In the many conversations I have with both Masters and Elite Rowers, the topic of what metrics are important to measure and track often comes up. This is generally followed-up with a question of what I measure, and what I recommend. 

Of course simply tracking data doesn’t help you go faster. It’s the experience over years, that enables powerful insights gained from your data, to be turned into meaningful adjustments to your training plan and or rowing/sculling technique. This will help you to improve and go faster. What I mean here is, you need to be tracking the right metrics for you, and build up a consistent picture over time. This helps you and or your coach, to understand your base line and identify areas for improvement. 

You also need to have the knowledge to understand what this data means, and the experience to understand and interpret the changes and trends. 

Often this is where a coach comes in, or lot’s of reading, watching experts on YouTube and absorbing information from quality sources to build your own capability and empower yourself. This is the purpose of my website and FaceBook group, and the information I share with you and thousands of Masters Rowers around the world. To build your capability. 

Anyway, back to the purpose of this article. Here are the metrics I use to track and manage performance.

“Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Attributed to Albert Einstein

What I Track

  • Sleep (hours) 
  • Body weight & composition (weight, muscle mass & body fat)
  • Morning Heart rate variability (HRV) & Morning Resting Heart Rate (MRHR)
  • Weekly & Season training volume (hours)
  • Training Stress Score volume (TSS)
  • Distribution of training sessions intensity – High intensity vs low intensity (time & number of sessions)
  • Power (watts) and Blood Lactate at LT1 & LT2
  • Power and Pace at; 100m, 1 min, 1k and 5k
  • Total weight lifted in a session (kg)

Some leading indicators

Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

I track HRV over time using my Garmin watch and the simple HRV 3-min test in the morning. I aim to do this at a consistent time each day. HRV is a reliable and fast way for me to determine how I’ve recovered over night. If it’s a low score I take it easy and may move a high intensity session or even take a rest day. If the score is high and consistent with the average high score, then I’m good to go.

Morning Resting Heart Rate (MRHR)

I have been tracking my morning resting heart rate for years. For me it is one of the easiest and accurate leading indicators to use. I simply check my MRHR number each morning when I get up on my Garmin Forerunner watch. The Forerunner displays the days value and the seven day average which is really handy. 

After you have established a good baseline over a few weeks, you should see too much deviation up or down. If I see that my MRHR is +5 beats above the 7-day average, I take it easy that day. 

If you don’t have a fancy watch, then count how many beats per minute over 15-seconds and multiple by four. Remember your value and track it over time. You can record this in your diary to keep track. I don’t record the data anymore, and you probably want need to after a few weeks either. I simply take note of the number, and listen to my body at the same time.

Some lagging indicators

Body composition

Weight, muscle mass and body fat. I can see how my strength sessions are impacting the muscle mass, and how my body composition trends vs. the work load and training intensity. I use the Garmin Index smart scale. I don’t know how smart it is, yet it’s reliable and consistent. It syncs with the Garmin ecosystem and transfers data easily to Training Peaks.

Lactate at LT1 & LT2

I measure my lactate levels, heart rate and powers at Aerobic threshold (LT1) and Anaerobic threshold (LT2) every month. I do this to understand how my heart rate and power is developing and responding to training. I also use the LT1 and LT2 points, to set up my training zones for heart rate and power. I certainly track these data points over time. They are a useful reference to understand progression.

I use the Lactate Pro device and test strips from Nova Medical, with a BD lancet. I do the step test on a Concept2 Dynamic machine using the PM5 monitor to guide the intensity for each step. I also use a Garmin heart rate belt that connects to the PM5. The PM5 monitor makes it really easy to recall the power and heart rate data for each step of the test. especially if you are doing this on your own. Top Tip. If you do this on your own, get everything ready in advance.

Maximum Power & Tonnage Lifted So I’m lifting all these weights that James Goodwin sets out for me each month. How do I know if it is making a difference? Every month a do a 5-stroke maximum force test and a 1-minute all out power test on the Concept2 ergo. Max power over 5-strokes and the 1-minute max test is a high predictor of performance in rowing. Normally, I should see an increase in watts depending on the training cycle.

I like to add up the total weight of the training session so that I can compare the following session. Adding the total weight is a good way to take into account any additional reps or sets I do vs the weight of the lift. I aim to lift more total weight in the next session.

Training Volume (hours & TSS)

I know how many hours I need to complete to be competitive for the Swiss Champs, and the head races later in the autumn. I break this down into the main training blocks and weekly micro-cycles.

I track the Training Stress Score for each session, as a simple way to understand the stress on the body. An hour at 70% is different to an hour at 90% intensity.

Training Intensity 

I limit the number of high intensity sessions in a  training block. I also like to keep it really simple when planning high intensity. No more than 20% of sessions are high intensity. For example, no more than two sessions in a week of ten sessions. 

High intensity for me is training at an intensity that is above LT2 around 92% peak heart rate. Any training session that includes more than 3 minutes of high intensity counts as a high intensity session. 

Systems

Garmin Connect and Training Peaks software. Garmin is super easy to use. So long as you have a Garmin device on your bike, pedals and heart rate belt, they all interconnect and the data flows into the Garmin Connect platform. Once the data is captured in Garmin, it syncs over to Training Peaks. I use Training Peaks to plan out the sessions, and track different data points. Training Peaks models the training load and makes it easy to move sessions around. I use Microsoft Excel to plan the season and model training loads before entering the plan into Training Peaks.

Tools

  • Nelson & Kellerman GPS Stroke Coach and Empower Gate.
  • PM5 display on the Concept2
  • Garmin Forerunner 945 paired with the ANT Bluetooth heart rate belt
  • Garmin Edge display unit on the bike with Garmin Vector pedals to measure power
  • Garmin Index Smart Scale

Please remember, that beyond what you can measure and monitor every day. You are so much more than what the numbers say. You can go beyond. The numbers and data give you the awareness. What are you going to do with this? You have infinite potential. Your passion and motivation can’t be measured (yet) and it’s often the essential ingredient to drive you forward to learn, grow and improve.

P.S. I have no affiliations with any of the brands that I have mentioned in this article. I simply use them and have done for some time. They work and I recommend them to my friends.