Meet the Crew: Mike Dostal

Leanne Yenush

We’re back with another edition of Meet the Crew. Next up, meet Hydrow Athlete Mike Dostal. Born in Liverpool, Mike’s rowing roots run deep, and his years as both a nationally ranked rower and kayaker translate into workouts that challenge you to dig deeper and push yourself even harder.

When did you first start rowing?

Mike: I started rowing as a kid at Warrington Rowing Club, England. As a teenager, I didn’t have many hobbies to focus my energy and time on, and found myself in a fair bit of mischief. Seeing this, my dad took me aside and told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to join a sports club. I had seen the rowing club in our hometown and thought I’d try it, mainly because it seemed to have very little supervision and lots of chances to travel for races.

From the first day I loved it. Being on the water, getting away from whatever else you have going on, and being able to challenge yourself with every stroke you take.

You’ve had quite the career. What’s been your proudest rowing moment?

Mike: It’s interesting, I have a number of moments that stand out in my mind; I think of being named to race in the single for Great Britain, I think of the British National Championship I won with one of my greatest friends rowing with me, I think of the races at Henley Royal Regatta.

But the one moment I am most proud of is actually from a race I lost. It was at the U.S. National Championships in the single. It was years after I had stopped competing regularly. I was recently married, had just been able to buy my first house, I had a full-time job as an engineer and was pulled in all the different ways that life pulls most of us.

I had been able to train hard, I felt in good shape and was managing to balance everything in life as well as I could hope. It was a time that I believed I had everything together to put in the best performance I was capable of. And that’s exactly what happened. I rowed the most perfect race I ever have. The fact that I came in third or that it wasn’t even my fastest time didn’t matter — even that no one watching could have seen what I felt didn’t matter. For that one time I had done something I knew was as perfect as I was capable of, that that’s what mattered to me most.

What inspired you to come to Hydrow?

Mike: I was so intrigued by Hydrow after talking with head coach Justin Moore. I came to visit on a cold spring day in Boston and sat in on a company meeting. I had never experienced that energy in any of my past work. I realized what they were trying to do was so genuine and done with such energy and enthusiasm that I felt I would love to help and be a part of it.

What do you like to do when you’re not rowing?

Mike: I have two kids, my son is 5 and my daughter who is 3. So I have lots of fun stuff to do with them. This summer has been great for swimming outdoors. My son is now a really confident swimmer — probably a bit too confident — and my daughter is great in the water, as long as she can hold onto you!

Fitness and exercise are still big passions of mine even away from rowing, especially if there is a chance for some friendly competition. So I love riding my road bike with a group or just going out on my own.

Was it strange transitioning from kayaking back to rowing?

Mike: I had rowed from around the age of 15 to about 30, so when I stopped, I felt like I had done everything I was capable of in the sport and wanted to find another that would allow me to keep fit and learn something new. My wife still loves to remind me that after I had finished rowing competitively, I told her I wanted to try kayaking so I could have a sport I was no good at and could just enjoy cruising on the river without my competitiveness constantly pushing me to be better. Of course she knew me much better than I knew myself. Within a few years I had been winning races and ended up winning the national team trials and being selected to represent the USA. The transition back to rowing has been a lot of fun. Sometimes I kid myself that I am as fast as I was in my 20s, but really I just love being on the water in a boat with the chance to push myself, no matter the speed I am going.

What do you hope users at home get out of your workouts?

Mike: I hope I am able to transfer my enthusiasm for exercise and for rowing. I think sometimes you have something inside you that needs someone else just to highlight, or help you notice, and then you can take off from there. That is what I want everyone who does one of my workouts to feel. I want them to feel like “Yes, I can do this! Maybe someone is ahead on the leaderboard or maybe I cannot row as well as my friend, but I’m still doing it and it’s good.” It’s easy to look at your workouts and be self-critical, but at the end of the day, you’ve already cleared the biggest hurdle by just getting that workout in. It’s important to acknowledge that.

What’s your favorite cheat meal?

Mike: I know there are foods you should probably avoid, and that a balance of exercise and a healthy diet are the best ways to look after yourself. I definitely tend to use exercise as an excuse to eat whatever I feel like.

The top cheat food for me would have to be a bag of Prawn Cocktail Crisps (yes, chips). Fortunately they are not really a thing in the U.S., so I’ve only had one bag in the last 10 years, and that was during my last trip to England.

No. 2 would definitely be from an English fish-and-chip shop but would not be fish and chips. It would be chips (yes, fries) and gravy with a jumbo sausage. it's a very Northern English delicacy and would be frowned upon by anyone who didn't grow up there.

My third pick would be the classic Rueben sandwich. When I first came to the U.S. and discovered it, I was eating about three a week. It is essential to stick with the corned beef and not go for a watered-down turkey version of this great American classic. There should be no substitutions with this one, take it as it was meant to be!

What would you like to learn about our Hydrow Athletes? Tweet your questions at @Hydrow_by_CREW using #AskTeamHydrow.