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Terminology : Rate (Rowing)

31 May


Rate, or Stroke Rate is the number of strokes you take per minute in rowing, also referred to as spm, s/m or rating.


Stroke Rate is used both in the boat, and on an erg during a piece.


On an erg, the stroke rate is usually displayed in the top right-hand corner of the screen, and is displayed as a number with s/m.

In a boat, the stroke rate is usually measured using a magnet and sensors attached to the underneath of the stroke seat (or under the bow man’s seat in a bowloaded boat), connected to a cox box. As the rower moves up the slide, a measurement is taken and relayed to the cox box.



Stroke rate is used to measure and monitor intensity.

It is important in competitive rowing, as a high stroke rate could mean that the rowers are being hurried and technique is more likely to suffer, subsequently causing the boat to unbalance.

An unbalanced boat means that not all blades are covered properly by the water, and so collectively displace a smaller amount of water, therefore moving the boat forwards less than that of a perfectly balanced boat.

High rating can also cause a crew to tire quickly, however this depends on the level of fitness of the crew. The higher the level of fitness, the higher the stroke rate can be without negatively affecting the balance or technique.


And finally …

Try it for yourself …

A low-rate erg session does not have to mean lower intensity!

The best way to maximise your energy output is to row at a lower intensity for longer.

As a good base-level workout for cardio fitness, lower-rate rowing can be used to focus on power.

Try rowing for 20 to 40 minutes at a stroke rate of 18 to 22 – pushing as hard as you can, but taking your time with the recovery – the fitter you get, the you should see your split-time lower, as you are able to use the oxygen more efficiently and push harder with each stroke. Keep a note of your average split time at the end of your piece, and use this to compare your progress over the weeks.

Rowing at a slow rate can burn as much as 400 calories per hour (dependant on your own bodyweight) – so get off the cross trainer and hop on the erg!


Terminology : RICE (Injuries)

24 May


RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.



RICE is an acronym referring to the treatment used to treat soft tissue injuries such as sprains, strains, muscle pulls or tears, and should be applied as soon as possible to help prevent complications and help injuries repair faster, and in particular when inflammation is present.

It is also sometimes referred to as PRICE – P standing for Protection.

Where and How?


The first 24-48 hours of an injury are considered the critical period, and activities which cause pain to the affected area should be minimised during this period.

Without rest, continual strain is placed on the affected area which can lead to increased inflammation, pain and can potentially cause further injury. Resting is important in promoting effective healing, and to avoid abnormal repair.

Using a splint, sling or crutches may help to ensure the injured area receives adequate rest.

It is important to know when to stop, as minor injuries sustained during sporting activities could be minimised by not continuing the exercise at the first sign of injury.

Running off‘ an injury is a misconception, and NOT to be advised! Whilst it may appear possible to continue exercising on an injury immediately after, this can be down to the release of adrenalin and the functioning of nerves. Nerve fibres that respond to mechanical signals such as touch can over-ride the impulses from pain nerve fibres – a theory known as pain gate theory – combine this with other factors such as an athlete’s mentality to override the pain – ultimately an athlete can actually make an injury much worse. In this case, it is better to swallow your pride and stop short, than carry on and cause greater damage that can put you out of sport for a longer period of time, or in a worst case scenario; completely.


Ice is a great natural anti-inflammatory treatment – it can limit and reduce the swelling caused by reducing the blood flow to the injured area, and also provides some pain relief to the injury. It decreases the amount of bleeding by vasoconstriction , and reduces the risk of cell death by decreasing the rate of metabolism.

Ice should ideally be applied during the first 48 hours after injury.

Ice the sprain or strain for 20 minutes at a time every 3 to 4 hours – making sure not to exceed 20 minutes as this can damage the skin and can cause frostbite. Whilst reducing blood flow helps to minimise swelling, icing for too long can also be detrimental to healing – if the blood flow is reduced too much it can stop the delivery of essential nutrients and removal of waste products from the injured area, and so increase the injury period.

Cheap freezer packs can be created using bags of frozen vegetables – peas and sweetcorn work well! – alternatively most chemists sell freezer packs for injuries – these are usually soft gel packs which can be used both to freeze and heat. Keep moving the ice pack around the area during the 20 minutes. Make sure to wrap the ice pack in a towel, to protect the skin.

A good indicator is to allow the skin enough time to fully rewarm before icing the area again.


Compression helps to limit and reduce swelling, and can also provide pain relief by reducing the edematous swelling from the bodies natural inflammatory process.

Although swelling is inevitable, too much swelling can can cause loss of function, increased pain and restricted blood flow.

An easy way to compress the area of the injury is to wrap an elastic bandage around the swollen part, but making sure not to wrap the area too tight – the fit should be tight, but still allow for expansion when muscles contract and fill with blood. Wrap the area, overlapping the elastic wrap by one-half of the width of the wrap.


Elevating injuries help control swelling by reducing the blood flow to the area, and is most effective when the injury is raised above the level of the heart. For example, for an injured ankle, try to lay down with your foot propped on one or two pillows, and is particularly important at night.

Elevation is important as it allows for increased venous return of blood to the systemic circulation – meaning the circulation of blood flow back to the heart, to allow for quicker removal of waste products from the affected area, also resulting in less edema – accumulation of fluids in the body’s tissues.



Applying RICE relieves pain, and can help shorten the period of recovery, to soft-tissue injuries.

It is considered a first-aid treatment, rather than a cure, with the aim being to manage discomfort and internal bleeding.

Following an injury to the body, the body usually reacts with pain and swelling. This is generally as a warning to the body, to let it rest, so as not to further the damage.

During this process the muscles spasm, helping to create a natural splint for the affected area, however this can cause complications with blood flow, and causes further pain – by applying RICE, the body is allowed to rest and recover.

Along with the above treatment, it may be necessary to medicate with painkillers and anti-inflammatories – paracetamol and ibuprofen should be enough in most cases. However remember to check the dosage before medicating.

After the initial 48 hours, most sprains and strains should begin to heal. If pain and or swelling has not started to subside, make sure to see your doctor.

Once healing has begun, light massage can be used to help reduce the formation of scar tissue, and improve the tissue healing, along with gentle stretching to work on the range of motion in the injured area. Heat may also be helpful to increase the blood supply back to the area once the swelling has gone down.

After the injury has healed, you should then move onto exercises to strengthen the area, so as to prevent a repeat injury. Booking an appointment with a physiotherapist may help with the progress of strengthening.



And finally …

Top tips …

I’d recommend as a good home first-aid kit to keep three gel-packs as a precautionary measure; keep two in the freezer, so that there is at least one freezing whilst one is being used, and a third to be used as a warm compress.

Terminology : Heart Recovery Rate

10 May


Recovery Heart Rate is the heart rate measured at a fixed period after you have finished exercising.


In order to measure your Recovery Heart Rate, you would need to work out for at least 8 to 10 minutes – long enough to raise your pulse to near maximal exhaustion.

Typically, you would expect to see your heart rate rise from around 60/70 to 180/190 during exercise.

To be able to compare results over time to assess fitness, you should ideally keep as many of the variables similar as possible – ie. the time of day that you are exercising, along with the period and intensity of exercise.


You can test your Recovery Heart Rate anywhere!

Using a stopwatch and either your finger to feel your pulse, or an app or heart rate monitor, take your pulse immediately after exercise and note this down.
Wait a minute, then take your pulse again.

The formula for calculating your Recovery Heart Rate is as follows:

RHR = (exercise heart rate – heart rate after 1 minute) / 10

The higher the number for the recovery rate, the more quickly your heart has recovered from exercise.

The following table can be used as a guide to evaluate your recovery rate:

Recovery Rate Number Condition
Less than 2 = Poor
2 to 2.9 = Fair
3 to 3.9 = Good
4 to 5.9 = Excellent
Above 6 = Outstanding


Measuring your Recovery Heart Rate can be a good indicator of your level of your fitness.

The fitter you get, the more effective your heart becomes, and so the less work it has to do to keep your blood pumping around your body, and keep you moving.

But on the other end of the scale, the less healthy and fit you are, the longer it takes your heart to recover.

This is what is referred to as Cardiovascular Fitness.

Recovery Heart Rate can also indicate the intensity of the exercise you are taking. The smaller the drop in one minute could indicate you are working yourself too hard, and your body is having trouble recuperating.

There are two decreasing phases related to Heart Rate Recovery; the first minute post-exercise, and the resting plateau over which the heart rate gradually decreases.
The resting plateau can take as long as an hour for the heart rate to return to pre-exercise heart rate.

As a general indicator, five minutes after exercise the heart rate should not exceed 120 beats per minute.
After 10 minutes, the heart rate should be below 100 beats per minute, and the heart rate should return to its pre-exercise rate approximately 30 minutes after the exercise session. Although the initial sharp drop in the heart rate that occurs one minute after the exercise is the most meaningful indicator of fitness.

And finally …

Did you know? …

Miguel Indurain – Spanish, five time Tour de France winner – had a resting heart rate of 28 beats per minute – one of the lowest ever recorded in a human.

Terminology : Planking

2 May


Planking is an isometric core strength exercise.

Also known as a front hold, hover or abdominal bridge, a plank involves holding a difficult position for extended periods of time.

The front plank is where you use your arms to raise yourself off the floor and hold your body straight and rigid, like a plank of wood. Hence, planking!



Planking is often incorporated into core routines because of the effectiveness of the exercise.

The longer you are able to hold the position – provided you hold the position correctly! – the more work your muscles do, and the stronger they become.

With the right routine, (and of course the right diet!) you can work towards those washboard abs with 5 to 10 minutes of planking 2 to 3 times a week.



You don’t require any special equipment to plank – that’s one of the best things about it!

You can literally do it anywhere! Although I’d suggest on a soft/smooth surface, as the force pushing down on your arms/elbows can become uncomfortable over time.



It’s effective and time efficient when done properly!

It tightens the deepest core muscles, by forcing your body to stabilize itself in one position, working the transverse abdominus – the deeper layers of muscle that hold in the the superficial rectus abdominus.

A standard front plank primarily strengthens:

  • abdominals – rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus
  • back – erector spinae

Secondary muscles used in the exercise include:

  • back – trapezius, rhomboids
  • shoulders – deltoids
  • chest – pectorals
  • bottom – glutes
  • legs – quadriceps and gastrocnemius


Planks or Crunches?


Crunches place too much strain on the lower back, at your back’s weakest point, contributing to poor posture.



And finally …

Did you know? …

The current world record for the longest held plank position is 1 hour 20 minutes and 5.01 seconds!

This was set by a 54 year old – proof that it’s a great exercise for people of all ages!

Train Hard : DOMS – the what, when, where and why!

14 Feb


As mentioned before, DOMS is the muscle pain/soreness/stiffness that is felt between 24 and 48 hours after a strenuous workout.

Most often felt when you being a new program, change a routine or dramatically increase the duration or intensity of exercise. This also applies if you have been resting, or simply not exercising for a period of time.

It is due to microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. The amount of soreness depends on how hard, how long and what type of exercise you do. Generally speaking, any movement or exercise that your body is not used to can leads to DOMS, however ECCENTRIC muscle contractions seem to cause the most soreness. (I will explain this further later – keep your eyes peeled for ECCENTRIC vs CONCENTRIC Contractions)


Generally, between 24 and 48 hours post exercise.

Not to be confused with acute pain felt immediately during or after exercise – this would be an injury such as a strain or sprain that occurs during activity and can cause swelling. In this case, rest should be taken immediately, and follow the RICE procedure to avoid causing further injury.


In the muscles 🙂


And lastly, Why?

DOMS is the body’s way of adapting to movement.

Although often alarming and distressing for those new to exercise – this is one of the most common reasons for the January gym-goers to stop going! – it is simply the muscles response to unusual exertion in an attempt to lead to greater stamina and strength as the muscles recover and build. Also known as HYPERTROPHY.

So, despite the pain and trauma it causes people, DOMS is actually a good sign of the body working, and developing.  It’s getting stronger and adapting to change.

This is where the phrase you often hear ‘No Pain, No Gain’ comes from. However please make sure that the pain is not felt during the exercise – as I have mentioned before – as this is more likely to be injury, and requiring medical attention.

Terminology : DOMS, DOMS, DOMS

14 Feb

So, here we have it – DOMS.



And so what does this mean to the average Joe? :

Delayed onset muscle soreness is the pain felt 24-48 hours after exercise due to an increase in intensity or your muscles simply being unprepared for the work they took on.

The cause of the pain is due to the muscle suffering micro tears during the exercise.

DOMS can be increased during the eccentric phase of muscle contraction. This is generally known as the lowering phase. For example the lowering of a weight during a bicep curl.

Eccentric contractions have 3 to 4 times more effect than concentric, and therefore a workout consisting of eccentric muscle work is likely to cause increased chance of DOMS.

And why am I explaining DOMS on a Thursday morning??

Well, the workout at training on Tuesday has taken its toll!

Being a huge fan of forefoot running doesn’t do me many favours either! I’ll come back to forefoot running later, as there are actually plenty of benefits to this style of running – if done with care, and with a proper warm up and warm down!

So right now my calves are my worst enemy! Wearing heels today is the only option to gradually stretch them back out!


More on DOMS later today 🙂

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