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Getting Started with LabCats

Overview of the LabCats training plan history, philosophy and how to get started.


The Labcats program was initially born in response to the question If I only have 90 minutes per week, what is the best training a masters rower can do to increase my quality of life and rowing performance?.

After examining journal literature and uncovering a host of research and sports science on the topic across many sports, our Head Coach identified the key principles and challenges facing masters athletes.

  • Masters athletes have different training needs than youth athletes

  • Life-long fitness, and quality of life is paramount for older athletes

  • Workouts should be challenging but achievable, performance based, and respect athlete recovery

  • Regular exercise is the most effective form of anti-aging

We are all getting old. It is unavoidable. And with aging after about age 40-45 every single person sees their capabilities and capacities start to decline on average by 1.5% per year. The most effective thing an older person can do to minimize the aging process is to exercise and protect those physiological capabilities as much as possible. Exercise is the ultimate anti-aging drug.

Some effects of aging

  • Decline in muscle mass
  • Faster decrease in power, speed, neuro-muscular coordination abilities, then the cardiovascular-endurance abilities
  • More complex technical skills decline faster
  • Recovery takes longer then for a 20 year old

Recovery is the one overarching fundamental fitness element that masters athletes need to focus on while trying to optimize their training plan. We help athletes answer this question:

"Am I doing a good job? (I want to see and feel progress!)"

We have a training plan that is uniquely built for you. It self adjusts and optimizes the training you need around the current version of you - not last year’s version of you. Not with the training you had success with from your college days, or five years ago is unlikely to be the training you need today.

Our training plan has been designed to build the mental skills and components needed to race and perform under pressure. Every session has been designed to develop some sort of race or erg test mental skill, by creating race type situations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the LabCat 3 minute erg test protocol?

This is not supposed to be a personal best type test, it is designed to identify your erging capabilities right now.

Set the erg screen for Single Distance of 3 minutes, with split length of 30 seconds

Race Plan

You go ‘crazy all out’ the first 10-20 strokes, and try to hit your maximum wattage. 

You then keep the power up at a level you know you can't sustain for the first 500m. Do not aim to save any energy for the last minute. Possibly you may do a few power 10s to make sure you get to the 500m mark as fast as possible.  Then you just try to hang on for the remaining time left without stopping.

We want to see three things (and this is ranked in order of importance)

  • a very, very, very fast first 250m time
  • a very fast first 500m time
  • and then try and go as far as you can over the whole 3 minutes

Then please take a photo of the memory screen and post it in the CrewLAB app.

How do I get started?

Do the LabCat 3minute erg test, and send the coach an email to introduce yourself along with your goals and expectations (coach@crewlab.io)

What does the plan look like over a month?

Our plan takes the long view and avoids the peaks and troughs of tapers and hard weeks that actually make sustaining training over years more difficult by encouraging overtraining. In the same way that crash dieting often doesn’t build long term progress and skills, crash training is often not the most effective solution for lifelong health. Each week has three different sessions that stress your personal physiology appropriately and the emphasis of the program shifts over a 4 month cycle. You should be able to perform at very close to peak performance on any week you choose without adding any extra work, and you also don’t need any recovery weeks in order to make gains.

Where do the targets come from?

We use the 3minute test to get a ball park starting point and then the sessions you load in th app begin to form the data that CrewLAB uses to continuously reassess the correct load to make progress without burning you out. Any time you see a session where the load is ‘max’ we are looking to use those sessions as markers to gauge over or under training. Also if you feel that the targets are too light or you have a gap in your training, you can redo the 3minute test and build a new digital record of your current capabilities.

Why do I have to be accurate? How important is it to be precise in my load?

It is very important. Most programs crudely assume that harder work and more intensity is the way to get better. Science has shown that each load creates a different physiological response in your body, and each person responds differently to those loads. We want to measure both the load you exercise at and your response to it so we can make a better training program based on your needs. We also know that hitting precise loads is a neuromuscular skill that rowers rarely try to develop or maintain as it declines in older athletes. “Use it or lose it”.

Can I replace or add sessions?

Recovery is key. You can add as much low intensity as you want, but be careful adding more sprint or high intensity sessions without adjusting your Labcats sessions. Labcats sessions are primarily focused on making sure you get the high intensity sessions done correctly each week, if you have a regatta on the weekend it makes sense to skip the third LabCats session for that week. You should definitely consider adding extra endurance/steady state type sessions to also build your endurance abilities. You can do this as a long warm up or warm down around your LabCat sessions, or on the other days of the week do a session focused purely on low intensity sessions.