One of the beautiful things about exercise, is that it can’t be digitised. It can’t be stolen, it can’t be cheated. You need to put in the work to see the results (the obvious caveat here is plastic surgery, but let’s not get pedantic… yet.)

However, the effort you’re putting in CAN be digitised. Every ounce of energy you expend can be tracked calculated, compiled, and sent – to whatever you want. From the simple idea of a heart rate monitor you wear on your wrist to a phone app which tracks your every move and charts every step, calorie and heart beat spent in search of progress – there’s a digital world out there to help you.

Poetic ideas aside – as indoor rowers, there are a lot of phone apps available to augment what we do – and software from PC’s and Mac’s which can broaden the experience from our spare rooms and garages to the entire world.

The Concept2 website has a great page covering most of the software available to enhance your time on the erg – some will be of more value than others. Below are just a few of the more popular titles.

ROWPRO

One of the most important software titles available in connecting Indoor Rowers around the world is RowPro. On the back of the PM5 monitor on the Concept 2 machine is a USB socket similar to one you’ll find on a printer (circled in the image below)

Grab a cable that connects from this to a computer, download an install a trial or RowPro – make sure you’re connected to the Internet – and you’re now able to race people in real time all around the world.

Of course, the first thing you’ll need to do is either set up a race, or look to see when one starts. This is controlled mainly through Digital Rowing’s “Oarbits”. Existing as an App for your phone, and a page on their website, you can browse through upcoming races and join whatever one has space for you (only 16 people can race at one time) or you can set up your own.

From 2K and 5K races to marathons and the odd 100K attempt, there’s a good range of sessions on there. Sometimes there’ll be only 1 or 2 people, or in the case of the ‘Gen-fit’ sessions in the evenings (UK time) or the FM WOW’s on a Sunday morning (08:30 UK time) you can be on the Virtual River alongside a fill roster or like-minded rowers with a wide range of speeds.

Not that RowPro is only about online racing. Training sessions performed while running the software can automatically be uploaded to your Concept2 logbook. A database of sessions you have created is at hand for you to go back to as you wish – and there’s a fantastic training plan creator – which will give you a plan based on your goals and the time you can spend training.

If you’re a data-junkie, the output analysis of your sessions is fantastic. Not only with the various ways to look at your results within the session, but also by exporting a CSV of your row for analysis by further third party software.

Of the more user-friendly and rewarding experiences out there for this job, https://rowsandall.com/ is hard to beat. You’ll need to register with the website to use it, but don’t be scared. The reward is worth the time – and you won’t get a barrage of ridiculous emails in return!

If you have time on your hands, and want to do this the long way round – click here to download a zipped version of an MS Office Excel .xlsm file which can let you analyse a RowPro Workout. (Make sure it shows as .xlsm when you unzip it – if it doesn’t, you can change it from xlsx to xlsm manually). It’s a spreadsheet created by the user “danburpee” on the which is now hosted on the Sub7 website.

Instructions for use:

Enter your Heart Rate ranges (resting and max) into the HR Ranges tabOn Rowpro, when you finish a row, be sure to check the ‘Save Stroke Data’ box.Select your desired row, and export in CSV format.Back to the spreadhseet, on the distance or time tab, click “Import RP Stroke Data”If you’re looking at an interval session, RowPro saves it as one file. So you’ll need to add the details of different times or distance for the intervals in your workout. The table lets you get splits for each chunk. Be patient, it’s not ‘entirely’ user friendly at first.The other tabs contain beautified data for export. If you’re thinking you might post to Facebook pages, blogs or forums, the Larry Output tab might cover what you need. Otherwise, a screen capture (or print screen and paste into MSPaint) may be a simpler way to get your data online (postimage.org being a good image host).

Version 5 of RowPro is Mac and PC compatible – and for what it offers, is reasonably priced. Although keep an eye on the website as they often run promotions. Especially around the Indoor Rowing Racing season.

The website also features mention of a phone based app which is in development. Not available yet, it will be interesting to see how much of the main software they are able to migrate into an app.

LIVEROWING / KREW

Slightly misleadingly named – as it’s not ‘Live’ in the same way that RowPro is live – this app brings a competitive element to your iPhone, not that Android users are forgotten about – KREW is the name of the app that’s in Beta testing right now – but don’t be put off, I’ve been using it and it’s good.

Although it lacks the ability to race another rower in real time, what it does allow is a ‘Challenge’ element – where you can row a session, then challenge a fellow user to beat it. Motivationally, there’s also a ‘result’ tally for how many you have won or lost.

But this isn’t where the app stops. Not only will it also upload the results of your sessions to Concept2 logbook – it lets you create custom workouts in the app, which then get sent to the PM monitor – saving you a lot of button pressing time! And, these Custom workouts are saved for future use. While you’re at it, you can make these custom workouts ‘Community Workouts’ – where any LiveRowing can pick it up and row it for themselves.

There’s a good affiliation option too. The CTC, British Rowing, Concept 2 Workout of the day and others all load in various workouts for you to try for free. And, if you affiliate with a team that is tied in with RowPro (like Fitness Matters) you can pick up training sessions from LiveRowing, without the need to program them in yourself.

It’s an app which has a lot of different elements to it to help motivate and encourage you – alongside a great (if somewhat power hungry) interface. If you have a PM5 monitor, you can connect LiveRowing to it wirelessly through bluetooth – but if you’re using PM4 or PM3 monitors, you’ll need a cable – sold through LiveRowing (and Concept2). Handily, if you have connected a Heart Rate strap to the Concept2 PM monitor – this will be sent to the LiveRowing app too – for better analysis and calorie calculation.

Be sure to update your PM monitor to the latest firmware – as the latest LiveRowing release is built around it, and may ‘play up’ on older versions. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have a good battery charge (or have the iPhone on charge) as it’s so power hungry. And as the database information is stored on a server online, rather than on your phone, you’ll need to make sure you have an internet connection (wi-fi or 3G/4G will do fine).

ERGDATA

This is Concept2’s App – coming in both iPhone and Android flavours, which acts as an extension of the PM5 monitor. It offers extra information – stroke length, stroke count, Drag Factor, force readouts – information which helps you keep at the intensity you need to be at. Naturally, it syncs with the Concept 2 logbook too.

It doesn’t crash much, is very easy to connect wirelessly to a PM5 (cable needed for PM4 and 3) and isn’t a huge battery drain (though it’s a good idea to keep your battery as charged as possible). Handily, it’ll also update your PM to the proper date and time too…

There’s no competition aspect to this – no connection to other users (other than through the Concept2 Logbook) But if you’re looking for something with a bit more information than the PM monitor, which helps you upload to the logbook – and nothing more – then this free app is perfect for you.

ROWFORGE (ios and Android)

RowForge has been out for a few months now (as of October 2019) and it’s a solid app with a few basic workouts on there in the free version. It is geared a bit more towards paying for it to unlock the extra benefits of the app, but the owners are constantly developing it, and hopefully it’ll improve soon. I’ve only had a couple of rows with this (as I’m too busy testing KREW) – but I’ll add more as I learn more about it.

ASENSEI

One of the only apps available that has a guiding coaching aspect to it. And by none other than Eric Murray. Training sessions have good graphic overlays so you can see what’s going on, but the background is a video clip of Eric rowing that portion of the training session himself. This sometimes causes a bit of the hiccup on your stroke, as it moves from section to section, the stroke he’s doing can jump, so you have to hiccup a bit to catch up. As with ROWFORGE, I’ve only had a couple of rows with this (as I’m too busy testing KREW) – but I’ll add more as I learn more about it.

FLOAT

The app formerly known as ErgStick… Before the PM5, there was no wireless connectivity from the Concept2’s PM4 or PM3 monitor. The Ergstick (still sold through the Float website) fixes this by plugging into the same USB port described above for RowPro and then transmitting the data via Bluetooth to the Float app.

The app itself (Android and iPhone) is a bit like an enhanced Ergdata. It displays a little bit more information than the PM3/4/5 display – and then adds to this by saving the data to the phone, letting you analyse it afterwards (ErgData doesn’t have a direct analysis, though you can see more information through the Concept2 logbook. And although the LiveRowing website will display graphs of your row, it doesn’t do that from the phone app).

They promise features like leaderboards, challenges and competitions will follow soon – so if this Floats your boat (hahah…ahem) then keep an eye out for their future developments.

TRAINING DIARIES AND LOGS

FINAL SURGE

Final Surge seems to be set up more for runners and cyclists (most online diaries are it seems) but that doesn’t mean rowers can’t use it. What makes this perfect is that you can easily add your planned sessions into the calendar, with added information about distance expected etc – and then come back and add notes on how your session went. You’d think this is an obvious feature, but this ability to plan the future is something that’s not universal (Trainng Peaks below for instance needs a premium membership for this).

Final Surge also offers iOS and Android apps to connect to the website, and log/plan/comment on your sessions. Although it doesn’t direcelt integrate with the Concept 2 logbook yet, it DOES link to Strava. So if you set LiveRowing or your C2 logbook to connect to Strava, the session will then be logged in Final Surge. They are investigating direct C2 logbook connection and a few more tweaks for rowers though.

The Athlete version is free. The Coach version costs – but if you’re just looking to use this as a log and diary, you don’t need the Coach version.

TRAINING PEAKS

Training Peaks is one of the most popular diaries for athletes. Like the other titles here (apart from Strava), it offers an Athlete version and a Coach version. So your coach could programme sessions for you and then add them to your diary so you know what you’re meant to be doing. Or they can check in on your diary and see how you got on.

Sadly, the basic training peaks version doesn’t link with Strava or the Concept 2 logbook, so there’s no automatic upload (I don’t think this is even an option on the Premium version either) but it will upload a variety of file versions. Which means you will be able to uploag Garmin files, and exporting a RowPro row manually, then uploading to TP should work. Unfortunately it doesn’t let you plan workouts in the future unless you have a premium version.

So Training Peaks is fantastic if you’re a cyclist or a runner, with a premium subscritpion. But for a rower, on basic, it’s maybe a little too basic.

ROWE.RS

On paper, this should be hands down the best diary and planner out there. It’s by rowers, for rowers. And when you start logging rows, all the detail available really lets you set up and record what you’ve done and what you want to do fully. With a companion app, logging rows is simple no matter where you are. It is quite fully featured. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. If you’re just looking for a diary and planner, then this is probably a bit much – but if you’re planning sessions to row with others (who also use the same software) then this could work for you.

However, there isn’t a free version of this. Both individual and team/coach versions cost. If you think you’ll make use of the extended connectivity when compared to Final Surge, this is worth looking at. But if you just want a planner and a log diary – this may be a bit much.

STRAVA

Probably known more as a tracker for cyclists and runners, Strava has connectivity to your Concept 2 rowing log – so each row you do is recorded there. As the image below shows, it transfers with quite a lot of data (although this was sent via the LiveRowing app, not through the Concept2 log, so it may be different).

As good as it is, Strava acts more as a log of what you’ve done – rather than something you can plan with and comment on like others.