The secrets to a faster 2000m indoor rowing test

The secrets to a faster 2000m indoor rowing test


6 minute read

Over the past three months, I have re-lived fond rowing memories while working as a Data Science intern for asensei’s connected coaching app, which lets world class coaches guide and monitor your practice on your rowing machine. In this blog, I hope to share with you why some athletes do better than others over 2000m, and what you can do about it.

First, an introduction to asensei and indoor rowing. asensei is a start-up company founded by Steven Webster, Ross Arnott and Bill Burgar. They each share a passion for Karate, which inspired the name asensei — which literally translates to “person born before another”. It can be understood as a philosophy of knowledge sharing. Back in 2014, they decided to focus on indoor rowing as it is a sport that is accessible to all and suited to innovating a connected coaching product. If you can access a rowing machine at home or at your local gym, and you are interested in trying something new — asensei might be for you... It is available to download on the Apple Appstore, with a selection of free workouts for you to try.

At the heart of asensei’s product is the vision to democratise coaching for all. Athletes can choose from over 250 workouts which feature real-time feedback, personalised targets and expert guidance. The body of this blog will go over the findings gathered during my data analytics project over the past twelve weeks. Afterwards, I will explain what you can do to become a better row with asensei.


Analytics Insight: 85% of asensei rowers improved vs. their predicted 2000m time

The team at asensei were interested in understanding how their athletes have improved after completing the six week RE(COMMIT) training programme which is a collection of workouts suited to people of all ages and backgrounds.

We make a prediction for your 2000m time based on your fitness at the end of the first 3 workouts in week 1 (there are fourteen workouts overall). The prediction incorporates the technical and physiological improvement you are expected to make over the remaining five weeks. By applying conventional analytics methodologies to create a pipeline which stores, queries and processes raw data, we found 85% to go on to beat their predicted time.


The graph illustrates the breakdown by how many minutes the rowers either beat or missed their 2000m predicted time. As evident from the blue coloured bars, most athletes managed to beat their predicted time by more than 30 seconds. Of those who missed it, it was usually by less than 15 seconds.

True to their kaizen (always improving) spirit, the asensei team next asked if it were possible to understand why some improved, and others did not…


Top Three Reasons behind Indoor Rowing Improvements

Using performance data and training frequency, it was possible to identify key performance indicators which correlated with improvements. The following three metrics were found to be the most significant.

1. Technique

Athletes who applied their power more consistently, increased their drive length and stroke rate tended to improve their 2000m time. As asensei coach, Johan Quie, will tell you - “Good form, is free speed”.

  • Try to engage in mindful practice. Our workouts use instructional learning where you can focus your attention on one skill at time. Each drill isolates a particular movement which, collectively, improve your overall control, technique and strength. Choose a drill to work on and take it one stroke at a time.

  • Looking to improve your drive length? Maintain a consistent, low rate with good form. You will soon build a solid rhythm which should transfer to your higher rates. Remember, speed comes more so from power per stroke than strokes per minute. A good trick is to row alongside a mirror and check yourself as you apply more pressure.

  • What about consistent power? During each stroke, see if you can hold your connection against the footplate all the way to the finish. Maintain relaxed shoulders at the catch, letting your legs and core do the work. As you push your legs half-way down, use your body and arms to sustain the power.

2. Preparation

Most coaches advocate a few prep sessions in the week before a big race, and it is no different with asensei. Completing the penultimate workout in the week before your 2000m workout ensures you are mentally prepared and feeling fit.

  • Trust the programme. Let asensei select your next workout, leaving you to focus on your practice and the ‘coach’ to focus on the process. RE(COMMIT) is carefully laid out to guide you through a series of varying workouts, each with a unique purpose.

  • Embrace the challenge. Great coaches know how and when to push you. asensei takes care of your workout by querying historical performances to set your personalised targets.

3. Consistency

It is a six week programme so it is no surprise that completing all 14 workouts within ten weeks is a crucial factor which increases your chances of achieving your personal target.
  • Turning up is half the effort! By developing a routine and not skipping sessions, you will soon see the big improvements. Of course, we don’t want you to over train, so listen to your body, eat well and sleep for at least 7 hours.

  • Share you practice through our members community. You can read about the successes and the learning curves all of us face on our ‘ergos’. We regularly hear that asensei makes practice more enjoyable and engaging. Push past your limits and earn that great post-workout feeling!


Bringing it all together

The team have designed asensei with a focus on the coaching and practice experience. As a rower and coach, I tried other apps in the past but I rarely used them. Most offered music or visuals (imagine the Thames or the River Charles) to entertain you through each workout in order to get the miles in. Mostly, they were distractions that prevented me from actually improving.

asensei is different. Your experience is focused by ensuring you create that meaningful relationship between coach and athlete. I feel that is key to finding the true reward in your practices. Three months ago, I questioned what role science could play in making one a better rower. I had heard of sayings such as “if it can be measured, it can be improved”. If there is one thing I have learned in this project; it is how expert coaching + technology can help people to become better athletes.

Want to learn more?

  • Join the asensei community today by downloading the app from the App Store and exploring the range of free trial workouts

  • Put time aside this Sunday, subscribe to our YouTube channel and row alongside Eric Murray during his popular livestream

  • Feeling especially keen? Register for the British Rowing Virtual Championships taking place on the 11th September 2021. This year, we are the title sponsor and we would love to see you there!

  • Custom made asensei (app)arel is now available to coach your technique and form as well. Watch it in action here.

a graph illustrating the breakdown by how many minutes the rowers either beat or missed their 2000m predicted time

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