JLL R200 - Some advice, please!

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GrantP
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JLL R200 - Some advice, please!

Post by GrantP »

Hi,

Wonder if I might trouble someone for a little advice...

I'm new to rowing on an erg. Didn't want to invest too much initially, so I purchased a 2nd hand JLL R200 which I know is a budget machine, but fine to try out with.

To start with, my benchmark was a 5k distance, keeping the resistance setting consistently on 4, and my simple target was to keep bettering my time (mainly due to my ability to maintain a higher stroke rate for longer as I got a bit fitter). I know that it's not all about strokes per minute, and technique is really important. I'd watched a number of youtube tutorials on stroke technique which clearly show people maintaining and improving the distance they are covering by lowering their stroke rate and applying a better technique, increasing the power etc. It clearly shows people who were at 30+ strokes reducing down to 24-26 and still maintaining/improving the distance they were covering with better, more powerful strokes (they were using a concept 2 erg)

I've tried to mirror this, but no matter how much more power/technique I put into each stroke, it doesn't seem to make a difference. The only thing that seems to get me to my 5k target quicker is by keeping my strokes per minute as high as possible. I can almost cheat the erg and do half-hearting strokes but as long as I'm up and down quickly, it'll keep counting the distance. I'm starting to lose motivation now though because it feels like it doesn't care how much effort goes into each stroke, it's only measuring strokes per minute.

I guess my question is, is that normal for some budget rowing machines to not be able to determine the strength of your stroke? Could it be broken in some way? Or could I be doing something wrong? I mean, I feel like I can drive hard with my legs and use my core/arms to pull the wheel out of the machine and it wouldn't care a bit! It would still could it as just one stroke!

Any feedback and advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Grant
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JonT
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Re: JLL R200 - Some advice, please!

Post by JonT »

Hi Grant and welcome to the group.

I'm afraid I am not familiar with that erg. You will find that the majority (quite possible all!) of the people who participate on this forum use the Concept2.

As you say, it looks like the rower is translating strokes into distance irrespective of how much effort you are putting into each stroke. That must be very frustrating when you are focussed on improving - which you clearly are. It's great to see that you have been doing some research on technique, it often takes a long time for people to do that. Some never bother at all #-o

I would recommend that you change your focus to compensate for the limitations of the machine. You might, for example look at increasing the time that you are on the machine for when rowing at a level of effort that you will have to rely on your own gut feel to measure (not ideal I know). Or you could also try to start to introduce some interval training. For example, how about doing 5 intervals with 6 minutes of hard (not max!) effort and two minutes of gentle rowing.

You could also incorporate a heart monitor into the workout and use different heart rate zones to monitor the effort you are putting in. This won't tell you if you are improving (because you won;t have feedback from the erg to show what you are producing) but it will give you a tool to use to regulate your efforts. Be warned, most wrist-based heart monitors are very poor when it comes to rowing. Most people use a chest or upper-arm band instead.

If you are rowing regularly and learning about technique then rest assured you are improving. But it may be that at some point you need to switch machines so that you can see the improvement happening.

I hope that helps. Please do respond with any other points or questions.

Some other Freespirits may have other ideas or feedback too.

Jon
55 years old, 5"10', clinging on to 75kg and frustratingly but understandably inconsistent
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GrantP
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Re: JLL R200 - Some advice, please!

Post by GrantP »

Hi Jon,

thanks for the welcome and taking the time to respond. Much appreciated.

I'll take you up on your advice of changing things up a bit and using some intuition on progress, worst-case scenario.

I do use a wrist-based smartwatch with heart monitor. Ironically, I actually selected one that had a rowing exercise setting on it over others that didn't! I was finding that the calories my watch was telling me I was burning on the erg weren't as many as the amount it was telling me I burnt running for the same time period! I thought that was strange because one of the reasons I wanted to get into rowing was due to how effective it was in comparison to other activities (running, cycling etc), like for like.

Someone told me that was something to do with the fact that your heart is working against gravity when you're running whereas when you're rowing you're effectively sat down so it doesn't have to work so hard? I don't know how true that it, I've not really researched that properly. Seems plausible.

But yep, I can see at some point that a switch to a different erg might be the option, so I can see progress and remain motivated. No doubt beating your pb's is part of the reward, and I don't want to break my spirit because it's impossible to go faster, when I need to be getting more out of the stroke. I might try to pop in to a gym and try out their erg's and see if I get different stats from the monitor.

I guess I just wondered if any of you experienced guys would respond with something like "yes, this happens all the time for newbies with cheap ergs. they only really track strokes" - If so, I know I need to put my hand in my pocket!

Thanks again for the feedback though!

Grant
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Iain
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Re: JLL R200 - Some advice, please!

Post by Iain »

Hi Grant. I'm also not familiar with your machine. The C2 drives a fan where the resistance is proportional to the cube of the speed of the fan. As a result, making the fan go faster generates more power that is recorded as a faster pace. Some machines have a direct resistance to the movement that is set on the machine. As a result the power produced will always be constant for the same range of movement regardless of the speed this is done at, hance each stroke generates the same amount of work however performed. The only way to get a faster reading is to increase your stroke rate. While this has some benefits to a point, chasing PBs can lead to hugely inefficient "sprinting" that may risk injury!

If you use different machines then the stats will not be comparable. Indeed on cheaper machines they often vary between machines of the same model! (In contrast C2 machines are calibrated to be virtually identical to each other, though different from the other (even variable resistance) machines).

Heart rates on the rower are generally a bit lower than running at the same power output. This is because it is easier for blood to return to the heart (less gravity to overcome) and so more blood returns to the heart in a given time at a constant heart rate and so the stroke volume increases. The cardiac output is stroke volume x heart rate and so the same output can be maintained at a lower heart rate.

Unfortunately simple devices such as HR monitors etc. cannot accurately predict energy usage. "Effectiveness" can be used in different contexts. Rowing uses a higher proportion of the bodies large muscle groups than most other sports. As a result it is a more all over body workout. It also means that a lower proportion of maximum output will use the full capacity of your cardiovascular system to support aerobic energy production. This means you will more readily create adaptions to heart.

Hope that provides more clarity than confusion.

- Iain
52 year old Lwt (in ability and weight) trying to develop a technique that doesn't cause hysterics and start rowing regularly now I am working again.
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GrantP
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Re: JLL R200 - Some advice, please!

Post by GrantP »

Hi Iain,

Thanks a lot for the feedback. Yes, that all makes sense. Definitely adds more clarity than confusion.

Kinda confirmed my suspicions that the erg I have isn't going to show me that my strokes are becoming more powerful due to more effort/better technique per stroke. I just won't be able to reduce down the strokes and make them more deliberate/explosive/powerful etc. and beat my pb. I'll just need to be more like a duracell bunny! (which I don't think will happen!)

Appreciate the explanation re heart rates too. Good to know.

Thanks very much.

Grant
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Paul Victory
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Re: JLL R200 - Some advice, please!

Post by Paul Victory »

Hi Grant. While I think that it’s good that you are getting into the habit of exercising regularly, I would be concerned that using a cheap rowing machine would lead to the development of bad habits that you might find hard to ditch when you start using a ‘proper’ ERG (i.e. a Concept 2 machine). It could also cause you to get injured.

I think C2 offer a hire/buy option where you can rent one of their machines for a couple of months and then get part of the rental offset against the purchase price if you decide to buy it. I know it’s expensive, but a C2 erg is a prime example of ‘you get what you pay for’.
M 68 6'1" 124kg (May05), 92kg (Feb06), 122kg (Aug10), 95kg (Sep11), 117kg (Jun13), now 98kg
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