What Does It Take To Become An Olympic Rower?

Great news, we just launched another section on our website containing some of the best Olympic rowers in the world. To celebrate the launch of the new section we will be taking a long look into ‘Olympic Rowing‘. Known as a sport that Britain is quite famous for, we have been proudly represented by phenomenal characters like Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent.

When it comes to the Olympics there is no doubt that Olympians train themselves to reach levels of fitness that rival the mighty Hercules, but each sport is very different in what is required from the Olympian, whether mental or physical, each sport pushes them to the limits. Rowing is an endurance race though, and in these endurance sports, you have to have a very unique frame of mind. In any sport, when you work harder than you normally would, lactic acid builds up in your muscles making it harder to perform at a sustainable level required of the individual.

In rowing, you will experience more lactic acid build-up due to the higher output of power, over a shorter period of time. In cycling, they will often work at about 70 per cent of what is possible, but with rowing, they are always pushing themselves beyond the threshold. We’re sure that on reading this article you are probably wondering why they would put themselves through so much pain, and in truth most rowers, when talking about the sport, will focus on the pain, so why would they want to compete? If the pain is so unbearable, why would they continue through such hardship? We think this is why rowing is one of the greatest sports in the world, with each stroke the lactic acid builds up to a level few will experience, meaning that during the race only will and determination prevail.

Getting back onto the focus of this article, you wanted to find out how an everyday rower is sculpted into an Olympian.

Eat Like An Olympic Rower

Spaghetti BologneseDiet is often regarded as one of the most important things to take into consideration when training to become a great athlete, it can affect everything from performance during the race to how you recover after working out. So after the Olympians have trained tirelessly for long periods of time, how do they keep their bodies full of energy and ready for another training session, shall we find out? Helen Glover is well known for achieving the first woman’s gold medal as a British contender. She was featured in this excellent article on the Telegraph, it explains in-depth how she eats to keep herself at the top of her game.

  • 6.30 am Cereal and a large glass of orange juice.

  • 7.30 am Carbohydrate gel whilst training.

  • 9.30 am Two slices of toast, and scrambled egg or porridge.

  • 11 am Protein shake after training.

  • 12 pm Egg mayonnaise sandwich and yoghurt. I try to get a couple of pieces of fruit in, and a bit of sugar, usually chocolate.

  • 1.30 pm After an hour’s break I do some weights in the gym, drinking a protein shake on my way around the circuit.

  • 6 pm Spaghetti bolognese with greens. The hardest thing is to get enough carbs in my diet.

Source: Telegraph

The advice we can take from reading Helen’s training plan is to ensure you have plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates as fuel for those long workouts – combined with the occasional protein product to give a quick boost when needed it makes for a very simple yet balanced diet.

Moving into the men’s category, we found this article on Pete Reed fascinating. Breaking it down, we noticed the same great piece of advice that Helen mentioned, the rowers ‘second breakfast’. Due to Olympians training constantly they often require a higher food intake with the second breakfast bridging the gap between the early morning weight session and the time on the water later on in the day. It does seem though that Pete’s diet appears to be more substantial when compared to that of the female category; he even eats two steaks (with jacket potatoes) for dinner.

  • 6.15 am Wake up. Quick shower and stretch.

  • 6.30 am Breakfast. Water, a pint of skimmed milk on Shredded Wheat Bitesize, berries, and a banana.

  • 7.45 am-9.15 am Morning weights workout at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre. Five sets of five reps using heavy loads, with balance, core, stabilising and stretching work around the main sets.

  • 9.35 am Post-training second breakfast. A large bowl of porridge, four scrambled eggs, beans on toast.

  • 11 am-1 pm Rowing on Redgrave Pinsent Lake up to 28km. Medium intensity, aiming for a heart rate of around 140bpm. Lots of fluid intakes during these long sessions.

  • 1.10 pm Lunch. Large shepherd’s pie with fresh veg.

  • 3 pm-4 pm Back out on the water for another hour’s rowing.

  • 4.10 pm Post-workout snack. Another bowl of Shreddies and a banana or a Science in Sport energy bar.

  • 7 pm Dinner. Two large steaks, two jacket potatoes, salad, bread and veg.

  • 10 pm Lights out (One more bowl of cereal before bed if still hungry).

SourceMen’s Health

Essentially Olympic rowers have to eat a lot of healthy, complex carbohydrates to fuel them through long workouts. Whilst it may seem like rowers eat quite a large amount of food, they need to stay relatively light to ensure the boat itself doesn’t weigh a great deal. However, Olympic rowers do need to ensure that they have huge power to weight ratio and it has been claimed that with each stroke of an oar, they produce enough energy to power a lightbulb. As you can see, Olympic rowing speakers can bring some interesting stories to an event simply through the level of commitment it takes to manage their diet when they might want to have something unhealthy at the end of the day.

Olympian Food Tips:

  • Bananas are a great source of energy when you need it most.

  • Porridge and other slow-release complex carbohydrates are essential if you want to be an Olympic rower.

Train Like An Olympic Rower

Olympic RowersRowing is one of the most intense sports in the Olympics due to the length of the race. For an average of six minutes, the Olympic rowing team push their bodies to the absolute limit in an all or nothing attempt to win. Whilst diet is an important part of any Olympians training regime, constant training is what creates an Olympic athlete. Quite often training will begin early in the morning, followed by rowing on the lake or getting back into the gym after the famous second breakfast.

Based on a few sources we can see that these elite rowers train to become the fastest and strongest through explosive training, core work and endurance out on the boat. Even Matthew Pinsent claimed that, sometimes, they train up to three times a day.

Matthew Pinsent’s top training tips: 

  • Two or three times a week, we will spend our second session of the day in the gym. Our gym is specifically set up for rowing, there aren’t too many machines – mostly free weights.

  • A pair of dumbells are used to increase a rowers’ power. We will lift heavy weights for five or six reps to increase our power. Sometimes we will have a circuit session of roughly 15 stations, including press-ups and sit-ups. We will go around the circuit three or four times.

  • Both strength and endurance routines take about an hour-and-a-quarter, which takes us through to lunch at about 11:15. If we’re hungry enough we will have three courses – maybe soup to start and a pasta main dish. Sometimes, we will eat a dessert if we are pushing the boat out!

  • Three times a week we will have a third session in the day and we will either have another row on the river or be in the gym on the rowing machines. We will probably do about another 45 minutes to an hour and our training day will finish at about 14:00-14:30.

The ‘Six-minute sprint’ is one of the finest sports you can watch, simply because of the years of training it can take to endure such levels of pain for extended periods of time, and Matthew Pinsent sums it up better than anyone in this short statement:

“But essentially anything up at that 98-99% sprint is going to hurt, a lot. And so, even though you are breathing in and out as fast as you can breathe in and out, your body isn’t able to catch up, so it produces lactic acid, which then hurts, and that starts at thirty seconds into a six-minute race and gets worse and worse and worse. So as you go down the course, you are having to deal with the growing intensity of pain for that full six minutes. And you know that if you ever give in to it you’ll lose because someone else in that race won’t give in.  There's the old cliche in sport about who wants it more. In a rowing race, it’s how much pain can you take, usually.” – Matthew Pinsent 

Olympic rowers train tirelessly to perfect their bodies for the all-important race, and this is why they make such good Olympic speakers. When you have put everything on the line, whether that is climbing mount Everest, or pushing a car beyond the limits on that final lap when it matters the most. Olympians don’t understand the meaning of can’t or won’t, and they simply push the limits every day, making them remarkable speakers for your event.

Olympic Training Tips:

  • Rowing is about being the first to finish, however, rowing is also a game of strategy.

  • The sport requires huge amounts of explosive power even when the lactic acid build-up is pumping through your veins.

  • Training is not just physical, but pushing yourself every day on a mental level is also required to take command of the lactic acid threshold that starts thirty seconds into any race.

Greatest Olympic Rowers: Who Are They?

The ‘Six-minute sprint’ is one of the most defining features of this great sport, and these are the Olympic rowers who challenged the world at the Olympics and changed the way we look at the sport today.

Sir Matthew Pinsent

Sir Matthew Pinsent British rower and Olympic speaker Sir Matthew Pinsent CBE is one of the UK’s most successful athletes ever with no fewer than 14 gold medals – four consecutive Olympic gold medals (one of only five athletes to achieve this) and 10 World Championship gold medals. If you are seeking the finest Olympic rowing stories, Matthew can give his unique insight into the sport which has been his life for some time.

Tim Foster MBE

Tim FosterFew Olympians have made the transition from athlete to coach as smoothly as Tim Foster MBE. After achieving his goal of winning a gold medal as part of the coxless fours at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the Olympic speaker retired and transferred straight into coaching with the Great Britain Rowing Team before joining the UK Sport-sponsored Elite Coach Programme in 2004.

Sir Steve Redgrave

Sir Steve RedgraveSir Steve Redgrave CBE is a former British rower and an extremely in-demand Olympic speaker who has won no fewer than five gold medals in consecutive Olympic Games. He is now recognised as the most outstanding rower in the world – ever.

Book An Olympic Rower Today!

If you are looking to book an Olympic rower for your event, please contact Champions on 0207 1010 553. Alternatively, we have a large portfolio of rowers on our website.

Lucy Berry

April 11th, 2016

About Lucy Berry

Lucy Berry is an After Dinner Sales Executive who joined us in the summer of 2018, shortly after graduating from Victoria University "down under" in Melbourne. In her time at Champions Speakers, Lucy has booked the likes of Ken Segall, Simon Callow, Carol Vorderman and Gary Neville.

Prior to matching clients with top-class speakers, Lucy could be found serving cocktails to Samantha Mumba and Paul Rudd while working in Dublin. Her time in Ireland was not only spent juggling drinks, as she also made her netball debut for the Irish national team. 

Lucy likes animals, especially bunnies! But she won't be feeding them courgettes anytime soon as they are the one thing she truly dislikes.

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