We recently got together with Great Britain rower Adam Neill. From training to diets, Adam takes us through his sporting career, as well as future endeavours and advice for prospective rowers.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN YOUR SPORT?
I probably started when I was about 14. It’s actually a funny story, I used to be a swimmer but my little sister started rowing on the indoor rowing machines at school. She kind of got into it and was quite good at it, eventually being invited to the local rowing club in the Easter Holidays. She didn’t want to go on her own, so she dragged me along with her and then basically one thing lead to another and 14 years later I’m still doing it.
WHAT IS YOUR TRAINING LIKE? DO YOU HAVE A SET GOAL PER DAY OR PER WEEK?
Training varies quite a lot. Through the winter it is very full on, building up our base fitness and base strength, kind of like ‘the grind’ – hard, hard training through the winter months but then in the Summer when we are racing, we back off the heavy training a bit to feel less tired so we’re ready to race. It’s very full on, we train 3 times a day most days and get a day off probably every week or two.
DO YOU INCLUDE ANY GYM SESSIONS IN YOUR TRAINING?
Yes, a huge amount. So the majority of our training is in the boat or on the rowing machine but then we do a lot of weight training as well. We probably do strength and conditioning training 3 or 4 times a week. The Main exercises we do are big muscle group exercises like squats, powerclean and bench press. We also do a lot of core training; in rowing your obviously pushing your legs really hard, which puts a lot of strain on your lower back, so you want to have really strong core to be able to push your legs and not waste any energy or injure yourself. A lot of S&C training we do is based around injury prevention. We also do quite a lot of cycling.
CAN YOU GIVE US AN IDEA OF WHAT YOUR DIET IS LIKE?
I try to eat quite healthily. I guess the thing with rowing is it burns thousands and thousands of calories. For me, it’s eating plenty of steak, sweet potatoes, broccoli, lots of veg actually – with all of our training, it puts our immune system under a lot of stress so trying to eat lots of fruit and veg really helps. Since we burn so many calories we can have the odd chocolate bar, it’s
not as strict as some other sports because of the calories we need to get in.
WHAT IS YOUR POST-COMPETITION ROUTINE VERSUS PRE-COMPETITION?
Most of our big, what we would call volume, training is in the winter and then our race season is in the Summer. The amount of training we do backs down a little bit but the intensity level goes up. After a competition, it’s all about getting rid of the lactic acid out of the body, trying to get the blood flowing again and back off into the steady training again.
WHAT MUSIC DO YOU TRAIN TO?
I mix it up quite a lot actually, it depends on the day; sometimes I listen to dance music, sometimes old school rock songs. I guess we spend so many hours on the rowing machines listening to music, it just depends. If I’m doing steady training I’ll try and keep it relaxed, then in a harder session, I’ll probably put some more aggressive upbeat music on to get me going.
WHAT IS THE GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT OF YOUR LIFE SO FAR?
I had a really good season last year; I won a bronze medal at the World Championships and a silver medal at the European Championships in the GB men’s 4. It was a breakthrough season for me winning a European and World medal. Also, being double British Rowing Indoor Champion on the indoor rowing machine, so that was pretty good.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WANTING TO TAKE UP ROWING COMPETITIVELY?
You’ve got to be very strong-willed, it’s something that some people will take to quite naturally, but most people will take a long time. People talk about the 10,000 hours of practice and I would say that it has taken me that and more to reach a world level. You have to really, really want to do it and stick to it no matter what. Things will never be easy and you’ll fail a hundred times and do well once. If you can ride the failures, success will come.
WHAT ABOUT ROWING AS A HOBBY?
It’s a fantastic full body exercise and such a good way of getting fit. The good thing about it is that you can see yourself getting better. It’s tough to start off with but it does get easier and you can see yourself getting fitter.
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN THE PREPARATION THAT YOU WOULD DO FOR AN INDOOR EVENT COMPARED TO AN EVENT ON THE WATER?
So, the indoor rowing machine for us is a training tool and we also use it to do testing as well, but our most important competitions are on the water, so there definitely would be a difference. I’d do a lot more short, high-intensity training on the indoor rowing machine but at the moment we’ll tend to do these on the water because that’s what we’re preparing for.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU THIS YEAR IN TERMS OF COMPETITIONS AND DO YOU HAVE ANY GOALS OR TARGETS THAT YOU’RE WORKING TOWARDS?
Obviously, we’ve got the Olympics next year so the World Rowing Championships are also the Olympic qualification regatta. Hopefully, I’ll be selected for one of the boats, which will either be the 8, 4 or pair. In the 8 you have to come top 5 in the world to qualify for the Olympics. The 4 is top 8 and pair is top 10 I think. The main thing for the GB rowing team right now is to make sure we qualify those 3 boats for the Olympic games, so that’s the big goal for everyone this year.
The next thing for me and the team this year is the European Championships in May and then getting ready for the Olympic qualification as well. We also have our individual goals and mine are always to keep improving and working to be the best I can.
WILL YOU BE LOOKING TO WIN BACK THE BRIC TITLE THIS YEAR?
Absolutely. I won it in 2016 and 2017 and then came second last year to one of my teammates, Olympic Champion Moe Sbihi, so he’s a really good athlete and just pipped me on the line, so I think there is always a bit of heat on which one of us can beat the other. Hopefully, come BRIC 2019 I’ll be on the right side of it, we’ll see.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS OR ADVICE ON ROWING TECHNIQUE?
The thing about rowing is that no one rows perfectly, even an Olympic champion does not row perfectly. There are definitely some beginner tips that make it a lot easier actually, basically when your rowing you want to use your legs, then your back and then your arms. A lot of people don’t sequence that properly at all, using their back first, then arms, then legs. Just getting it in the right sequence makes things a lot easier.
WHAT ABOUT BREATHING TECHNIQUES?
On the drive, you want to hold yourself strong so hold your breath and then release the air on the recovery. So it’s trying to time your breathing with the rowing.
FITNESS FIRST ARE PROUD SUPPORTERS OF BRITISH ROWING AND NOW STOCK THE TEAM GB MIZUNO RANGE. HOW IMPORTANT IS THE KIT? DO YOU FEEL THAT IT GIVES YOU AN EDGE OVER OPPONENTS?
Yes, definitely. When Mizuno came onboard with the GB Rowing Team, and especially in the last year, the kit has been fantastic. It’s funny because when we go to the World Championships we always swap kit with the other nations, whether it’s the Australians, the Germans, or whoever, and everyone wants the GB kit at the moment. That’s a good sign that the kit we have is really good. Mizuno has done a great job and the kit is really good. They cover everything.
Visit the British Rowing website for more tips and advice on rowing and fitness.