Row, row, row your way to a clearer mind

Rock the boat with a rowing workout that builds physical and mental strength.

Some of the world’s best athletes and entertainers have discovered the powerful effects of rowing – not just on the body but on their mental health, too.

Real Madrid footballer Gareth Bale uses rowing to build his physical strength and stamina and to build the mental resilience that sees him through a tough 90 minutes of soccer and the pressures of performing at a high level.

Hugh Jackman uses rowing to keep in shape and to help build mental and physical stamina for his stage and screen performances.

Scottish actor Gerard Butler is also a regular on the rowing machine – relying on it to strip fat and tone his physique.

In Europe, gyms dedicated to the art of rowing are opening their doors and people of all ages are enjoying its physical and mental benefits.

Physical benefits of rowing

British Rowing says rowing helps burn calories – between 400 to 1000 calories an hour – so it’s useful for weight loss or maintenance.

The American Council on Exercise says rowing works most major muscle groups, particularly the legs, buttocks, lower back, shoulders and arms, and offers a full-body cardiovascular, muscle-building workout.

And because it’s low impact and doesn’t strain joints and bones, rowing is an ideal workout for young and old.

How rowing helps you get mentally strong

More recently people are discovering the mental benefits of rowing, too.

Mike Aldridge, founder of one of Australia’s first dedicated rowing gyms, says regular rowing sessions can help build mental resilience, discipline and focus.

“When you row, you block out distractions and are in the moment,” Mike, of CREW, says.

It can also help develop mindfulness, which can help reduce stress, improve attention, boost creativity and help with memory and concentration, according to Sane Australia.

Mindfulness requires you to focus on the present and to focus on your breathing and how your body feels.

“Rowing is a physical and mental challenge,” Mike says.

“You require power and technique in every stroke, so when you row you can’t slack off or daydream.

“If you don’t concentrate and do a poor stroke, you have to work twice as hard with the next stroke to get the flywheel turning again.

“You stay switched on all the time because every stoke requires concentration, so that teaches you to focus.

“Rowing creates mental toughness because as a workout it can be hard but there is a great sense of achievement at the end of a session.”

Virtual tranquillity

Dedicated rowing gyms add to the mindfulness factor by including WaterRowers, where each stroke you take is accompanied by the soothing sound of moving water.

Some gyms also offer team rowing classes, where gym-goers push each other to give their mind and body a healthy workout.

“Team classes are great because they encourage you to work together – it’s hard to switch off when you see the people around you pulling hard,” Mike says.

Written by Sarah Marinos.