Eat. Sleep. Row. Repeat.
And work. And play. No?
Keeping the balance as a professional athlete is hard to do as your priorities change and your time and energy become so focused on succeeding. They have to, if you want to be the best. But, there still has to be some treat time, some chill out time – everyone is only human after all, aren’t they? As my brother, George, trains as a rower at a very high level, I wanted to find out what he is up to.
At 6ft 7 inches tall (I can not write about him without mentioning his infamous height) George is built to play sport. He won the Superstars competition at Loughborough University in 2012. There are also photos of him, at just five years old, with already, some disturbingly well-developed skiers’ legs. Any sport he puts his mind too, he’ll be pretty good at. I would be annoyed at this, but as his sister, I am not too dissimilar and have luckily got the sporty genes, too. He is just better. That annoys me.
George started Loughborough University as a rugby player and left as a rower with a great deal of potential. “Rowing was something that I always knew I would be good at considering my height and build. I’ve lost count of the amount of people who asked me, as I was growing up, if I was a rower. So I decided to give it a shot. I’d heard about some trials for a Talent Identification programme that was run by Loughborough and went along. They weighed, measured, power tested and fitness tested me and I got in! Then, in Autumn 2013, I got accepted onto the GB Start programme.”
George’s ultimate goal is to represent Team GB at an international event. This is not going to happen over night. He is currently training with Nottingham Rowing Club and achieving new PB’s on the ergos, on the water and in the weights room. This summer marked the beginning of competing and racing in a single. Due to injury last summer (what are we Hallewell’s like?), he has had to learn quickly and efficiently. Despite this, he has been pretty successful and we are very proud of him. “I’ve absolutely loved it. Winning my first ever race at the Nottingham City Regatta was pretty special; but the real highlight had to be to competing at Henley Royal Regatta. At the last minute, we threw together a quad and managed to snatch a place. Unfortunately we drew Sydney RC in the first round and lost, but just being there and being part of a massive event was really special.” Spot George in this video clip to see what his favourite thing about Henley is!
My brother can be a little idle at times, and I (and my parents!) have been pleasantly surprised at how dedicated and motivated he has been with his training – “I’ve definitely learnt what hard work is. When I was playing rugby, I didn’t approach my training in a serious manner, partly because I wasn’t as serious about where I wanted to go with it and partly because I didn’t have a good understanding of what it takes to reach the top level. Since I started the programme there have been times where I’ve gone to dark places from pushing my body to the limit, when everything hurts. Learning to work through it, and to then keep going, is tough.”
The training programme varies throughout the year to fit in with competing and to maximize being the best the athletes can be at the right time for the particular requisite. “We do at least two sessions a day, sometimes three. These consist of water, ergo, weights and cardio sessions. The water sessions can be broken down into technical sessions, mileage sessions (12-16km) and pieces. The pieces can be short or long distances at high intensity. The cardio sessions are usually 80-90 minutes cycling or 60 minutes running. We’ve just had a weights phase, so there has been less focus on mileage and cardio. After our break at the end of August, we’ll be into a pretty intensive fitness based phase leading up to GB trials in November. The winter involves a lot of ergo’s getting ready for the spring and summer racing.”
Makes my training seem a little feeble to be honest. An hour a day is barely anything in comparison. However, I am not on my way to Team GB trials… Having him to stay last week showed me just how much time is spent training, eating, sleeping/recovering/resting and then squeezing in some work and play, if he can. “If I have work on at the golf club it’ll usually be at 5pm. I’ll finish training around 12/1pm, come home, eat, sleep, and then go to work. If I don’t have work, then I’ll usually spend my time in bed resting. We [housemate Jon who is on the same programme] do sometimes get out, we went to the park once – it doesn’t happen that often. We do have a pretty intense Mario Kart rivalry, which has kept us fairly occupied. I will usually see my girlfriend every two weeks. Either I go down to London or she comes up to me. It’s nice to get out of Nottingham every now and then! I don’t get to see my friends that often, but I’m hoping to catch up with some of them during the break in a few weeks time.”
So what does George fuel himself with? Our mother claims that when George comes home the weekly shopping bill doubles, if not more! Now that he is eating even more, I hate to think how much it is costing him. He claims to not be on a budget as “if I’m thinking ‘I can’t eat that or I shouldn’t because I can’t afford it’ then I’m immediately restricting my body from recovering 100%. As soon as I’m doing that, then what’s the point?”
His diet is balanced – plenty of fruit and veg, meat and fish, eggs and dairy, and carbs, carbs and carbs… “The carbs are pretty important, especially when we are doing a massive amount of training. The difference between my diet and your average Joe’s would be the quantity! I reckon I eat what 2 people would eat in a day.” I am not sure what is average anymore, but he is clearly eating A LOT! And quite rightly – the engine needs to be fuelled and to get stronger, fitter and faster, diet is so important.
The occasional beer is still accepted, however in the lead up to races it is eliminated. Alcohol is also not something you feel inclined to put into your body when you are training hard. One’s desire for sugary unhealthy foods wanes too, wanting to fill it with good grub – but a lot of it! George admits, however, he quite often visits the bakery section of the supermarket – a bag (not just the one!) of cookies or doughnuts goes down a treat! He tends to give in after harder training. “I guess I feel I’ve deserved it. And I have really, as I have spent more energy”. It’s all about that balance…
There is always room for improvement and I am sure he is still learning every day and being coached as best as he can be, and he seems to still have life fairly balanced – just maybe more sporadically! Any advice for us? “Look after your body, don’t be foolish with your training, make sure you recover properly. Stretching is probably the most overlooked training session. And somewhere, someone is always training harder than you – strive to be that someone. Bit cheesy, but it keeps me going!” You just keep going Georgie boy!