Olympic Gold Medallist Helen Glover’s Tips for The Great Row

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Targeting all major muscles groups, easy on the joints and a great cardiovascular workout, the rowing machine is your best friend if it’s all-round fitness you’re after. That said, if you’re not a regular on the rower it’s all too easy to go too hard and blow up after five minutes, lose interest on a long row or get your knees caught on the handle and go flying off the back.

If you want to get your rowing on point, follow the advice of one of Britain’s most decorated athletes, Helen Glover. Olympic champion, three-times world champion, twice European champion and multiple World Cup gold-medal winner, Glover – who competes in the coxless women’s pair with Heather Stanning – is a medal hopeful for Rio later this year.

RECOMMENDED: Rower Helen Glover’s Olympic Training Regime

Glover is supporting Cancer Research UK’s The Great Row. Launched in partnership with the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races, The Great Row is challenging members of the public to complete a sponsored indoor row anywhere from 2,000m right up to a full marathon. The Great Row will take place between 19th and 26th March in locations across the country. Find out more and sign up at cancerresearchuk.org/TheGreatRow.

Helen Glover’s Tips for Rowing Machine Mastery


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1. “Most rowing machines have a lever on the right-hand side that changes the setting from one to ten. A common mistake is to crank the setting up to ten as it’s the hardest, but there's no need. In training I use level four to five as it’s closest to replicating the effort you use on the water and you’re less likely to strain or injure your back.”

2. “A lot of beginners think rowing is all about the arms but it’s around 60% legs, 30% back and 10% arms. Don’t overuse your arms – leave them straight when your legs are pushing and only bring them in at the end of a stroke.”

3. “A long training session on the rower can be mentally challenging. You’ve got nothing to distract you apart from the numbers counting down on the screen, so music can be an absolute lifesaver. Get a good playlist together to help you fly through it.”

4. “Training in a group is fun and helps you keep going. A bit like when you’re walking along with someone and you fall into step, you’ll get into a rhythm with the rest of the group and it’ll help pull you along when you might have lessened the pace on your own.”

5. “Don’t hold your breath. Think about your breathing and get into a rhythm. Getting a good lungful of air back in will help your muscles function and feel less tired.”

6. “If you’ve got a long session ahead of you, don’t think about the full distance as it can seem overwhelming. Chunk it up mentally and work to your next target, whether that’s five minutes, one kilometre or whatever – it’ll seem much more achievable.”

Charlotte Thomas

Charlotte Thomas is a freelance journalist and health and fitness blogger at Lunges & Lycra.