Sunday, December 18, 2011

Biomechanics of Erging

Biomechanics of Rowing Erging is what I have been focusing on for the past few weeks due to how much time I have spent on the infamous indoor rower.

I have picked a few of the national-team members brains about tips to increase speed on the erg, both with and without sliders. This is my summary:

Without sliders the 'normal' erg needs utilizes straight power developed from the deep-compression at the catch all the way through to the finish. In my opinion, the finish on a normal erg needs to be dramatically magnified or over-emphasized to force the flywheel to spin at at higher rate going into the next stroke. This prevents the flywheel from slowing down as much on the recovery back to the catch and in turn less power is needed to pick the flighwheel's speed up (See picture below). The way I see it, the force applied at the start and end of the stroke compared to the recovery will give the power reading (watts or speed/500m). The true effort in erging without sliders is to develop force against the flywheel but also the ability to change direction (momentum) of your body-weight between the drive phase and recovery phase, which isn't used in on-water rowing nearly as much.

Pilfered from facebook (D O'F photo)

With Sliders

Sliders are the rolling rails on metal frames that are placed under the erg and it moves back and forth underneath the athlete. With use of these gems, the light-weight erg (27lbs) will slide back and forth underneath the athlete. The ability to keep the stroke-rate much higher will contribute to preventing the flywheel from slowing down, as I mentioned previously. I find during a standard 2000m piece, I will be 4-5 beats higher decreasing the power needed each stroke. I have heard it explained before as "tapping it along" - once the preferred speed is reached it is easily maintain with less perceived effort.

 Even though I have only done a half dozen workouts and a few erg tests on sliders, I prefer them.  In my mind, erging with sliders is more like on-water rowing and that is the main reason for training indoors. Also, I feel there is a decreased chance of injury using sliders.

Video by KW

More Biomechanics of Rowing at British Journal of Sports Medicine 

Sunday, December 11, 2011


For the past month I have spent four sessions a week training in the new Erg Centre at the Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence. Travis dubbed it the Ergloo due directly to the fact that the average morning temperature has hovered around 0.7*C. After the frost melts off the inside surface of the tent, the moisture starts to drip down on us erging away on the cement pad below. Warm-up for the workout usually is a team of toque and mitten fully-clothed athletes. I actually really like training there. First, because it is a dedicated centre for national team performance. Second, I feel it is good to have the ambient temperature cooler because then it is less stress for my body to keep internal temperature low and more effort can be attending to performance. And, the third reason I enjoy training in the erg centre, the clinic I work at, LifeMark Sport Medicine, is literally 50 meters across the tarmac. See panorama below.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Slides on Slides

Rares discovered a new technique of indoor rowing! This is post-workout today trying to see if there is benefit from multiplying the slides, concept 2 slides that is. If one set of slides drops your workout by 3 "splits" does adding two more sets drop it by 6 or 9 splits? From this angle it is hard to see not to mention poor quality but there is some interesting point to it. I had to speed it up to keep it exciting.

B&W Erg

The Lightweight group has spent four workouts a week in the new "Indoor Training Centre" at PISE. Here are a few shots from today's workout (2x25min).


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Friday, December 2, 2011

Testing the Limits (December)


The winter is here to stay. At least I hope it is with the current balmy Victoria weather. The nights have been clear with crispy frozen windows to scrape in the early morning but after 9am the sun is out warming up everything. Today I actually saw people walking to the PISE gym in (short) shorts. Did the hemispheres switch and we are now south of the tropic of Capricorn?

The training program has been materializing excellently into a consistent day-by-day base training workout program. Nearing the end of this week I have reached a new level of exhaustion. Deep down, however, I really enjoy the draining feeling with soreness in [all] my muscles. I know I must be improving or at least, in theory, should be.

We have spent many workouts just maintaining a consistent aerobic level hitting the range of 140-160 bpm heart rate. Each piece I try to hold [read: hold-on] the same level of intensity and getting into a rhythm. My limiting factor recently has been my own mind - the mental aspect of pulling as hard as I can without blowing-up halfway through the workout. Testing the limits I would say. Below is a shot of Kenny Wu, the lwt RCA coach, with Travis and John on a recovery between pieces.

Below is a shot of the "New" erg centre @ PISE that we are now training in 3x/week.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hurry Hard for Broken Ribs

An injury that happens once in a while with rowers is rib stress fractures. I have seen a dozen or more cases in my clinic but rarely outside the realm of rowers or weight-lifters. The natural history of this condition is excess force repetitively applied through key muscles of the pelvis and low back. Certain muscles attach from the pelvis to the lower ribs (Quadratus lumborum, internal/external obliques, and erector spinae group) and with excessive force stress fractures will show up with increasing the activity level too quickly before the bones are able to adapt.

There are two guys that I train with currently that are dealing with this exact condition. This injury shows up either as an instantaneous pin-point tenderness and gets worse with rowing. The other way is slow progression over a few weeks with localized pain that goes away with rest but gets worse with rowing. The therapy involves decreasing muscle tension around the injury site and physical therapy modalities to increase blood flow to the area to influence healing. Healing times can vary from less that a week all the way up to two+ months all depending on size and location of the injury.

On Monday morning I showed up to the morning practice at Elk Lake ready for a heavy erg session of 2x40min at low rates (16,18, 20, 22) changing every ten minutes. I have to say, even in the warm-up I felt really uncomfortable and my right low-back is very tight and tender. As the first 40 minute session started - I immediately felt the pain move up my back to almost inbetween my shoulder blades. I pushed through for a few more minutes thinking it was just my lazy Sunday off that causes lethargic feelings every Monday morning. After a few more minutes it felt as if the pain is also migrating around the right side of my body and into my abdomen, which can be seen as an referral pattern of more serious internal or structural injuries. With all this discomfort and pain I decide it would be best for me to sit out this practice and have a look at this "injury" more seriously - I had self-diagnosed this as a probable traumatic rib-fracture and my rowing career was going to be put on hold of for a few weeks to months.

I went to work later that same day and chatted with a few fellow therapists to get their opinion of what could be causing this pain and referral pattern. As I discussed the history of the "condition" I realized, like a light-bulb when on, that I attended the PISE staff Christmas party on Saturday Night. It was at the curling rink... and I'm so competitive that during the hard sweeping that goes along with curling I had sustained the feeling of a "probable rib fracture" - which turns out was only sore muscles! I had thought my career as a rower was over... because I was sore from curling. I will never make a joke about curlers being out-of-shape again - it is a different kind of sport-specific muscles utilized.

Check out Norway's new pants. Looks like it is taking on a style resemblance of golf.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fall Training.

The week after the National Rowing Championships (NRC's) I was hoping for a nice down week of recovery and rest. Instead, there was a battery of physiological (and psychological) testing called the RADAR - as I have mentioned previously, it involves 5 tests on the erg (indoor rower) and one on-water time trial;
10 stroke Peak Power (watts)
1minute (meters)
2000m (time)
6000m (time)
60minute (meters)

In my opinion, I like the idea around the testing session; a quantifiable way to determine fitness, and this series includes anaerobic power, lactate threshold, and aerobic endurance all in a few days! I do find it an emotional drain to get through each time around and luckily RCA has recently changed it from 4x/year down to only 3x.

I have improved my scores again from the last time (Aug. 2011) but I still have an arch-nemesis in the 6000m test. I consistently have frustrations just past half-way in the test and have under-performed the past 3-4 attempts. It will become my new "motivator" for the winter training.

Now that the RADAR scores have been submitted and I can get into winter training I feel the weather is cooperating perfectly. See below for the 10 day forecast outlook;

Training will be a combination of long Erg workouts at low rate (16-22 Strokes/minute), Rowing for LSD (long steady distance), and weight sessions 3x/week. I'm very excited to get into it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

New Rowing Center (Indoor) at PISE

There is a new erg centre a PISE. A free standing outdoor structure dedicated to Rowing. It is 45 paces from my office, LifeMark Sports Medicine clinic. My friend Jerry Brown talks about his goals and plans for the 2012 London Olympics.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Success at Nationals

After all the planning, training, racing, and waiting I have come away with then results I wanted. I feel that the actual race in the finals was not very clean, efficient or glorious but the job was taken care of.

Due to the previous days' windy conditions the race organizers decided to re-shuffle the finals to get the 'A-finals' over first. My race was at 8:42am, so that means weigh-in at 6:42. It is cold and dark at that time in the morning as you can see below


After the weigh in the sun came up but the wind did not subside. Right from first light in the morning the wind caused anxiety, as it was blowing SW 30-35km/hr. A nice tailwind is beneficial for fast times but if it gets too fast the waves and whitecaps can disrupt a normal rhythm.

In the race, I mis-placed two or three strokes [crab] and almost stopped the boat during the race. The last one was within the final 5 meters of the race and we were almost passed by the lane 4 team. In the end we got the rhythm back enough to pull through with a win, but it wasn't pretty. Another 5 meters after the finish line, I again misplaced my oar, and dumped us into the frigid Welland Canal - in front of the grand-stand and all.

A nice write up of the NRC Finals from Rowing Canada Avirons.

My mother and sister, Lisa, made the trip to surprise me for the weekend! I was shocked to see them at the boathouse after my race. They also picked up my cousin Steph in Hamilton on the way to Welland. Thanks!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Heats in the Snow

Day one of the 2011 NRC's is now over and an experience I will remember. There were many races all through the day from bright dark and early 8am to 4:30pm. The weather was in constant change from rain to shine snow and hail, sometimes all simultaneously. A steady West wind was gusty throughout the day and there was no way to predict the direction. Eric and I raced our pair at 1:54pm... or so we thought until a crew scratched and changed our heat into 6 boats with only the 1st place advancing onto the finals. The race was bumped up to 1:45pm, so we had to rush to get our 45min warm-up in. While finishing our warm up and getting into position for the start there was some confusion with another pair who didn't get the memo on the changed race times and were in our position. To make a short story long, we got a "yellow-card" due to our late entry into the starting gates, which Eric argued against and was promptly thrown out and the race continued on as nothing happened. Who knew someone could argue with an Umpire and they change their ruling... With that, comes Woelfl.

The race went just as planned! And we ended up pulling away from the group at 1200m in. With these results we don't race tomorrow (Saturday) and move straight to the finals on Sunday. What a relief and that concludes my first race in a pair (2-) (or pear...?)

My partner Eric has helped me immensely and constantly explains things that are probably elementary to him (and most other rowers) such as... You need your ID to launch your boat? Something that I didn't think would be necessary on the water, but as I find out from Eric before we lift the boat I need to run to my car and grab it.


Next race, Sunday @ ~11am. I'm excited to watch a day of racing tomorrow.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bridge-town (Rose City)

Due to the many canals, lakes and rivers in the area there are countless antique bridges. On google maps I counted 11 within 4 km from Welland city centre. On the rowing-warm up course there are two! Many of these turn-of-the-century bridges are olde-style draw bridges because the large container ships needed to pass through the canal en route to the St. Lawrence seaway. For me, I like being around bridges, as I spent 4 years living in Bridgetown, USA aka Portland, OR, which by coincidence is also the "City of Roses" - but that is about it with the connections between the two places... I took a few shots below of the local bridges;





And yes, the locals like there bridges so much that there is a bridge model at the Historical Museum.

The Day Before


Practice Row Day 2 went well this morning! The storm last night blew in some chilly weather and precipitation. It dropped down to 6-8 C this morning. There was a cross/head wind for the morning row, and it was gusting both directions. It almost feels like we are in the mountains with an un-predictable wind direction. I feel, however, the small width of this body of water there is little chance of a cross wind producing any waves of concern. There is just over 6 lanes on this canal and it is arrow-straight.

The rest of the competitors arrive today to get in a practice row. The rowing location has a feeling of excitement building and I like it. Another day of hanging out and then the racing heats start tomorrow. See the racing order here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Welland, Ontario - Arrival for Nationals

The arrival to Welland, Ontario was relatively routine with no problems. The Toronto 5:30pm rush-hour traffic on the 401 was expected but uneventful. I made a side trip to drop of my pair partner, Eric, at his parents house in St. Catherines to make sure he got home safe. I don't want anything to happen to that guy, especially in the next five days. The kitchen is stocked with food and everything is going as planned. Tomorrow we check to see if our boat arrived from Victoria safely and in one piece. The weather is decent right now, but as you can see below, it may get a bit cooler and more "seasonal" or typical. Tonight was very foggy all the way through from Hamilton to Welland. Hopefully it doesn't prevent us from rowing tomorrow morning.

For a quick refresher where Welland is located. It is on the Niagara Region of Southern Ontario. about 30 minutes from Niagara Falls and 30min from Hamilton. The rowing course is on an old arm of the Welland Canal, circa 1827. This map below is the training water, roughly 4km in length with a certified 2000m course on the south end.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pair Partner

Next week I leave for the National Rowing Championships in Welland, Ontario. They take place Nov. 11-13th. I'm racing in a pair (two people, two oars) with my pal Eric, aka Wolfy, or my favorite is The Wolf Pack (thanks Terry). We trained together for the PanAm Games in a pair while our 4-'s partners were busy in the double sculling. We should be able to bring it together for a very fast weekend of racing. He recently crushed a 6km erg test (at 19:57) dropping something like 15 seconds off his last personal best. For me, I had an ok 6k erg test as it was 9seconds faster than Augusts RADAR time but I still have to be 20+ seconds faster. I need to not limp through these Erg tests and understand that it is going to painful. I need to follow in Eric's example and maybe together we can represent (Ontario and BC in one boat...) See a picture of Eric below as he is often seen; endlessly doing cardio...

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Happy 57th Birthday!

Today is my fathers birthday! He has been keeping me focused and motivated for many years. I still try to keep up to him on a mountain bike and x-c skis. He has recently semi-retired and putting more time into the things he enjoys - which luckily are things that I enjoy; fly-fishing, hockey, watching movies with his eyes closed, xc skiing, kayaking, mountain biking, traveling.

He visited Victoria a few months back and I took him out with the family for an easy row. I think he is a natural. See picture below.

Old Man Guns

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Interdependence in Life

The trust and reliance on other crew members in rowing is paramount. In the training for the past two months in larger boats than the single scull, I have revisited the thought many times about how important in this sport, as in life, to have the assurance that there will be someone on the other end.

I want to apply a microcosm of the real world situation onto my rowing example. Such as in real [everyday] life, we come to rely on certain people to consistently behave and act in ways that move things forward. With rowing, I need my pair-partner to show up every day at the same time. And, not only show up, he has to be in a state to physically do work. And, not only show up and be physically able to do work, he has to pull on the oar with exactly the same force as me in unison every single stroke (~1800 strokes per workout). Now that is what I call dependence.

It is not just a loose affiliation with the rowing pair partner. It needs to be a strong physical connection with the same goal in mind. I would roughly apply it to the same bond as a business partnership with a reciprocal agreement. If one side of the parternship is not pulling his weight, quite literally, then the bond becomes weaker. I recently experienced what it is like, as I had a minor injury this past week and was not able to fully participate in the workouts. This means that every workout that I can't complete, neither can my pair partner. Also, as I was easing back into full intensity, I started with some slow paddles around the lake. Something resembling a Sunday scenic canoe day trip. This means that my pair partner, who is in perfect shape, needs to lollygag around the lake with me. This puts pressure on both of us.

Monday, October 24, 2011

National Rowing Championships

Nov. 11-13 is the National Rowing Championships in Welland, Ontario. On an abandoned channel of the infamous century-old Welland canal. This is a very important regatta in selection to further teams/carding/personal growth. I have rowed here before and I'm exited for this familiarity.

For me, it is a bit of redemption from the finals at the PanAms. I want to show RCA that I have the abilities to finish in a top position. There is some work to do in addition to a 2km and 6km Erg test to be completed in the next two weeks.

My training has shifted slightly. Now we do a long morning double-workout and a shorter session of lifting weights or row in the afternoon. I hope my body holds up to the next line of training. I'm excited for the next few steps of this plan.

A write up in the local newspaper recently showed up on my door. I liked the article and it makes me feel a bit proud but also shy about this recent attention. The funny part is that it hints toward me being somewhat "old" at 28. First, I don't feel that way, and second I'm 29.

Friday, October 21, 2011

XVI Juegos Panamericanos Guadalajara 2011

My trip to Guadalajara is now over. The memories I have will last the rest of my life. I have a few favorite photos shared on the bottom of this post or see the link for more detailed images of my trip.

The 10 days I spent in Mexico were sensational. Some of the favorite memories I have:
- staying in the International Athletes Village
- traveling with the Rowing team to our satellite venue in Cuidad Guzman
- training with the team on Lake Zapotlan
- meeting international athletes
- chilling out at the hotel with everyone
- touring the city during local celebrations
- competitive spirit and racing other countries
- hanging out with my family who made the trip to watch
- partying afterwards before the long trip home

Some things I would like to change the memories of:
- fibre 1 bars
- getting to 153lbs (international lwt status)
- 24 hrs of transit to get to Victoria

More photos on my web-album

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

PanAm Finals Rowing (LM4-)

What a day! What a week! I had one of the most exciting events in my life so far. I will provide a summary when I get home tomorrow but I can say it was a hard-fought battle. And, very close until the 1850m mark.

In the Results we ended up 5th in the finals! 2011 Pan Am games.

I was a bit emotional at the end, especially going to see my family in the stands afterwards. It's almost overwhelming. Overall, I enjoyed it immensely. I can't wait for the next race!

Thanks for following! I will add some photo's soon...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Heats in the Mexican Heat

My first International race is now over and done. It is so relieving for it to go relatively well. It sure is good to have the other guys in the boat, who have many years of experience, to keep me grounded.

The results are here (

Some other PanAm Rowing Canada stuff from yesterday.

We move on to the finals (top two teams from each heat) Success for today!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Calm Before...

The day before racing starts here at the Pan-Am Games. The opening ceremony is tonight in the OMNILIFE soccer Stadium in Guadalajara near the Athletes Village. We are at a "satallite" village and will have our own little rowing Team Canada get-together. There is a specific opening ceremonies outfit that we have been under strict orders to not wear until 3pm today. Let the top fashion of The Hudson Bay Company shine through, clear the runway, red on red on white is coming through for next top model.

Today, Friday, the weather has pulled through for us. The glass-flat water and sunshine was a blessing this morning. The Lwt4-, that I row in, had an excellent 4km race warm-up practice. Everything is feeling great. I have had so much extra energy with this taper, hours of lounging between practice rows, that I want to go for a long run to burn off some extra steam. I know, however, all this energy is going to saved for the race - with nothing left. It is important for us to place 1st or 2nd in our first heats, so we advance on to the finals. Instead, if we come 3rd or worse, we will have to re-race in the afternoon in the reps to try and re-qualify for the finals. Often, I am told, that the wind picks up in the afternoon and blows down the valley creating a big side/head wind. I feel it is better to row in calm water under top performance instead of working the wind and waves. For example, yesterday afternoon we had waves coming over our gunnels most of the way up the course during a practice row.

Today I went for a walk down the street from our hotel with Travis. A few blocks away we found ourselves in the middle of a large parade that was about to start. There were probably 7 mariachi brass marching bands playing with people dancing and singing all around us. We found out later that during the whole month of October in the Guadalajara area there are religious and harvest festivals held.