Watt did you do during lockdown?

A great Blog by Jon Tilt about Jon’s and his brother Matt Fitness journey over the last year

A year of virtual training

By Jon Tilt

March 2020, my partner Julie, and I were walking in the New Forest when my phone pinged to tell us Boris had announced the first COVID lockdown. My first thought was to call my brother Matt, a chef in Kenton (near Exeter, Devon). He was already on it, transforming his fine dining restaurant into a take-away in time for Mother’s Day.

A few days later it was Matt’s turn to call me saying we needed to find a way to keep healthy. We had both been keen rugby players, but our last games were more than a few years ago. Recently Matt had been doing some rowing on his Concept 2 and I enjoy athletics, coaching at Southampton AC and competing at Masters level in the 400m and 400m hurdles.

Matt’s ankles are shot thanks to Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, a genetic condition that damages peripheral nerves, and I was recently diagnosed with Osteoarthritis in the knee, so regular running was out of the question for both of us.

Fortunately, I had invested in a Wattbike Atom when I retired from IBM in 2019, so we both had enough home equipment to get going.

First day, Wednesday 1st April, 8am we set out on our first session together. FaceTime, on our iPad and the Wattbike app on my phone.

To start, I would choose a session of the app (randomly!) and I would ride whilst Matt rowed, with me shouting instructions on when to change pace or power.

The training was not particularly sophisticated, but we were establishing a routine and experimenting with what worked and what did not. My biggest lesson (and something I should already know!) was the importance of recovery.

After a month I found I was shattered and checking my training logs I realised I had not taken a single day off in April. I now have at least one day a week for regeneration’.

NOTE FROM EDDIE FLETCHER

Structure, consistency, and progression, including recovery is the backbone of a fitness plan.  Adaptation and improvement occur during rest and recovery

After a week of ‘playing’ we decided to take on one of the Wattbike plans. We thought the Health Intermediate Training plan would be a good start. Four days a week on the plan, then another doing something different on the Saturday. The plan was ideal as it gave us a mixture of speed and endurance work in sessions of 30-40 minutes. Great sense of satisfaction when we completed it without missing a session 13 weeks later.

NOTE FROM EDDIE FLETCHER

I designed the Wattbike Health Training Plans to give the best balance of dose-response. I’m so pleased it worked.

When the first lockdown eased, I was able to get back to running one day a week, but Matt and I decided to keep going with the morning training. We had done the rugby match simulation sessions a few times and really enjoyed them (although the game has changed a lot since we played – nowhere in the session did it involve waiting half an hour for the forwards to wallow around in the mud and then being expected to run the length of the pitch with frozen legs!).

The next obvious step was to try the Rugby General Conditioning plan. 9 weeks of 4 sessions a week. Slightly longer work outs, but with a great variety of endurance and intensity.

I committed a schoolboy error in about week 3 of the plan when I decided to do an FTP test and used the sub max test to measure it. I will be honest; I have no idea what an RPE of 7 is and I ended up doing it as a max test which meant my FTP was set ridiculously high. The next few rugby sessions were hell, so I retested using a Max ramp test and that sorted it.

We enjoyed the rugby plan so much we did it again for another 9 weeks before attempting the Health Advanced Training plan.

NOTE FROM EDDIE FLETCHER

The Rugby General Conditioning Plan was based on real sessions I designed for several rugby union/league clubs and national teams.  Setting your training parameters is important – for trained individuals assessing maximum power and heart with a full ramp test is the way forward.   For less fit individuals a submax test can be effective and then starting with one of the Health Beginners Plan to ease into training

Periodically we put ourselves through a test session to see where we were. Matt entered the British and Canadian indoor rowing champs and the Somerset 525 Virtual rowing competition. He set a new lifetime best of 6.57.7 for the 2000m!

Not bad for a 56-year-old with dodgy ankles.

I was able to squeeze in two 400m races on the track in September 2020, running 56.6 to top the UK rankings for my age group. Pleased with that considering I did not do a single-track training session.

What we learned on the way

The Wattbike has two main metrics, Power (Watts) and Cadence (RPM). The plans help you train at the right power and cadence and you start to develop a ‘feel’ for balancing the two.

Whilst the Concept 2 has a power measure, Matt found that time/500m was the most useful metric for him to use. His 2k pace is around 1.45, and flat out about 1.28, so when I am recovering at 144w he drops to about 2.00 pace.

Over time he developed a good understanding of what pace was required to equal the power I was working at.

Interestingly we found that at the end of the session I covered almost exactly twice the distance on the bike. We assume this is because the bike delivers constant power, whereas the rower only on the pull.

NOTE FROM EDDIE FLETCHER

The Concept 2 rower works on power, but rowers prefer to use pace per 500 m – there is a nonlinear relationship between power and pace so working out power first and then the pace is important. The distance covered is coincidental.

Max power metric is slightly different when testing on a Rower and Wattbike. Due to the different nature of cycling max power tend to be 25-50 W higher on a bike.

We both improved our form over the year, I am no rowing expert, but watching Matt over FaceTime I was able to spot a couple of things like stroke length and relaxing the neck that gave him some marginal gains.

The Wattbike shows pedal efficiency as a wacky figure of eight or sausage shape as well as an overall PES (pedal efficiency score). I found that at slow speeds my PES is atrocious, dropping down into the low 40s. I also have a marked difference in legs, my damaged side several points worse than my good side.

However, when I upped the speed, my efficiency improved significantly. Usually in the mid-60s and occasionally over 70. The difference in legs also disappeared.

My hypothesis is that because I am a sprinter, my body knows how to generate ‘good enough’ form when it needs to (you cannot run fast with poor form!) and that at slow speeds it just gets lazy. Something I will investigate more.

NOTE FROM EDDIE FLETCHER

Getting your pedal technique right is the significant gain you can achieve. It starts at the ‘slow’ speeds – for me more about leg speed of 90 rpm minimum even at recovery zone so resistance/gear selection also key.

I will not pretend we set out with any sort of process or plan. Afterall we were told it would all be over by the summer! However, looking back the following steps describe how we approached it:

  1. Establish a routine

Initially it does not matter what you do, just do something regularly. Having a set time and someone to work with really helps.

2. Follow a plan

Once the routine is in place start to think more about what you want to achieve. Set some goals, plan. We found the Wattbike plans very well structured and provided the variety we needed.

3. Regeneration!
When things are going well it is easy to get excited and overtrain. Remember to schedule in recovery. The body only regenerates when you stop beating it up!

4. Test
Make sure you have some tests periodically, a race, a time trial or one of the Wattbike challenges can provide great motivation and help you see how far your training is taking you.

5. Iterate
Never stop learning, do not be afraid to go back to the start and do it all again in a different way.

Here we are a whole year on, hundreds of thousands of metres pulled and pedalled and hopefully a little wiser, even at our age. We have just had another test week and are about to embark on the Rugby plan for a third time.

Thank you Wattbike and Concept 2 for getting us through the year!

Jon Tilt is a UK Athletics Performance coach at Southampton AC

He is a World Masters Champion at 400m and 400m hurdles and holds the British M55 400m hurdles record.

Email: jon.tilt@gmail.com

Andrew Page

Have you ever thought whether you can train differently, or cross train for events to both improve performance or protect against injury?

The Rottnest Channel Swim is a 19.7km open water swim from Cottesloe Beach to Rottnest Island.  Andrew has completed this swim 35 times and holds the record for the greatest number of solo crossings.

https://rottnestchannelswim.com.au/

Having an interest in rowing he has been using the indoor rower and ski erg to help with his preparation.

Andrew takes up the story:

‘I bought the Marathon/100k Plan from Fletcher Sport science and have been working through this with the view of doing a 100,000m on the rower.

I have had some competing interests that have made me insert some other cross training into the plan as I have also been training for a 19.7km open water swim that is held annually here in Perth Western Australia (Rottnest Channel Swim).

In previous years I have trained conventionally for a swimming event …  by swimming. This year I was looking for something different for the variety and as well as injury management and attained this through using the Fletcher Sport Science rowing guide with the Concept2 equipment. I found the guide good as it gave me what I needed to do instead of going out to my training room and floundering around not achieving anything.

I also found the guide a sensible way to train as it was building endurance without excessive pressure on joints. The volume of training I was able to do, working through the program was much higher than I could have done if I had purely done swimming training and I will certainly train the same way again next year.

I only trained in a pool 10 times and the rest of my training was on the Concept2 Rower and more recently included the Ski Erg. I believed that the 100k plan was a comparable in terms of duration to the swim.

The swim took place on the 20th of February 2021 and I completed it in 7h49m42s. I approached it remarkably like the same discipline that is used for my stroke rate 18-20 at 100KP pace, which for me is 2.22/500m.

It was quite choppy, and many swimmers had to withdraw as conditions deteriorated. In the past I have found these conditions very fatiguing through my core but this time I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable I felt in the water for the duration of the swim focussing on the swimming equivalent of the 100KP pace.

There really was a correlation in feeling/result between the two sports which pleased me as I did have some mild feelings of apprehension in the days before as I hadn’t done a lot of training in the water.

I am not fast on the rower, but I certainly believe that through training I can be quicker and will also become quicker in the water. I did complete some of the marathon training sessions in between the 100k training. Perhaps some more of these might make me a bit faster? I really noticed the difference in my heart rate and performance up to 75% of maximum heart rate.

This was my 35th Rottnest Channel Swim Solo Crossing and I was just looking for a different way to train that also reduced wear and tear on the shoulders.’

Andrew is hoping to complete his 100k row in the coming weeks after he has recovered from the swim.

Cycling Training Plans

Now in the shop under Cycling Training Plans are 4 new 12 week plans – the first three are one extra workout a week to incorporate into a structured training plan using your Wattbike/Turbo. The fourth is a fully developed 10 mile TT plan for experienced riders incorporating road rides and Wattbike/Turbo specific workouts.


The first one is to develop leg speed (cadence) at the right gear and rpm – the Leg Speed Revolution Plan is suitable for all riders – priced at £35.


The next 2 plans are one specific Wattbike/Turbo based Hill climb development plans. Hill Climb Revolution 1 is for experienced riders and Hill Climb Revolution 2 is for very experienced riders – each plan is priced at £35 each.


The final plan is a fully developed 12 week, 5 workouts per week plan for the serious 10 mile time trialist – priced at £135.


Each plan contains instructions about the ratio of maximum minute power (MMP) or functional threshold power (FTP), rpm and heart rate to use with each workout and has charts to assist in setting the workout metrics.

Two new pages have been created


Heart Rate Variability – 3 free papers to download , written by Eddie Fletcher explaining what it is all about and how it works.


POWERbreathe – Two  free papers to download, one by Eddie Fletcher, and a second by Professor Alison McConnell. Heavily oriented to rowing but applicable to any sport.


We’ve also put the POWERbreathe Guide for Indoor Rowers in the e-book section of the shop, priced at £25. As with the POWERbreathe papers, the Guide can be applied to any sport.

New Indoor Rowing Long-Distance Guide – Marathon and 100k

It is finally here, many years in the writing and based on sound scientific principles and data collected from multiple athletes, who have completed the plans.

The marathon plan is a significant update on my previous plan, and the 100k is the first time I have published it in full.

This is more than just the plans, which in themselves are extensive and incredibly detailed. All together over 140 workouts over the two plans. Each workout specified by duration, stroke rate, heart rate and pace.

There are detailed heart rate/pacing/stroke rate charts and, for the first time I have published my Fletcher Rowing Power Max test (RPmax), which can be used to find individual heart rate percentages and pacing for the plans.

In addition, there is a section on the physiological demands of marathon and 100k rowing, a section with general guidelines and a section on the long-distance row itself.

Dr Mark Bellamy has written a section on mental preparation and Rachel Armstrong has written a powerful nutrition section, which all rowers should read carefully.

This guide is packed with information over 83 pages – it is an e-book but priced for the value of the training plans.

 £135 and now available in the Shop Indoor Rowing Training Plans section.

More Indoor Rowing Records

Two more indoor rowing records to update – first Victoria Starr on a rich vein of form to set a new British half marathon record for 40-49 hwt women in a great time of 1:25:59.9.

Next up was an incredible row by Rod Chinn to break the long-standing World record for 100K in the 60-69 lwt category – an amazing time of 7:14:42.7. Can you imagine rowing for over 7 hours!

As always, in awe of these athletes.


If you are thinking of rowing a half marathon, marathon or 100k, get in touch using our contact form.

Indoor Rowing Plans

We are delighted to announce the launch of 6 standard indoor rowing plans, now available in the Shop (Indoor Rowing Plans section). These Plans are the culmination of over 20 years’ experience designing and delivering one on one coaching for our clients.

The bespoke service is still available, but we recognise that affordability and the time needed for one to one coaching is not for everyone.  The Plans are designed to be self-supporting and will deliver a structured, consistent, and progressive approach to training, for an improved 2000 m performance or race.

Each plan is built around an estimated 2000 m goal ranging form 9’ 45” down to 6’ 56”.   Each Plan is known by its 2000 m target:

  1. Beginners Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and Stroke rate (SR) Plan
  2. Beginners 9:45-9:10 – a RPE, SR, and Pace (per 500 m) Plan
  3. Beginners 8:40-8:20 – a RPE, Heart rate (HR), SR, and Pace Plan
  4. Intermediate 8:00-7:48 – a HR, SR, and Pace Plan – THE SUB 8-MINUTE PLAN
  5. Intermediate 7:28-7:16 – a HR, SR, and Pace Plan
  6. Advanced 7:06-6:56 – a HR, SR and Pace Plan – THE SUB 7-MINUTE PLAN

If you have an in between 2000 m time chose the plan closest to your 2000 m time – for instance if your 2000 m time is 8:50 chose the 8:40-8:20 plan.

Each Plan is 12 weeks duration and can be repeated.  The workouts can also be spread out over longer periods if other complimentary training is involved – the key is to do the workouts in sequence, for best results.

Each workout has a specific warmup, work to be completed and cool down. In addition, where appropriate the RPE, HR, SR and Pace are shown.

NOTE – Pace per 500 m is built from power in Watts and not 2000 m pace +/- X seconds, as the relationship between power and pace is nonlinear.

Each plan is £135 – in addition, with each Plan purchase 5 fact sheets are included, free of charge – value £25:

Fact sheets

  1. Technique
  2. The Rowing Muscles
  3. Damper level and Drag Factor
  4. Force Curve, Power (Watts), Pace and Stroke rate
  5. Warmup and Cool down

We recognise that you may need more than one plan, as you progress so we are discounting any second plan to £115 and if you need a third to £100.

Finally, you can also buy a remote test to get a fix on your maximum HR (experienced rowers only) – available in the shop ‘Remote Services’.

Whilst the Plans are self-supporting, we are happy to answer reasonable questions before a purchase decision is made – use our Contact page to do so.

Rod and James set new British Marathon records

It’s been quite a weekend, two marathon records, first up was the amazing Rod Chinn still on a rich vein of record breaking. Broke a long standing 60-69 lwt record held since 2007 by Malcom Fawcett. Malcom was a Fletcher squad athlete so keeping the record in the family – fabulous row Rod in a new record time of 2:47:22

Then the incredible James Cracknell still rocking it at 48, a superb 2:30:37 to knock over 2 minutes off the old 40-49 hwt record.

This makes James the second fastest British rower behind Graham Benton (another Fletcher squad athlete) who set his time in the 30-39 hwt category back in 2012.

In awe of these athletes

If you are thinking of rowing a marathon get in touch using our contact form.

Welcome to the Fletcher Sport Science website.

I would like to start by thanking all my athletes for their support during this difficult period. The Covid 19 lockdown has affected every part of society.

For us, this has meant closing our laboratory with a significant loss of income and with no end date in mind to reopen (will be a new location).

Because of the intimacy and invasive nature of physiological testing we will need to consider very carefully the level of protection we provide for anyone visiting the laboratory and of staff.

In the meantime, remote testing and coaching is still available and, over the next few weeks Fact sheets and e-books will be available in our Shop.

Our Consultants are also available for remote advice. Use the links at the bottom of the Home page or the contact details in each Consultants bio.

We continue to be available by email or mobile – use the Contact page to get in touch.

Stay safe and healthy – see you on the other side.

Eddie Fletcher 06/05/2020