Fergus Mainland 

Roger Stainforth: Reaping the health benefits of indoor rowing

Roger Stainforth's first 2000m race was December 2004 at the NIA, Birmingham. He came ninth and managed a time of 7:26.6. Thereafter, he entered British, English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh indoor rowing competitions as well as European and World championships in Italy, The Netherlands, Germany, and France.

While Stainforth is unable to compete at at this year's BRIC, he will go up an age group in September 2024 and setting a new British record  on the day will be aim. Stainforth will be following the event on 9 December to  see who wins his category.

What prompted you to get into indoor rowing?

"I started using the indoor rower 22 years ago at the age of 57 to improve my fitness and lose a few kilos. Like many men in their late fifties-and earlier in life- I'd let my job developing the market and technology of the leading business manufacturing electronic road signs in the UK and a number of export markets  take precedence over health and fitness.

"Why rowing? It is a family affair. My daughter, Rebekah, selected rowing as a school sports activity at Durham ARC and she went on to row at Imperial College.

"Next, my wife Hazel was encouraged to try; she became a very proficient sculler with World Masters wins and Boston Marathon records in four age categories to her name. Son, Richard, followed he was captain of boats while at University of Hertfordshire and finally I was persuaded to row when I could fit it in. 

"A visit to my company’s group headquarters in London on a day in 2001 when the lifts/elevators were out of action and having to climb up seven flights of stairs to the boardroom left me breathless and concerned I wasn’t as fit and healthy as I’d thought. A lot of job related travel home and overseas meant I couldn’t commit to row in a crew but action was needed.

"Concept 2 rowing machines came to the rescue because you can use it any time of day at home or your rowing club and find them in most gyms and hotel leisure centres."

Why rowing over other sports such as cycling and running?

"I have never been much good at running except short sprints with a rugby ball at school. 

"I’ve always been interested in cycle racing; in 1960s I was a member of Gloucester City CC and raced mostly 10 and 25 miles time trial. When Concept 2 announced their Ergbike World Sprints challenge in July 2022 I decided to have a go. Crossfit Gym in Durham kindly let me practice and I achieved 7:41.0 for 4000m (2000m equivalent on Rowerg). I enjoyed the Bikeerg so much that I now have one at home.

"The latest addition to home gym in November 2023 is a Concept 2 Skierg. I’m excited to start ski/bike/row ergathons beginning with the supersprint (500m ski/1000m bike/500m row) and building up to longer distances."

What role has rowing played in your life over recent years?

"I cannot overstate how fulfilling rowing has been in the past 25 years; earlier I wrote that rowing is a family affair. Hazel’s sculling has taken us to numerous World Masters events in Europe and USA and she has winner’s medals in her collection.

"Likewise, I have entered in indoor championships in many European countries. During Covid self-isolation days it was fun to virtually race competitors in different time zones.

"My job involved travel to far flung places. I always tried to find hotels or a nearby gym with a rowing machine so I could do a 2k piece in each place, well, it’s better than collecting a tacky souvenir!

"Aside from the boats and rowing machines, it’s the friends and acquaintances we’ve met that has been so rewarding.  

What advice would you give to people who have just bought a rowing machine?

"I would say your decision to buy a rowing machine is a step toward improving fitness and achieving better results.

"Use it as an integral part of your training plan because all the issues confronted rowing a boat, for example, the stream, the wind, debris, other crews and boats and multitude of reasons for unsatisfactory outings are eliminated. The variable elements are removed.

"Use the data and results on the monitor to inform yourself of performance and progress, keep accurate records to see how you are progressing over time. As an older rower the data is invaluable because it helps attenuate natural muscle atrophy.

"Be positive about the rowing machine training. Cast aside the negative comments of others, perhaps they feel uncomfortable about the 500m split time on the screen.

"Set yourself realistic goals and follow a training plan. British Rowing has plans and so do Concept 2. Enjoy the time you spend on the rowing machine, be positive and think of session as a contributing factor to future success. 

Do you have a  favourite memory from your years involved with indoor rowing?

"Choosing an indoor rowing moment is really difficult, there have been so many. Winning 2022 World Rowing Championship and setting British records for 2k and 1k are special. However, the physical effort and mental fortitude involved winning 2016 BRIC in a time of 7:08.8, a mere 0.1s quicker than a former international rower who had represented Australia, is in top spot."  

What three songs are straight onto your rowing playlist?

"My first time at the German IRC in Kettwig, NRW, the venue was like a disco, I had flashing lights right in front of my machine so bright that I couldn’t read the monitor and “I don’t feel like Dancing” belting out of a speaker just behind me!

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