Helen Glover is an Olympic rowing champion and a member of the Great Britain Rowing Team. She is ranked the number two female rower in the world and currently holds world and Olympic records. Helen has recently joined the Rematch expert community and we welcomed her with a Q&A on her nutrition, training, and asked her to share tips on how to get into rowing.
Do you eat before training and if so, what pre-workout meals or supplements do you use?
I try to eat something with a good carbohydrate base, plus a little protein. For example, cereal with milk, plus a banana, or two pieces of wholemeal toast and a couple of boiled eggs.
What are your best recovery foods?
I find shakes (for example SIS recovery) are a simple way to get a great blend of carbohydrates, proteins and extra vitamins. It is also a good idea to experiment with home made shakes, blending banana, berries, spinach, and adding either milk or protein powder.
What’s your opinion on the state of nutrition advice available to women in the UK?
I think that good advice is out there, but needs to be seeked out. One worry is that ‘quick fix’ ideas are often much more readily available than good basic nutritional advice.
How did you get into competitive rowing?
I started rowing in 2008, aged 22. I had finished university and was ‘fast tracked’ into rowing from a talent ID scheme called Sporting Giants (which was looking for tall people with sporting potential) after being a successful runner and hockey player as a youngster.
How easy is it to get into rowing at school, university or once you’ve started working?
Many schools either run their own rowing club or have links with a local club. If a school doesn’t have an existing link it is a great idea to enrol at a ‘Learn to Row’ course at a local rowing club. The university rowing scene is very big and very competitive but caters for every ability and ambition. Many people start rowing at university, so it can be a great way to learn a new sport and meet new people at the same time. When working the most difficult factor can be finding the time to row! A ‘Learn to Row’ course over a series of weekends can teach you the basics but if you plan to step it up to more than just the weekends then be prepared for some early mornings!
Any tips for finding a rowing club?
The British Rowing website has information and websites for every rowing club in the country.
How do you cope with the early mornings – is there a knack to getting up that early and still performing well?
The early start never gets any easier (unfortunately!) but you know you have teammates relying on you, and your competitors are getting up to train. I tell myself that staying in bed won’t make me any fitter or faster!
What makes rowing a great way to get fit?
The fact that it is non impact makes it easy on the joints (particularly the knees when compared to running). It is a whole body exercise and requires very strong core muscles
What other types of training do you do apart from rowing?
As part of our training we row both on the water and on the rowing machine, plus 3-4 weights sessions a week. We also spend several weeks of the year cycling.
What complementary sports would you recommend alongside rowing?
Cycling is great for rowing as it uses the same major muscle groups. I strongly believe that you can learn from all sports. The coordination from tennis can help with the technique in rowing. The balance of a surfer will be invaluable in a rowing boat, and the general fitness from running and swimming will all help a rower become a better athlete.
Are you glad that it sportswear become more fashion-conscious in recent years?
Absolutely! With three sessions a day the training kit makes a big difference. There are practical reasons (like keeping warm, cool, or dry) but the way kit makes you feel can also make you stand a little taller, feel a little more confident, and actually look forward to putting it on!
What are your favourite pieces and accessories to train in?
I love a pretty sports bra! When training on the rowing machine it is important to have a comfortable sports bra, but having one that looks great can make the rowing machine feel that little bit easier. Leggings are very important, particularly in the cold winter months. There are so many colours and pattens available that it is easy to find a set of leggings in the style that’s right for you. Finally, some good protective eyewear is important. The glare bouncing off the water can damage skin and eyes, and when spending hours outside it is crucial to consider eye health by investing in a good set of sports sunglasses.