A Rowing Lesson from GB Olympic Gold Medallist – Alex Gregory MBE

With two Olympic gold medals and five World Championship titles to his name, Alex Gregory MBE is one of the leading rowers in the world.  So, who better to give George and Russ a bit of coaching?

A Bit about Alex

As part of Great Britain’s coxless four crew, Alex won his first World Rowing Championship title in 2009 and followed-up with another win in 2011.  At the 2012 Olympic games in London, he rowed to gold on the famous ‘Super Saturday’ and was awarded an MBE for his success.

With 3 further World titles, Alex retained his Olympic Gold title in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.  

On retiring from competitive rowing, he joined 5 colleagues as team Polar Row and attempted to cross the freezing cold Arctic Ocean from Norway to Iceland.  On reaching the permanent ice shelf, Polar Row had encountered whales, navigated ice floes, battled storms and large swells.  The extreme conditions caused the boats power supply to fail, and they had to seek refuge on a remote and rarely visited Norwegian Island.

After 2 weeks, and by sheer good luck, a supply vessel managed to reach Alex and the Polar Row team and transported them back to civilisation on the Norwegian mainland.

Be the best you can be!

George says “Alex is one of those people with endless bundles of energy.  From the moment you meet him, you instantly know he gives 100% to everything he does.

He described how it took 8 years to find his winning race formula.  On easily getting into race finals and being the hot favourite to win, he would end up overwhelming himself with pressure and sometimes he would literally pass-out mid-race and end up getting rescued from the water.

Alex Gregory MBE (Image courtesy of British Rowing)

It was only after watching a fellow Team GB rower winning gold and seeing the raw emotional effect this had on his parents and the crowd, did Alex realise…

…the greatest gift you can give yourself and others… is to be the best you can be!

Alex encouraging Team Oar Blimey

With this newly discovered mental attitude, Alex went on to conquer the world of rowing and his advice to George and Russ is:

  • Accept crossing an ocean ‘is going to be hard’
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help (and use the experience of others who’ve done it before)
  • Be patient
  • Commit relentlessly to your goal and do something every day which contributes towards the challenge
  • Don’t give up, and
  • Be the best you can be!

Get Organised

Alex emphasised to George and Russ about the importance of having a clear structure and organisation in place.  “Executing standard routines will make you both happier and your Atlantic crossing will be much more enjoyable.”  “Even when it’s wet, cold and dark out on deck, get out there on time and take your turn.  Make your bed before getting on the oars. It might be a small thing, but at some point, this will lift your spirits.” 

Take Nutrition Seriously

Recognising George and Russ’s excitement for getting to the start line, Alex’s advice was to “Make sure you take the right nutrients and take time to consciously eat and enjoy your meals.  If you don’t fuel up, you won’t be able to row properly.”

Laughing about his own memories, he said “there’s lots of different adventure food brands out there…find one you like.  Be mindful though…when you get to the Caribbean, you might not be as keen on your favourite one.” 



Surprisingly, Alex said his motivation naturally rises and falls when rowing and training.  He accepts this and tells George that “there will be great moments with huge highs, especially when you achieving key milestones and see wildlife in its natural habitat.  However, there will also be times when you feel low; something might break, you miss your family, miss proper food or it might you just miss the colour of land.” Alex says, “these lows eventually pass and your determination and focus will shine through.

He mentioned how the cold affected him.  His hands deteriorated after being in cold wet gloves and he became acutely aware he might never see his wife and children again. He had to re-motivate himself and whatever happened…he was going back to his family!

Alex's soaking wet cold hands (Image courtesy of Alex)

Rowing Technique

Alex jumped on the Concept 2 rower and demonstrated his rowing technique using the Legs – Body – Arms sequence.  He says “When driving, focus on using your legs to push back because they provide 60% of your total stroke power.  About 30% comes from your body and 10% from your arms”. 


On recovery, the body movement sequence is reversed.

He says we can check out his British Rowing instructional video – so we’ve included it for you.

Swinging the Gold

When physically holding Alex’s first Olympic Gold medal, Russ noticed it looked quite battered.  Alex explained this was a result of him over-celebrating his win in a London nightclub and swinging the gold medal around on the dancefloor.

Whilst he was swinging the gold, Alex says his celebrations came to an abrupt finish when Jürgen Grobler, Team GB’s rowing coach said to him at silly o’clock time in the morning “Alex – winning gold is the easy bit, retaining it is the hard part….it’s up to you now!” and at that point Alex decided the party was finished…it was time for bed! 

Screenshot 2023-05-19 at 11.14.09
Alex Gregory MBE with his 2012 and 2016 Olympic Gold Medals

Partner with us, sponsor us or simply donate – every bit of your help and support is extremely welcome and will help Oar Blimey complete the Atlantic Challenge and raise funds to help people live with dementia. 

Special Thanks and Recognition

Thank you ‘Alex Gregory MBE’ for sharing your experience and advice with Team Oar Blimey. You truly are a Great British inspiration!