Rest and relax like an indoor rowing pro

Top tips from indoor rowing champ Justine Reston and British Rowing Master Trainer Matt Gleed


Building rest and relaxation time into your training schedule can be as important as training sessions. Indoor rowing champ Justine Reston and British Rowing Master Trainer Matt Gleed share their top tips for including rest and relaxation into your routine.

Justine Reston’s top tips

Many athletes believe they need to work harder to achieve their goals, in fact, many are so driven that their training causes burn out and possibly injury.

It’s important to find balance between rest, recovery and training and when that is achieved performance definitely improves. For me, rest and recovery are from both the physical side of training as well as the pressure and mental side.

My good marine friend Dan said to me once “Imagine it like a glass of water, if you keep filling it up without emptying out the remains, the water will eventually become stale and they’ll be no room for fresh water. Emptying out the remains is rest and recovery. You’ve got to stop just topping up the glass!” I’ve had first-hand experience of both!

For my first IronMan race I followed a training book to the letter, it included a structured taper period around four weeks out from the race. I trusted it and managed to feel great, revived and raring to go during the event.

For the first Indoor Rowing World Championships in 2016 (CRASH Bs) my training was designed in such a way to reach a peak in fitness and condition ready to race then there was a careful and considered wind down. I trusted my instructions and ended up with a gold after a mighty tough race.

On the other hand for the World Championship the following year I was physically ready but mentally frazzled, I hadn’t taken the time to relax my mind and get composed. I managed gold again but the race felt horrendous and a massive battle from beginning to end.

Some things I do to try to ensure I get rest and recovery:

  1. Follow advice from a training programme which includes lighter training weeks and race taper weeks.
  2.  Instead of rowing I swap in mobility work.
  3. No booze – (I know this is very much a personal choice – training is hard enough without recovering from the effects of alcohol!).
  4. Good, well-balanced food.
  5.  I’m a poor sleeper so try to maximise the opportunity to sleep by going to bed early.
  6. Get treatment from a chiropractor.
  7. For my head, I spend a lot of time gardening (we are into growing veg ), reading and cooking. Basically spending time doing something completely different to training.

Matt Gleed’s top tips

I’ve got three top tips that can help you to include rest and relaxation into your training programme.

Breathing Exercises

Could your emotional secret weapon be on the tip of your tongue?

Think about it… when you’re stressed you have a short and shallow breathing. When you’re angry it’s out of your nose. When you’re frustrated it’s a sigh. All of this is forced or emotionally charged but when you feel sleepy and relaxed you lengthen your breathe with yawns and longer exhales. Next time you feel like you want to change your mood, bring some mindfulness to your breathing with a four second count in through your nose, pause for two seconds and then breathe out through your mouth for four counts too. Think about breathing into your stomach so you use your diaphragm, not your chest.

Mans best Friends

Animal lovers are going to love this.

Step 1. Become best buddies with a dog.

Step 2. Give your new best friend a rub on the chest, shoulder or low back near the tail.

This could be the missing touch on keeping you calm according to several studies. The activation of the oxytocin system, mainly via touch, is the key factor in explaining many of the effects of human-animal interaction. The rhythmic and therapeutic petting of a dog can give great relaxation for both of you according to the University of Vienna in Austria.


In almost all cultures and events for centuries, music has been used to create ‘moments’. You have marching drums to keep pace, motivational lyrics to inspire and the sound of nature to relax. Have a go at getting yourself a few tracks on hand to create a moment of mindfulness too. It could be a yoga inspired theme to help with your breathing or maybe the sound of waves rolling onto the beach to help escape tension.

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