Fitting it all in, COVID and getting fit again

Marie Le Hur

We chat to Hydrow member, Sophia Warner again. Sophia is a Paralympian track and field athlete and Commercial Director of UK Athletics. Sophia also has Cerebral Palsy and took up rowing with Hydrow following a suggestion from her surgeon. To read our initial interview introducing Sophia, click here.

“The exercise challenge for me is about fitting it all in and staying motivated during busy times. After I retired from elite sport in 2014, I wondered what I was going to do with all the time I used to spend training. For the best part of 16 years, if I wasn’t on the track, I was in the gym or away at a competition or a training camp. During this same 16-year period, I also had two children within two years. Looking back, I have always been really hard on myself to make everything work. Even back then, I was planning the next stage once my athletics years were over.  

I thought that when I stopped athletics training, I would suddenly find myself with lots of spare time to do whatever I wanted. However, 10 years on from retiring, I run two businesses, have two teenagers, and finding time to stay fit and healthy is harder than ever.

However, the best way to manage my Cerebral Palsy is to stay as active as I can. I notice quickly when I haven’t done any exercise, especially these days as most of my work involves sitting at a desk. In addition, “the pandemic years” have meant most in-person meetings have been removed from my schedule, which means minimal travel and walking in the week. I can very easily find myself not moving further than from my desk to the kitchen, to the bathroom and then into bed, ready to start over again the next day. Like many people, this has now been my routine for years. 

Now that training is not part of my fixed daily routine, I appreciate how hard it is to find time to fit it all in and make it a priority. I find it must be a conscious decision, planned into my day beforehand. Otherwise, the day just passes by and I haven’t exercised. For me, this comes with guilt and a bit of dread about the impact it could have on my wellbeing.  

This is one of the reasons why I decided to take up rowing with Hydrow. There are workouts starting at just five minutes, so my routine with Hydrow never has to interfere with my work schedule. Moreover, the impact on my physical and mental wellbeing has been instantaneous. I was missing being able to run and didn’t realise how low I was feeling without regular exercise until I found a low impact, full-body workout alternative in rowing. Plus, I was able to watch and learn from the Hydrow Athletes, so I could avoid getting an injury with incorrect technique.  

Rowing with Hydrow was such a new exercise for me, but I ended up deciding I was going to hit it even harder after I got to 100,000m. I was so excited when I hit this milestone! I was filling in the form while still on the Hydrow to make sure I received my branded water bottle, and I was over the moon when it arrived. The excitement was disproportionate to any medal that I have won, and I realised that it had been an exceptionally long time since I enjoyed that enormous sense of achievement from a new challenge.

This year, I decided to set myself a new challenge: row at least a few days consistently every week. I also decided I was going to challenge myself to actually go out on the water in 2022. This is huge for me as I have such a weak left arm, I will go round in circles without a lot of training! To help remove all the barriers, I moved my Hydrow into my workspace in order to more easily row during work break, and to make it feel like it was all part of the same day. 

And then… I caught Covid. I was one of the lucky ones and it did not actually hit me at the time, but I was left feeling exhausted. Every time I tried even the lightest amount of exercise, it made me tired and frustrated. I ended up taking a full 6-week recovery and now I am ready to start again. I am really excited to get back to feeling fit again. I am set on 250km and earning those Hydrow socks! Watch this space…”