Kate Sexton and Elyse Holmes: Two Rowers Who are Keeping Up with the Times

by Nicole Rodriguez & Maria Thomas, Staff Writers

Modern developments in the technology world have revolutionized sports, and women’s rowing at Manhattan College is no exception. The Quadrangle spoke to Junior Kate Sexton and Freshman Elyse Holmes to determine just how much influence technology has had on rowing.

The Quadrangle: When did you start rowing?

Elyse Holmes: I started rowing my freshman year of high school.

Kate Sexton: I’ve only been rowing for three years. I was a walk-on my freshman year of college.

TQ: Are there any apps you use on your phone that help you manage your fitness or nutrition?

KS: I use my Garmin app on my Garmin watch. On the Garmin app, you can track all the meters and courses you row. It gives you a map. With that, it also gives your heart rate and how many calories you burn.

TQ: When did you start using the Garmin watch?

KS: I got it for Christmas last winter because my coach was talking about how top schools use heart rate monitors. I really wanted to start tracking my fitness more, my heart rate, and just gather all that data together to analyze after a workout.

TQ: Break down for me what the app does for you.

KS: On the watch there’s a bunch of different sports or exercises you can choose. I’ll choose the rowing gidget and hit start when I start rowing. It will track your 500-meter pace, your stroke rate, how many meters you rowed and your calories. Once you finish your workout, you press stop. It will upload onto the app where you can track your course on the map. It tracks your location and lays out the course you rowed. It’s for daily life and fitness. It’ll track your steps and heart rate all day as well as your sleep if you wear it at night. It’ll lay this all out on the app. Everyday you can follow that information and all the workouts you did. It just puts it out nicely. It’ll track your active calories that you burn and your resting calories.

TQ: How do you use the ergometer for rowing?

KS: We use the ergometer whenever we’re not in the water; predominantly in the winter season. We do pieces on those. It simulates a rowing trip. There’s a screen and for whatever piece you’re doing it’ll countdown how many meters you have left, your average slips per 500 meters, your stroke rating, how many watts you’re pulling for each stroke, and how many calories you’re burning for each stroke. There’s also a setting where you can set a display and it will show your power curve. It’s laying out the most powerful part of your stroke. Ideally, you want a perfect curve and it’ll show you when you are not hitting that. It’s an interactive graph for each stroke which I really like to use to see how I’m applying power.

TQ: What do you think are the benefits and challenges of using the ergometer?

EH: It’s hard work, but that’s just the nature of the sport. Because you’re not directly connected to water when using the ergometer and you don’t have an oar, it cuts out the technique that you get when you’re in the water. You can’t be super exact with your movements. It’s very straightforward. The benefits are definitely all the data you get per stroke. You get direct feedback every stroke. You get to adjust your power and see how hard you’re pulling.

KS: The challenges and the benefits go hand in hand. It’s just straight fitness with your incrimations, your numbers, laid out right in front of your face to see. You can tell and everyone else can tell when you take an off stroke. You can see when you’re not trying your hardest which can be very frustrating. Some days you just feel like you don’t want to pull and no matter how hard you pull, you’re not getting better. That’s also the good thing about it because it shows you that you need to work harder and apply more power. That’s the beauty of the sport. In the winter you can’t be on the water because it’s too cold, so the ergometer is the next best thing.

TQ: Do you see any possible technological advances that can occur in the future of rowing? Is there anything that you would like to happen in terms of technology and rowing?

EH: Every boat has speakers in it and sometimes the quality of sound that it produces isn’t necessarily the best. If a company came out with higher quality speakers to make it more clear to understand what the coxswain is saying, that would be really helpful.

KS: I’d love to see more advancement in making indoor training and indoor rowing machines as close to mimicking a stroke on the water as possible. There have been great advancements in that field, but I think they can always do more to make it feel like you’re rowing in the water when you’re not. I hope there’s more advancements in the future.

TQ: Do you think you would still participate in rowing if we did not have the technology that we have today?

EH: Hands down absolutely. I fell in love with the sport since day one. There’s really nothing that can keep me away from it. Technology-wise it’s nice to have that available. When I think back to vintage rowing days, they would use a megaphone to yell. They had wooden oars and wooden boats. It would be harder, but I obviously would still do it.

KS: Growing up I was a soccer player and there’s no technology in that. You just have a ball and cleats. I’m used to not having technology in my space with athletics. I think the same would apply. I really enjoy when they do silent strokes. It’s literally just you, the water, and your oar. You have to really use your ears and listen to who’s following. You really have to hear that you’re rowing together. That’s just oars and water. There’s no technology in that.

TQ: Are there any other advances in rowing technology that you consider important?

EH: A really big thing in rowing is a device that the coxswain uses to amplify their voice called the coxbox. It’s really key in the boat. Otherwise, your rowers can’t hear you. It comes with a microphone and speakers. What that does is give us rate and splits in the boat. With different models, it can track your course where you’re steering with GPS. It can also track how many strokes you’ve taken in a piece, record your voice and time things.