Rowing Gear

Rowing Gear Trial-and-Error.

Having been a rower / sculler for years, I have collected and tried many different types of gear pertaining to safety, gloves, monitoring and tracking. In this post I highlight the types of equipment I regularly use both for outdoor sculling and indoor ergometer rowing. I preface this post by stating that I am not advertising for a particular product and am not receiving a commission from any product in particular. I merely highlight those that I have converged on over the years.

Oxford Shell

Seat pads.

I have tried many. Those who have been rowing understand the numbness that can arise in legs related to sciatica. There are natural methods (massage, exercises) to ameliorate or rid this issue. But, what helps is a good rowing seat pad. I have found the seat pad offered by Revolution Rowing to be comfortable and durable. I have several of these, one of which I use for my Oxford Shell, one for my Concept II Model D Ergometer, and one for my Oar Board SUP rower.

Seat Pad
Oar Board Standup Paddle Board Rower

Gloves.

I have tried many different varieties, including sailing gloves and retail store apparel. I have converged on the CrewStop glove. I have found it to offer the most protection and most comfort, particularly for long-hauls on either water or Erg.

CrewStop Glove

Rearview Mirrors.

I have used many, and you should use what works. I have found the sculling mirror sold by Coxmate to be of superior value for me as it is a large yet light mirror and enables me to see peripherally.

Coxmate sculling mirror

Personal Flotation Device.

I wear one…most of the time. There are exceptions. The hip-surround units like the one in the photo do not get in the way of the arms, oars, or motion. I have two of them. They can be obtained through West Marine or other favorite sources, including Amazon.com.

PFD

Monitoring.

I am into data…bigly :-). The most reliable technology I have found (…and I have tried many…) is Polar H10 heart rate sensors and chest strap together with the Polar beat app. I include the photo again which shows the seat pad and the Polar chest strap on top. I keep my iPhone in a waterproof case on-board and this allows integration of the heart rate measurements (1-second increment) with the GPS location. I know how far I row, what my heart rate is wherever I am, and I get real-time feedback audibly in the boat.

Polar Beat Chest Strap.

Peripheral Equipment and Epilogue.

I maintain an attachment for GPS (GPSMap 78sc) mounted on my outrigging together with a camera mount for photos of the scenery. These come in handy on occasion, particularly for obtaining unique shots here on the Elk River in the northern Chesapeake Bay Area.

Despite the above and the available software for rowers on iPhone, Android and iPad, I am writing my own rowing application as I have not found anything yet that meets my specific requirements. As this develops and becomes available for testing, I will write a post entry on that, as well.

Garmin Vivoactive HR for Rowing & Sculling

Vivoactive HR

Sculling and Rowing

I am a rower and sculler. I first cut my teeth in the sport over 30 years ago while at college rowing on the Charles River. I had been looking for the longest time for a device that I could use to track my heart, stroke rate, and also support GPS mapping of my workout while on the water. There are professional devices that track stroke rate and the like, such as Speed Coach GPSStroke Coach and Coxmate GPS. These are all excellent pieces of equipment, by the way. But, I am not in varsity rowing any more and I was looking for a piece of equipment that could support my rowing “habit” both for indoor and outdoor rowing (aside: I also possess a Concept 2 ergometer, which I love) while also serving the utilitarian purpose of being a good watch that can track heart rate full time.

When I row, however, I am really interested in being able to map the analytics to the motion. The Vivoactive HR enables me to do this as well as to post-process the data. I am into data. As a Chief Analytics Officer in the healthcare field for a medical device and real-time patient surveillance company, it is important to me to be able to access and understand the information collected during an activity. The connectivity and access to data provided by the Vivoactive HR are phenomenal.

Data view from Garmin Connect web site.

 

 

 

 

The figure above details an example analytics screen, which shows the map of the workout, heart rate, stroke rate, distance traveled at each measurement point, and allows tracking the entire workout with a cross-hair that is dynamic and interactive on the web screen. The unit supports many other types of workouts, including running, biking, pool, golf, walking, indoor rowing on ergometer, SUP rowing, XC skiing, indoor walking, indoor biking, and indoor running, and tracks sleep. The unit can be submerged in water and the battery life is amazing. I normally live with the unit on my wrist, and after 3 days of continuous use, battery is down to, perhaps 80%. I will take it off for an hour or so to charge, and it is good-to-go. I highly recommend this unit for the avid professional or veteran rower (like myself).

Update June 29th, 2017: Comparison among NK, Coxmate, Minimax

Robin Caroe of RowPerfect kindly left me a comment to this post last evening and provided an updated article on comparison among the NK, Coxmate GPS and Catapult Minimax which contains quite valuable data on performance related to these products. I have provided the hyperlink to the article above. Technological differences in sampling rate (e.g.: 5 Hz for NK versus 10 Hz for Coxmate) are important for accuracy. I must say that I was very close to purchasing the Coxmate GPS prior to investigating the Garmin. Upon reading the brochure for the Minimax S4, I am intrigued. The Minimax offers an update rate on the GPS that provides for precision in terms of location. In the Rowperfect article, of the key measures of performance identified, (1) heart rate & heart rate variability; (2) force and length of stroke; and, (3) GPS update rate are important measures for the elite athlete. In the case of the Minimax, GPS update on the order of 100 times per second (10 milliseconds) can reveal boat pitch, roll & yaw. Highly impressive. I would agree, though, that this level of accuracy and precision would be important for the competitive athlete. Yet, in my case (non-competitive, casual athlete), I still love my Garmin. I am able to see and track my position very accurately, monitor my stroke and heart rate, and in terms of heart rate variability, I can write an algorithm in R or Matlab to monitor that measure fairly directly.

As an added resource, Reviews.com has posted a comparison between best rowing machines for training and rowing experience. You can read that review at this link: The Best Rowing Machine: get a total-body workout on dry land.