Hooked on Rowing, Anna Watkins Returns to Sport for Rio 2016


The women’s double sculls medalist was thought to have left the sport for good after winning for Team Great Britain in the London 2012 Summer Olympics and subsequently having two children. It appears, however, that the Olympic bug has bit the rower once again.

As of early August, Anna Watkins officially came out of retirement for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.

Anna Watkins in London, Summer 2015

Watkins said when her kids were younger she was happy to be at home with all of the “mommy hormones.” As her kids grew older, Watkins started to think of ways to fill the time and all of a sudden rowing jumped back to the front of her mind.

She compared the road to get back into rowing shape post-pregnancy similar to coming off an injury.

“It’s quite hard to find the balance of going at it constantly and taking care of your joints because all of your ligaments are so loose from not working out for so long,” Watkins said.


The training and nutrition regimen

With Watkins recovering from her pregnancy, her initial training regimen started with humble roots about six months ago: 20 minutes of skipping rope on the back patio, small intervals on the rowing machine, core exercises and some moderate circuit training.

After two months of building stamina, she increased the duration of her workout time to an hour with a regimen consisting of daily running, conditioning, light weights and the rowing machine.

Fast forward to her current training program: 3-4 hours daily of exercise with an ideal goal of two hours on the water and two hours in the gym. Her goal is to get to the boathouse every day, which can prove difficult when juggling time for her children.

“[Getting back into Olympic shape] really taught me to be time efficient,” Watkins remarked over toast and eggs, a well-timed snack between her two training sessions for the day.

Though the Olympic rower diet is notorious for its high-calorie needs (4000 – 5000 calories daily), Watkins eats at a lower caloric level. Ultimately, she hopes to shift the weight she gained from her pregnancy to muscle mass.

Watkins said it’s a blessing and a curse not to be on the full Olympic diet: on one hand it leaves her with less fuel than her training partners; on the other she isn’t struggling to find ways to get all the fuel in.

“It feels like you’re eating all day; a lot of the rowers try to drink the calories by bringing protein shakes with them on the water,” Watkins said.

Her diet rules are relatively simple: carbs before the workout and protein afterwards.The simplicity is both for her benefit and her family’s.

“It’s all kid-friendly with foods like pasta, stir fry, risotto, and homemade pizza,” Watkins said.

Her absolute favorite treat after a long and hard day is her husband’s special toad in the hole – a traditional English dish composed of a Yorkshire pudding with sausages in it; she quickly went on to add that this is only a treat for special occasions.

Paired with incredible weight training and steady aerobic activity, Watkins has tirelessly prepared herself for the rowing trial at the end of October. She knows it will be a challenge but she’s excited to see where she can go. Only time will tell if she is back in her prime condition for the Great Britain Olympic Team Trials in March.


Article by Claire Foster

Leave a Reply