All in a day's work: rowing camp physiology

Training camps can have a variety of goals, whether it’s to provide heat/altitude acclimatisation before competition or training to improve sea-level competition performance. Much of the time, they’re used to provide a change in training environment, and I think most athletes will agree this helps prevent staleness.

This year, Scottish Rowing travelled to the Spanish city of Banyoles, located in the province of Genoa. As it was January, the weather wasn't too hot. We left Scotland on 2 January (coincidentally my birthday) and returned on 13 January after 10 days of quality training.

This is my description of a typical day on a rowing camp from the point of view of a physiologist.  

My role

My main role is to monitor how the athletes are coping with the training. I also monitor key sessions to ensure they are training in the right zones and therefore getting the right stimulus. 

During a camp it is important that you work within a multi-disciplinary team. I may be a physiologist but that doesn’t mean I can’t muck in and help out my colleagues in physiotherapy, performance nutrition or physical preparation. 

All the training data is relayed to the multi-disciplinary team as well as the coach. This enables us to ensure the training is right for the rowers and that our input complements the on-water training.  


  • Get up at 0545 and set up my laptop and urine analysis station in my hotel room ready for the athletes. Try not to wake the physical preparation coach. 
  • Between 0615-0700 the athletes filter in to complete their morning wellness questionnaire and hand me their pee pot so I can look at their hydration status. It can be a smelly job.
    • The idea of the wellness questionnaire is to see how athletes are coping, as training is usually increased on camp. 
    • When analysing the data I’m looking for any red flags (e.g. reduced sleep, dehydration, illness) throughout the week by comparing what we expect with the individual rowers  and what the athlete is reporting. This serves to stimulate conversation between myself, the athletes and coach about why their sleep has been poor or their hydration levels; and for me to give them advice on how to address the issue (e.g. fluid intake, sleep habits). We can also use historical data to help identify trends within individual athletes and how they typically respond to the training.
  • Breakfast is served at 0700. Lots of food gets eaten. This time is used by the staff to highlight any potential injuries or athletes who may be struggling with training. The wellness data is relayed to the coach and the rest of the team that morning, and we use this data to inform decisions about adapting training for specific athletes. 
  • The morning session starts at 0815 and is a steady-state 18km paddle. I’m positioned on a landing stage at one end of the rowing lake. As athletes come past I’ll analyse a small earlobe blood sample to ensure they’re in the correct training zone. Luckily the sun is out!
  • The session finishes at about 0945 and the rowers get a 75-90-minute break before their gym session. It's enough time to grab a coffee and enter the data I collected while enjoying the morning sun. 
    • I’ll sift through the heart rate and blood lactate data and feed back this information to the coaches, identifying any athletes that over- or under-estimated their training effort. We can also use historical data to compare how athletes have progressed and how they typically respond to training.
  • The gym is small, hot and very sweaty. However, we’ve managed to find a great Spanish radio station that plays great dance/trance music so the atmosphere is buzzing. I’ll help the physical preparation coach deliver a mobility/activation routine. This session is focused on building strength.  


  • Lunch is served around 1230. Even more food gets eaten this time around and the support staff have an opportunity to reflect on the morning session.
    • Athletes are encouraged to increase their caloric intake on camp to account for the increase in training. Eating adequate calories will help them fuel and recover from their sessions; body mass is monitored every morning to ensure athletes are fuelling adequately.
  • The afternoon session starts at 1430 and is more intensity-based, looking to improve oxygen transport and anaerobic threshold.
  • During this session I’m out in the coaches launch filming so that we can provide technical feedback after the session.
    • I use this opportunity to ask questions to ensure the physiology monitoring is answering the coach's questions, but I’ll also listen to the coach’s insight so that I can apply a more rounded and focused physiology package.
  • The sun is out and temperature is relatively high (26C) so the athletes are weighed before and after training to look at fluid losses. This will help inform athletes how much fluid needs to be replaced after sessions. The aim is to replace about 1.5l of fluid for every litre lost during training.  


  • Now that the day’s training is done, there is some down time before dinner at 1900. Some athletes will nap, others will be completing their university work. All of these athletes are studying while committing fully to the rowing programme.
    • When there is downtime, I’ll use this opportunity to do my own training in the gym or go for a ride in the hills surrounding the lake (during camps this will depend on whether there was room on the trailer to bring the bike!) 
  • Even more food is eaten at dinner. The support staff use this as an opportunity to reflect on the day's training and provide updates on how particular athletes coped (if they had injuries or were on an adapted training programme).
  • After dinner, athletes start queuing up to get technical feedback from the afternoon session. This goes on for at least 90 minutes until all the athletes have received their feedback. Now everyone heads of to bed.
  • Ready for tomorrow.   
Date published: 28 June 2023
Date updated: 28 June 2023


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