ROWERS are hoping that a new approach to their winter training programme will pay dividends now that the new regatta season is under way.

Members of Hexham Rowing Club joined forces with fitness guru Eddy Thompson in a bid to improve strength and stamina, and to give them an extra edge over their competitors.

Eddy (29), who runs Hexham-based ET Fitness and Therapy, designed a series of exercises which the club’s members followed during their weekly visits, and later incorporated into their own training. He also gave rowers one-to-one advice on how to improve their performance.

Club chairman Ben Hayward Smith said: “Hexham rowers range from teenagers through to 70-plus, and they all bring amazing enthusiasm and a fantastic commitment to training. This means that a relatively small club can compete and win locally, nationally and sometimes internationally.

“Working with Eddy has made a massive difference to club fitness and I genuinely believe we can translate this into wins this summer.”

Eddy said“It’s been amazing working with Hexham Rowing Club through during the winter. They all started from different levels of ability and fitness, and there is quite an age range, but their commitment and passion has really shone through.”

Rowers traditionally train all year round, but summer and winter events vary considerably. Spring and summer regattas involve lung-bursting sprint races, while ‘heads’ time-trial events during the winter are more of a test of stamina, with distances generally around 5k.

Winter training tends to involve long hours on indoor rowing machines, grinding out the distances with only the computer rate-meter for company. All that changed with Eddy’s sessions, which involved a new exercise or a different piece of equipment each week.

“Rowers obviously tend to rely a lot on indoor rowing machines, but you can get into a rut and be exercising the same set of muscles week in, week out,” said Eddy.

“For the body to perform efficiently, you need to give it a whole range of things to do to build up strength and stamina all over. It’s also important to have a bit of fun.”

Rather than simply inducting clients on a series of exercise machines and then letting them get on with it, Eddy designed specific fitness programmes and monitored the rowers’ progress, adapting the exercises as and when necessary.

“People get into set routines and do what they know,” said Eddy. “Doing lots of work on a rowing machine through the winter is fine, but you have to supplement that with other work, otherwise you are concentrating too much on one output. To be really effective in any sport, you have to first achieve general fitness, strength and flexibility.”

Hexham’s rowers are not the only local sportspeople to benefit from Eddy’s training. He also works with Tynedale Cricket Club, several Tynedale rugby players, and Jog on the Tyne runners.

“It’s been really interesting helping the rowers,” said Eddy. “I really hope they enjoy lots of success in the upcoming regattas. They certainly deserve it.”

Hexham rowers will now use the strength and fitness built up over winter, and transfer it to their on-water sessions, concentrating more on rowing technique, as they prepare for a summer of regatta competition.