a process of varying training intensity and volume in macro and micro-cycles is a common practice that has been used for many years, by coaches at all levels.   While most training programs emphasize controlling training volume and intensity, effective training programs must also include periodized de-training periods during the macro and micro cycles leading up to major events.  Following race day, longer rest periods are recommended and used often.  Scheduling longer de-training periods leading up to big events often creates conflict with both coaches and athletes as neither wants to miss training time.

While taking one-day off a week on a continuous basis is a common practice, it doesn’t allow the body to completely recover when training at higher levels.  Although scheduling longer de-training periods can initially be stressful for both coaches and athletes, the pay-offs are clear.  Longer de-training periods help improve your end results by allowing the body to be consistently stretched. These longer rest periods also help create body balance and reduce your risk of training-related injuries due to over training.  And finally, by allowing your body to completely recover, you prepare yourself to train effectively at even greater intensities following your period of de-training.  Bottom-line; shift your ‘rest’ paradigm.  Training smart, being consistent, and factoring in sufficient de-training periods into your program will set you up for optimal results on race day.

I will be posting some other training related articles later this week.  If you would like to be notified about all my new postings please subscribe to my mailing list.

In Appreciation,

Coach Kaehler


Pace Yourself Building Effective Strategies for 2K Erg Races

November 7, 2011

By Coach Kaehler

Are you heading back to the erg this winter to prepare for a 2k race?  If so, do you have a set pace strategy for your race?  Getting your pacing right can be the difference between success and failure when it comes to reaching your peak on race day.   A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning (JSC) examined pacing strategies used by various boat classes in 2000m World Championship races from 2001 to 2009.  These on-the-water pacing strategies can help you understand how to best approach 2k racing on the erg.  Integrating and mastering these essential skills early on in your training cycle will help set you up for race day.

While this recent JSC study considered results from both heats and finals, for the purpose of this article, I will focus primarily on the finals . Data (500m splits) from the finals of the 2001 through 2009 World Championships showed that team boats were fastest in the first quarter of the race, while the second fastest 500m splits came in the final 500 meters.  In the 1x, however, the study determined that boat speed decreased throughout the race — with the first 500m being the fastest and the last 500m being the slowest.  While several variables effect these differences, one factor is the change in momentum at the finish of the stroke, where the 8+ will have the greatest benefit from this, and the 1x the least.  One thought would be that increasing boat speed in the final 500m would be easier in a larger boat versus a smaller boat such as a 1x.  The standard Concept 2 ergometer most closely simulates 1x when we consider change of direction momentum in relation to the rower, as there is none.

Rowing is a unique sport in that one must start the race with a sprint to get the boat up on an efficient plane — the larger the boat the longer it takes.  On an erg, an athlete can get to race pace in 5 or 6 strokes, as opposed to the 20 to 25 strokes required in an 8+.  Since the first 10-seconds of your energy system comes for free (with regards to oxygen debt), getting to your race pace on an erg does not induce an additional lactic acid penalty if you keep your start short.

Numerous pacing studies conducted on a variety of other sports including running, cycling, and speed skating, have shown mixed results.  A recent study involving collegiate women cross-country runners explored how different race strategies affected 5k times.  All subjects first established ran a 5k base-line race to determine their race pace.  Then, over a three-week-period each athlete raced three additional 5k time trials.  Pacing was used in the first 1.63K (1 mile) only, then athletes finished the 5k as fast as possible.  The subjects used the following pace strategies: right at base-line pace, 3% faster than base-line, and 6% faster than base-line.  Test results showed that the fastest overall time in 8 out of the 11 participants occurred using the 6% above base-line pace for the first mile, while the other 3 fastest times came using the 3% faster pace for the first mile of the 5k.  The even-pace method produced no fastest times.  Similar results were observed with speed skaters in 1500m racing at the 1988 Olympics: athletes who went out the fastest in the first third of the race ended up with the best results.

Whatever your racing strategy is — flying off the start and slowly fading or negative splitting your 2K piece — a few helpful guidelines will keep you on-course for best results on race day.  First, decide on a pacing strategy early on in your training cycle and master it by consistently using the same patterns during your training cycle.  Also, keep in mind that the 1X rowers, 5K cross country runners and 1500m speed skaters all used the same approach to their races by starting above pace and losing speed for the remainder of the race.   And lastly, be careful to not stretch too far beyond your current race pace (more than 6%) as it may seriously hinder your ability to complete your 2K erg race.  As always, carefully planning and consistently following your training program will lead to best results on race day.

Weight Matters for Endurance Athletes

October 4, 2011

Guidelines for safe and effective weight management

 By Coach Kaehler


Are you headed up or down with your weight?  Or are you right where you want to be?  Two of the most common questions I get from high school rowers concern weight loss and gain.  No matter what your level of rowing is, monitoring your body composition is a great idea.  Key considerations for weight management are your percentage of lean body mass (%LM) and your percentage of body fat (%BF).  Recent studies on endurance athletes confirm that improving your %LM lead to improved performance on cycling and running ergometers (when measuring maximum effort (ml/kg/min) achieved) and improved anaerobic threshold (the delay to the onset of blood lactate level spike at 4.0 mmol).


Whatever your weight goals are — loss or gain — the key question is how to properly improve your %LM while you alter your body weight.  To effectively monitor your %LM, you’ll need an initial body composition test to establish your baseline %BF and %LM values, followed by regular testing throughout your training and diet program.  Testing every several weeks will allow you to adjust your program if necessary, to stay on track with your weight goals.


Cutting weight is a common activity for many endurance athletes.  Done properly, it can lead to great results.  Done improperly, however, it can lead to disastrous results.  Generally, the quicker the weight loss, the greater the likelihood of decreasing your performance, especially if you’re losing lean body mass.  Loss of lean mass especially in high school athletes not only reduces their performance, but can also impede their natural growth.  Many schools now require athletes to be measured preseason for %BF and overall body weight to ensure changes are safely controlled.  If your program is not doing this, it might be worth looking into.


Another question I’m often asked by high school athletes and parents is how to gain body weight.  To increase your %LM, you must consider three key factors including diet, rest and strength training.  Regarding nutrition, athletes must examine their overall diet, as well as carefully monitor their intake before, during and after each training session.  A good rule of thumb is to ensure you get at least 20 grams of protein (whey is always a good choice) with about 80 grams of carbohydrates immediately after each training session.  Also, eating healthy snacks between meals will prevent your body from starving for essential building blocks, and ensure you’re getting the fuel you need to train effectively.


Adequate rest is also essential to helping the body recover from training and to building lean body mass.  A minimum of eight hours of sleep is critical for a developing body.  The importance of rest is further supported by studies showing that hormone levels are also adversely affected by a lack of sleep.  While high school is very challenging with homework, practice and other commitments, maintaining a disciplined schedule will help ensure that sleep is not compromised.


Strength training is the last component necessary to maximize your chances of increasing your %LM while training in an endurance sport.  Adding two sessions of strength training per week will also help build lean body mass, especially if you get the appropriate rest and consume a protein / carbohydrate meal immediately after training.


Whether you’re trying to increase, decrease, or maintain your body mass, careful attention to diet, rest and strength training can lead to better performance on race day.  Recent studies show that increasing %LM improves both maximum effort as well as anaerobic threshold performances in endurance athletes.  Monitoring your values will help ensure that you’re only losing body fat, and not lean mass, and keep you on track with your athletic goals.

The Erg: A essential tool for tracking intensity and consistency for rowing development

September 19, 2011

By Bob Kaehler  MSPT, CSCS

Do you track intensity levels when you’re training on the ergometer?  Coaches use rowing ergometers (ergs) to teach athletes how to properly pace themselves, and to how to monitor their changes in intensity (or power — measured in watts) over time with different types of training.  Erging is also a great way for athletes of all skill levels — especially novice and intermediate — to understand their rowing intensity, and how consistently they apply it.  Developing consistent and powerful strokes over longer periods of time and during repeated intervals, is one of the most effective ways to speed up your athletic development.

Achieving consistent results is essential to successful training and competing.  Mastering this skill leads to consistent power application and peak results.  The benefits of interval training are maximized when athletes achieve similar or exact results for all the intervals in a given session.  One common mistake many athletes make is the ‘fly and die method’ — where the first piece is real fast, then next is so-so, and the last tanks.  While there is some training benefit to this method, it is not nearly as effective as sustaining the same speed and intensity for all three pieces.

For athletes who only train in big boats, consistency is harder to develop because it’s difficult to measure your actual intensity during each piece.  As an athlete becomes more skilled, they begin to get a better sense and ‘feel’ of their power application in the boat.  Therefore, for athletes who train exclusively in big boats, training on the erg (at least some of the time) is essential as it allows them to accurately gage their consistency in order to advance their athletic skills and development.  One way to ensure you’re being consistent with your training on the erg, is to record all your results including your strokes per minute, spilt average, distance, and watts.

Monitoring intensity levels is another important metric used to develop your rowing potential.  When training, coaches like to know how intense you are for each stroke.  For example, if you take two athletes and have both of them row on an erg for thirty minutes at 300w, and one rower is at 25 SPM for the entire piece while the other is at 20 SPM, the rower at 20 SPM is applying more power per stroke.  I convert this into a score by dividing 300 by 25 = 12.0 w/s, while the other rower went 300/20SPM = 15.0 w/s.

By using watts, we can examine an athlete’s intensity at varying stroke rates.  As rowers improve, their fluctuations from steady state, to threshold, to maximum effort, decrease when we look at this measure.   Training and controlled rating testing is a good way to learn how to be more consistent with intensity of the rowing stroke at varying rates.   This data can also help identify specific areas to target for improvement — such as muscular strength and / or endurance — to help an athlete’s overall progression.

Being on the water is what rowing is all about.  However, we all want to know for certain that our hard work and training is paying off.  Bottom line: one of the best and most honest ways to confirm our training is on-track with our goals is rowing on the erg.   It’s designed to give us quick and easy-to-read, as well as accurate and essential feedback about our rowing stoke – our intensity and consistency.

« Previous PageNext Page »