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Experimenting on the Erg

 

Part 1: Chasing World Records

I’m in the middle of an experiment where the subject is myself: seeing how fast I can go on the Concept2 (C2) on slides versus on the RP3.

My ergsperiment

The first part of the experiment has just been completed: erged as hard as I can on a number of distances on the C2 on slides (and got lots of World Records while doing it!).

Next step is to break all those records on the RP3 but that's the topic of not this but the next post, and there's a bit of work to do before that, on the RP3, that is. Read more below on why I’m doing this and the results I got on the C2 on slides.

A bit of background

I'm a 43y old lightweight rower from Finland, mother of two, and an entrepreneur at the Quiske rowing startup. A busy life. I learned to row at the ripe age of 25 when doing my postgraduate at Oxford. Fell in love with the sport, first with sweep crew rowing and later with single sculling. That’s also when I became acquainted with the erg, the grueling machine I didn’t like. At all. After graduating and moving back to Finland my career and family kept me busy and I had a long break from rowing and only came back to it a few years ago when a friend of mine asked me to join a rowing crew again. To get fit again I also took up indoor rowing. In Finland the winter of no rowing is very long so I really had no choice. However, for the first time, I learned about dynamic indoor rowing. Soon I bought my own set of slides for my C2. The slides made indoor rowing much more pleasant. I started joining indoor rowing races in Finland and grabbed lots of medals in my own category. Although the races were on conventional static C2s I did all my training on slides.

Last summer at the World Rowing Masters Regatta in Bled I had another revelation in indoor rowing. That’s when I met Jan Lammers from RP3 Rowing and had my first go at his RP3 dynamic rowing machine. I bought a machine straight away and got a big surprise when back at home I did my first side by side comparison of the RP3 against my old C2 on slides. After rowing on the RP3, the C2+slides felt like there was something wrong, as if there was chewing gum stuck somewhere slowing the catch down. I decided to study this a bit more.

Basic Physics: Static vs dynamic

I read up on the physics of dynamic indoor rowing via papers online. I realized that because I’m a lightweight rower there is a big difference in what it feels like to push with the legs against the body of the RP3 compared with pushing against the full moving C2 on slides. The difference is in the weight of what you’re pushing against with your legs and you can really feel the difference.

Any force you apply on the foot stretcher acts equally on you and the stretcher:

F=-F or ma=-ma.

On the static C2 the mass you're pushing against is the mass of the whole planet, which you don’t have the power to move even if you're the strongest rower in Finland. Your body does all the moving back and forth on the moving seat while the C2 itself remains stationary while firmly attached to the earth:

On the static Concept2 the rower moves relative to the earth, which is immovable

In the dynamic case, such as on the RP3 or a boat on water, the mass you’re pushing against is mobile. Additionally the moving part of the machine is lighter than the rower, so it moves further while the rower's center of mass moves less:

On the dynamic rowing machine the rower interacts with a moving mass that is lighter than the rower, and both move. Since the rower is the heavier of the moving parts the centre of mass of the rower moves less than the mobile part of the machine.

The moving part of the RP3 weighs less than the rower and because of that it moves further than the rower who is almost stationary. In the case of the static C2 the rower does all of the movement, causing higher acceleration to the body whenever the direction of the movement is changed, at catch and finish.

On the dynamic machine the rower interacts with the light mass of the moving machine and both move. On the static machine only the rower moves relative to an immovable point.

What about C2+slides?

When the C2 is placed on slides it becomes a kind of a dynamic rowing machine. However, in this case the weight the rower is pushing against is the weight of the entire C2 machine plus the weight of the mobile part of the slides. This is a weight over 30kg, about twice that of the mobile body of the RP3. The weight difference between the rower and the moving machine is less and therefore when you're rowing the C2+slides combination there is more movement of yourself than there is on the RP3.

If you’re a lightweight rower the impact of the weight difference between the RP3 and the C2 is larger: the lighter you are the more you will move when what you’re pushing against is heavier. In my case the RP3 head weighs less than a third of my weight whereas the C2 on slides weighs more than 60% of my weight. When your body is moving back and forth more you need to accelerate your body more during the catch and finish, and this is something you can clearly feel in the quality of the catch and finish, which is what I think is causing the chewing gum feel I get on the C2+slides. Anyway, I decided to measure myself on the two different types of machines, and first I tried pulling the best possible results on the C2+slides.

This is mere background for my ergsperiment, the full results of which will be available in a month or two but now let's check what kind of results I was able to pull on a number of distances on the C2+ slides.

C2+slides: My results

I tried completing as many distances as possible during the month of February (was travelling for two weeks in between, so really had just the beginning and the end of the month to use for this). Some days were better than other's and that explains why sometimes I have a better split on a longer distance. The experiment was such that I had just one chance of doing my best on each of the distances.

Kristinan tulokset Concept2 + slaideilla

Nine of the above results happened to be World Records in my (LW Women 40-49 C2 Slides) category.

I’m not a strong rower by any measure. An amateur. In Finland I do get medals in all indoor rowing competitions in my own category but that is because of lack of competition. There simply aren’t that many female lightweight rowers of my age. Still I’m not able to grab world records on the static C2, however, on the C2+slides I can!

Quite proud of the records, and as soon as I get them mailed to me they will go on the gym wall at our office:

New Concept Indoor Rower with Slides World Records LW Women 40-49

The fact that I could grab so many world records within just a month really means that the level of the records isn’t high. Is it because most competitions are done on the static C2? Or perhaps people think the slides take up too much space, are too heavy or cumbersome, or expensive? Maybe people into dynamic rowing prefer a machine that’s built to be dynamic from scratch? Once dynamic indoor rowing becomes more popular, and more rowers get access to it I think the level of the world records will also go up quickly.

The records are meant to be broken

I wish there was more competition in C2 on slides for lightweight women and in fact these records I claimed are meant to be broken. I’ve many friends who can do it. So please break the record and let me know when you’ve done it! 😉

I’m selling my C2 and slides now that the first part of my experiment is done and am doing my future training on the RP3. My next goal is the break all my records with the RP3. That’s what my next post will be about.

My experiment is also good preparation for the ErgoMarathon race, on the 21st of April. Planning to do my best half marathon on the RP3 there. Hope to see lots of rowers in Finland for the Ergomarathon, you're really welcome to join me there for half a marathon, a full marathon or even 100km on the C2 or the RP3.

Happy Rowing,

Kristina

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