Sharing from British Rowing: Olympic Silver Medallist Vicky Thornley Shares Four Great Cross Training Activities

What to do if you can’t get on the water? GB rower Vicky Thornley shares her go-to cross training activities:

With events cancelled around the country this weekend, how can you keep training?

Aside from bad weather, incorporating cross training into your winter training can also make you go faster on the water come the summer.

Read on to find out Olympic silver medallist Vicky Thornley’s suggestions for cross training.

“I use cross training during the winter and early spring. Once we enter the racing season, I significantly reduce my cross training in order to maximise my in-boat focus. Here are four cross training activities that I enjoy doing.

1 – Indoor cycling

In the winter, if you find the water frozen or resembling the North Sea, cycling can be a break from the rowing machine. The indoor bike can be challenging mentally. Having done a whole cycling camp on a turbo-trainer, I know this only too well! Remember, time doesn’t stop and the session will come to an end eventually. Keep your mind on the benefits of the session and think about the summer races you might be winning – if you train well.

If you find yourself injured or in rehabilitation, indoor cycling is particularly useful. Always seek advice from a qualified professional when injured, but cycling can be a good alternative to rowing if you need to take the load off your back or ribs. If you do find yourself out of the boat for a period of time, you need to trust that the bike is a great way to keep working on your endurance capacity.

Indoor cycling can also bring variety to your training. Variety is the spice of life after all!

Keep your mind on the benefits of the session and think about the summer races you might be winning

2 – Road cycling

The GB women’s squad heads to the popular cycling island of Mallorca in the winter and it’s popular for a reason. The roads are well maintained, providing an assortment of terrain and, most importantly, it is home to big climbs, the most infamous being Sa Calobra. A piece of road that will be forever etched in my mind, having pushed me to my mental and physical limits numerous times.

Firstly, cycling is a great cardiovascular exercise that incorporates a lot of the same muscles that are essential to move a boat fast. Because your heart rate varies to a greater degree on the bike, compared to rowing, due to generally unavoidable changes in gradient, this offers up a new challenge and stress to the body.

A big benefit of road cycling is the length of time you can be on the bike. This can far exceed the time on the rowing machine or in the boat. The majority of our long steady-state rowing sessions last 90-100 minutes, so we are never pushing over the two hour mark. However, you can ride the bike for over six hours and this allows you to really push the endurance aspect of training.

Through the winter, running is something I often enjoy on a Sunday morning

3 – Running

In the past, there has been some fairly unsubstantiated proposals that running leads to injury, particularly the idea that it is ‘bad for your knees’, especially as rowers tend to weigh considerably more than the likes of Mo Farah. However, the evidence suggests quite the opposite if you follow some basic guidelines. I am a big fan.

Through the winter, running is something I often enjoy on a Sunday morning. We spend the majority of our training sitting down, so I enjoy the odd occasion when I can be on my feet. Running is also a great tool to clear our often overactive minds.

I use yoga, especially restorative yoga, to unwind on a day off or after a training camp

4 – Yoga

Why not incorporate yoga into your training routine? While it’s different from running or cycling, yoga will help you in other ways.

There are different types of yoga. Yang styles of yoga use rhythm and repetition, aiming to increase blood flow and build strength. Yin styles, such as restorative yoga, are about moving more slowly, and involve holding poses for longer and working on loosening muscles and joints. Both types teach you to breathe consciously and develop a greater understanding of your body.

I use yoga, especially restorative yoga, to unwind on a day off or after a training camp. I find it really relaxing, especially when it ends with a yogic sleep! I always sleep like a baby afterwards.”


Sourced from British Rowing Website:

Six Reasons Why Indoor Rowing Is Good For You

Indoor rowing offers numerous performance benefits to different sports when incorporated into training plans, as Go Row Indoor Instructor Clare Holman explains 

The indoor rowing machine provides a highly efficient cardiovascular and fat-burning workout, where you can burn over 300 calories in 30 minutes. The rowing stroke also works 85% of the muscles in your body across nine major muscle groups including the back and shoulders, glutes, legs, arms and core.

This makes it the single most effective piece of equipment for a total body workout which, combined with the additional benefits it provides for core strength and flexibility, means that incorporating indoor rowing into your training will see you make changes to your health and fitness, fast.

For these reasons, indoor rowing is a powerful tool in training for any sport. Go Row Indoor Instructor Clare Holman explains how and why it benefits all manner of sports, and shows you how you can incorporate the rowing machine into your training.


Why is rowing good for runners?

Runners need:

  • Stamina – aerobic training contributes up to 85-99% of the energy needed to race.
  • Strong core and glutes – this makes it easier to stay upright, even when you’re tired, and avoid leaning too far forward from your hip, which can lead to injury.
  • Flexibility – in muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Any restrictions will limit your range of motion.
  • Coordination – when the upper and lower body work together in unison, it spreads the work of running over the whole body and takes the load off any single muscle group. The general rule is that your upper body and lower body should be doing equal amounts of work.

Rowing provides a cardiovascular workout whilst also recruiting a large proportion of upper body and lower body muscles, adding strength training at the same time. Being non-impact, it is also the ideal rehab exercise for those suffering from common running injuries, and the wide range of motion promotes flexibility in your muscles and joints.

Training suggestions:

Long distance training – 2 min row @ 20 SPM (strokes per minute), 2 min row @ 22 SPM, 2 min row @ 24 SPM, 2 min row @ 26 SPM, 2 min row @ 24 SPM, 2 min row @ 22 SPM, 2 min row @ 20 SPM = 14 minutes total.

Sprint training – 1 min row, 90 second rest x 3, 3 minutes rest, 1min row, 90 second rest x 3.

Always perform a suitable warm up before starting your session and remember to include an appropriate cool down and stretch after.


Why is rowing good for cyclists?

Rowing is one of very few training activities that can produce a high-intensity upper body workout, help increase power output and provide the stimulus for maintaining aerobic fitness at the same time. Cyclists will benefit from further development to their aerobic systems whilst also building parts of the body that cycling just can’t touch.

Training suggestion:

Endurance training pyramid – 3 min row @ 20 SPM, 2 min row @ 22 SPM, 1 min row @ 24 SPM, 1 min row @ 26 SPM, 1 min row @ 24 SPM, 2 min row @ 22 SPM, 3 min row @ 20 SPM = 13 minutes total.

Rugby Union/Rugby League

Why is rowing good for rugby players?

Rugby players need whole body aerobic fitness and rowers are generally recognised as athletes with amongst the greatest aerobic capacity. There are very few training activities that can produce a high intensity upper body workout, help increase power output and provide the stimulus for cardiovascular improvements at the same time.

Due to the demands of the game, rugby players also need to avoid too much impact whilst cross-training, to minimise the stresses put on their bodies. Rowing provides the necessary stimulus to maintain aerobic and anaerobic fitness whilst being non-impact.

Training suggestions:

Forwards training – 1 min row, 1 min rest x 3, 3 min rest, 30s row, 1 min rest x 4.

Backs training – 100m row on the minute, every minute for 5 minutes, taking the remainder of the minute off.

Aerobic fitness training – 1000m row, 4 mins rest, 1000m row. Aim to equal your time from the first row.


Why is rowing good for triathletes?

Rowing develops strength, power and aerobic endurance simultaneously, with explosive leg power coming from the drive phase of rowing.

Rowing builds upper body and core strength, and the arm pull-through phase mimics the catch phase of a swim stroke. It is also a great tool for increasing the range of motion in the shoulders and back. Additionally, in one rowing workout, major muscle groups for swimming, biking and running are put to work with no transition required.

Training suggestion:

Progressive endurance session – 4 min row @ 22 SPM, 3 min row @ 24 SPM, 2 min row @ 26 SPM, 1 min row @ 28 SPM.


Sourced from British Rowing Website:


Top Tips for Starting Indoor Rowing

British Rowing Master Trainer Denise Page shares her top tips for starting indoor rowing.

Can anyone try indoor rowing?

“Absolutely they can. The great thing about indoor rowing is it can be adapted for all levels of fitness and ability.

“The rowing machine can be used using a lot of effort or with a lighter resistance. One of the things which gets me excited about the Go Row Indoor class is that a beginner and a more experienced rower can row side by side and both get a great workout.”

What are the benefits of indoor rowing over other types of cardio activity?

“It is low impact with very little stress on the joints, which makes it great for the knees and back. It is a whole body workout. Most forms of cardiovascular workouts are legs only; for example, running and cycling. Rowing uses the upper and lower body, which makes it a great calorie burner as well as truly effective for making the heart and lungs more efficient.”

What are the most common mistakes made?

“A lot of people think of rowing as a pulling action, but it is actually a pushing action; the legs need to initiate the drive. It is similar to doing a deadlift; the power comes from pushing with the legs.”

What is the most important thing to remember?

“Practice pushing with the legs, then let the torso of the body join in by leaning back and finally the arms finish the drive. To return do the opposite sequence (arms/body/legs).”

When you first start, how often should you indoor row?

“That depends on your fitness level and what your body is used to. The Chief Medical Officer recommends we are physically active for 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity (slightly out of breath but can have a conversation and be a little sweaty). This can be in bouts of sessions no shorter than 10 minutes. Rowing would be perfect for the beginner starting off in 10-minute bouts and then building up to longer sessions; it can contribute to the 150 minutes per week.

“For fitter beginners they could do longer sessions, or work at a higher intensity.”

What training advice would you give to someone just starting?

“Work at an intensity which makes you feel like you have done something but does not make you feel you have worked too hard. Log your progression, as it can be very motivating to see how you are getting fitter. If you can, find a Go Row Indoor session near you as it is more fun in a group.”

What other advice would you give someone when taking up a new sport for the first time?

“Make sure you get the correct advice in relation to technique; you get so much more out of an activity if you get the technique right.

“Set yourself a realistic goal that is easy to measure. It needs to be specific and have a timescale. Be prepared for the things in life that sometimes get in the way, if you fall off the plan, get back on it again as soon as you can.”

If this has inspired you to give indoor rowing a go, here’s a guide to British Rowing technique. Or check out our Go Row Indoor workout videos for a fun 20-minute indoor rowing workout that packs a punch.


Sourced from British Rowing Website:


Information shared from British Rowing Websites

Extracted from British Rowing e-news – 26/07/2019


How to Indoor Row:


Rowing Apps and Technology:


Why Go Row Indoor?


Indoor Rowing Clean Sport Workshop (The next webinar is being held on Thursday 4 October at 8 pm.)


The World Urban Games (WUG) is a three-day multi-sport event featuring competition and showcase sports alongside a cultural festival in Budapest, Hungary. One shared venue featuring new-generation sports and elite athletes will highlight the competition, creativity, and lifestyle of urban sport. The competition will take place from 13-15 September 2019.


For details, please refer to the following links: