(Repost from CrossFit St. Louis blog 2-6-14)
I often walk into the gym to get the rowers set up for my class, only to find that many of the dampers are set all the way up to 10. This always amazes me because I know what a slog rowing at a 10 can be. I understand that people don't always know better and often treat a damper setting like resistance. They think, "If I set this thing at a 10, it will make me work harder and I'll get a tougher workout, and that will make me a badass." You will have a tough workout, and quite possibly a miserable experience and a backache to boot. Understanding what the damper actually does for you will allow you to row more efficiently and create a more "enjoyable" experience on the erg.
Damper 101 First of all, damper setting is NOT resistance. The damper setting creates a drag (allows more or less air into the flywheel). It gives you the feel of a heavier boat or a lighter boat. To move both types of boats quickly, you have to put more energy into the system. If you want to move a lighter boat quickly, you must row faster or harder. However, if you just paddle along, even a light boat will go slower. It all depends on how much energy you put into the oars. Imagine a sleek, one person racing boat. The faster you move the oars through the water, the faster you will go. The same principle applies to the erg. At a lower damper setting (1-3), you will move quickly on the slide, and it is easier to row at higher stroke ratings. Rowing at a low damper means that the flywheel is more closed and less air is able to come in and slow it down. This also means that the flywheel doesn't decelerate as quickly so at the catch, you can continue to move quickly into the next drive without taxing the leg muscles too much. Once again, your pace will be determined by how much pressure you put into your footplate and handle. At a lower damper, you can move faster and rowing at faster stroke rates tends to be more cardiovascularly taxing.
On the flip side, rowing a heavier boat requires more pressure into the oar to move the boat through the water. As with a lighter boat, to move a big boat faster,
you have to row harder. On the erg, rowing at damper settings between 8-10 can feel like
a big, heavy boat. The damper opens up the flywheel allowing more air to circulate, thereby requiring more energy to keep it moving. The flywheel also decelerates quicker, requiring more muscular energy at the catch to get it moving again. This typically
means a slower stroke rate. Rowing at a high damper setting can be more muscularly taxing.
Which one do I do? Damper setting is a very personal preference. You need to row at different dampers to find out where YOU are most efficient. Some questions to ask yourself... Do you like to move faster like a sprinter? Do you like to move slower but pull a heavier load? What type of build do you have? What type of piece are you rowing? In general, smaller people with petite builds seem to have good luck at the lower damper settings. Bigger, taller, more muscular people can often handle a higher damper. I find that rowing somewhere between 4-5 works well for me for all purpose rowing.
For very short pieces or when looking for max power or calories, you may consider bumping
up the damper a notch. It's always good to practice and see where you feel the most
powerful. Try a watt test...row at damper 2 for 30 seconds at heavy pressure and see what
watt output is. (Bodyweight plus is a good thing to shoot for). Rest 30 seconds and try
again at damper 4. Feel any different? Continue up the flyhweel until you get to an 8 or 9.
As you go to a higher damper number, when do your returns begin to diminish? Play around
with it and you will find a damper that seems to give you what you want.
For a great article and more info on damper setting and drag, visit the Concept2 website here:
This article is fantastic and I borrowed heavily from it.
For other great videos on Damper setting, check out Shane Farmer's Dark Horse Rowing. He has two videos on damper setting...Part 1 and Part 2.
Here is another great video from UCanRow2 featuring the late, great Terry Smythe on choosing a damper setting. She makes the point that the better you can learn to make a good connection at the catch, the more efficient you can be with your stroke working less hard and with less air flow.
There is a common flaw among indoor rowers to go hard on the drive and in their effort to recover slowly, inadvertently stop the handle and rest it on the legs, or even pause or stop during the recovery en route to the catch. While this may allow you to catch your breath, it’s not helping you be efficient and it effs up the consistency of your technique and stroke on the recovery. Below is a video of what I’m talking about. When I see people do this, Lil Jon shouts in my head, “Turn down for what?”. Why are you slowing down the flywheel and basically stopping mid stroke?
In the video above I am rowing about a 16 stroke rate, driving hard, and catching my breath on the recovery. The problem is, in rowing, your hands should always be moving. You can still come in nice and slow to the catch, but don’t stop. Glide to the catch slower. At the finish of your drive, redirect the hands back to the flywheel, follow with the body, and then slowly layer in the bend of the knees to get you to the next stroke. By half slide coming back in, you should have shoulders in front of hips so you are ready to go for the next stroke at the catch and not trying to get into position at the last minute. See video below:
This video shows slower stroke rate rowing with hands constantly moving.
Whether you are rowing a 16 or a 30, your hands should always be moving and your recovery sequence of “arms, body and legs” should look the same. The slower your stroke rate, the longer it takes you to get back to the catch. The faster you are stroking, obviously, the less time you have to recover. But nothing else changes technique wise. For more info on how to recover on your rowing stroke, see this article.
So keep that handle moving and breathe on your way in. You’ll be set up early for success on your next stroke. And Lil Jon won’t be screaming at you.
(This article is a repost from October 2014 when I originally posted it on the CrossFit St. Louis blog.)
I have some funny ass friends. And when you have funny ass friends, you often get their unique, unfiltered world view. I was reminded of this the other day when I ran into an old friend on a walk. (Old as in we go back a long way and old as in we are both in our 50's). We were talking about how much harder it is to fight the midlife middle when you hit your 50's and how we wish we looked like we did 10 years ago when we wanted to lose 10 pounds.
She said her husband told her he was going to have "DSM" inscribed on her tombstone...Diet Starts Monday. With that attitude to start the weekend, she went on, you can enjoy all life has to offer knowing that you will reel it in on Monday and get serious. I told her that in my house, we call it "going out with a bang". We laughed about our rationalizations but it got me to thinking about how pervasive this rationalization is. Turns out, the hope and excitement that come with committing to a healthier way of living can be fleeting as the harsh reality of behavior change hits you square between the eyes. By Wednesday or Thursday, if you make it that long, your resolve starts to wear thin and when Friday hits, it's back to "DSM". Wash, rinse, repeat.
Making diet and lifestyle changes is hard, especially if you have years of the "I'll do it tomorrow" attitude. Not only do we need some powerful motivation, but we also need the confidence it takes to make it happen. If one or two of those is off, real behavior change is doomed.
So how do we move those two markers of success in a positive direction? First, we need to find out what truly motivates us to make changes. Ask yourself, "Why is this important? What are my reasons for wanting to make this change? What might happen if I don't make this change?" Finding out your true reasons for making the change is a key start. But what do you do next to make lasting change?
This is where a health coach can be immensely helpful. From the Coaching Psychology Manual by Moore, Jackson and Tschannen-Moran, coaching is described as "a growth-promoting relationship that elicits autonomous motivation, increases the capacity to change, and facilitates a change process through visioning, goal setting, and accountability, which at its best leads to sustainable change for the good."
Below are five ways a health coach can help you realize the vision of health you create for yourself.
1. A HEALTH COACH IS A BEHAVIOR CHANGE SPECIALIST
A health coach specializes in behavior change and collaborates with you to lend support and empathy without judgement as you find your own strategies and motivation for change. Your coach will encourage you to mobilize your own insight, strengths, support and resources to help you make positive, sustainable changes for a higher level of well-being and performance in your life and work.
2. A COACH CELEBRATES THE EXPERT IN YOU
The coaching relationship is a partnership where creativity and thought provoking inquiry will inspire and support you to maximize your potential. The coach is not the expert in the relationship, rather they work alongside you to empower and encourage, so you can make the right choices for yourself. No one is more of an expert on your life than YOU! Have you ever had someone tell you what to do and suddenly you feel a bit resistant? When you come up with your own strategies that work within your circumstance, you are more likely to have success with that change.
3. A COACH HELPS FACILITATE YOUR VISION OF WELLNESS
At some point, you and your health coach will explore your "vision of wellness". If life is as good as it gets, what might that look like? How might your life be different if you were able to successfully make the changes you've been wanting? What do you value? What is important to you? You will explore all the beautiful experiences and qualities that make you unique, and create a vision of health and wellness that motivates and excites you.
4. COACHES CAN HELP KEEP YOU FOCUSED AS YOU PLAN OUT YOUR GOALS
Your health coach will listen attentively and carefully as you create 3-6 month goals for yourself that will ultimately get you closer to your wellness vision. With this roadmap in place, together you will break down your goals into smaller pieces and focus on each piece week by week. Through this process, you will explore your motivations and your resources. You'll leverage strengths and past successes as you commit to the changes you want to make. You'll get in touch with your values and beliefs and honor those as you create your plan. Your health coach will help you connect the dots between who you are and who you want to be.
5. A COACH CAN HELP KEEP YOU ACCOUNTABLE
In the beginning of any behavior change, accountability can be a big thing. Your health coach is there to support you as you make the changes you want. They will encourage, empower, and help keep you accountable. They will gently challenge you to venture just outside your comfort zone. They will be honest and open with you. And throughout the process, the coach will respect and honor your choices without judgement. Over time, you will find that you start finding your own ways of holding yourself accountable.
If you've been trying to make lifestyle changes but feel "stuck", maybe it's time to consider working with a health coach. You have everything you need within you to make change, but sometimes it helps to have someone unlock your superpowers, to respect you and your choices and to see you as whole, creative and resourceful. And what a powerful process this can be!
Thanks for stopping by! Info here will help guide you on the path to better health. I'll share my passion about health, fitness, nutrition, and finding safer personal care products as well as cooking, gardening, and raising chickens. You want it, I got it. ~ Leeny