Interview with Greg Searle, MBE Olympic Gold medal winning rower
Interview with Greg Searle, MBE Olympic Gold medal winning rower
We had a chat to Greg Searle MBE and who with his older brother Jonny and cox Garry Herbert won an Olympic gold medal.
1. Were you always physically active?
Yes, always. I am a younger brother and have lots of memories of playing games like cricket and football in the garden or in the street with the neighbours, or just riding around on my bike. I never thought about rowing as a sport until I went to Hampton School, which is near the river and had a rowing club. So you could say I started rowing, almost by accident, when I was 13.
2. How did your career progress?
One of the things about rowing is that success doesn’t necessarily come quickly. The first time I went into a single on my own I fell out and into the river, but by the time I was 15 I was pretty good. I rowed for Hampton School and we were beating the likes of Eton and Radley at Henley. At 16 I joined the GB junior squad and became one of their most successful junior rowers coming fourth in the world championships at 16, then winning at 17 and 18. I went to London Southbank University, which didn’t do rowing, so I immediately got into the rowing club scene and was fortunate enough to compete in the Olympics aged 20. My brother Jonny, also a rower, is three years older than me and I’ve always followed in his footsteps. It’s unlikely that I would have rowed at all if it wasn’t for him.
3. What do you rank as the ultimate highlight in your career?
Winning the gold medal for the coxed pairs event at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics with my brother Jonny.
4. You had a 10-year break from rowing, what did you do in that time?
I did the sort of thing that every 30-something bloke does. I worked (for the consultancy Lane4), had a family, played five-a-side football, ran two London Marathons and completed two London Triathlons. I only started going to the gym again after I broke my leg playing football at the beginning of 2009. I used the gym as part of my rehab; I wanted to get fit enough to go snowboarding. That’s when I first started using the Precor equipment, especially the AMT. Gyms had always been an unpleasant necessity for me. In that respect I’m no different from any other bloke my age. I wasn’t using the gym until I broke my leg, but after that I had a real purpose for being there. I set myself the goal of getting fit for snowboarding and it was no longer a chore. Of course, now that I’m preparing for the Olympics I’m in the gym every day as part of four hours of daily training.
5. How does it feel to be a full-time athlete again?
It’s more natural than I thought it would be. My body has been able to cope with the demands of training because I’ve kept myself in shape. Thanks to the support from Precor, I’ve been able to be a full-time athlete and focus on my training. It would be so hard, virtually impossible, to be an employee, an active Dad and a full-time rower without that support.
6. You are about to turn 40, does that affect the way you view your health and fitness?
Definitely. I love being able to do what I do. To be an athlete at 40 is amazing. When I was 20, I thought the older guys in the squad were making huge sacrifices, because at that age all you want to do is go out and get drunk. But now that I’m older I think it’s great to be doing this and even after the Olympics I want to keep in shape.
7. You’ve recently tried Precor’s new range, how did you find it?
I’m used to the big machines, so I was surprised to find that that smaller kit gives a really good workout. You can still work hard, get the muscle groups working and get mobility into the joints. And that’s really important for someone of my age who suffers with stiffness in the knees and back, but I feel much better after using the kit. And the EFX crosstrainers are so quiet that you can use them while watching the football; they don’t drown out everything else like some of the rowing machines do.
8. As a former professional athlete you must have fitness 'ingrained" in your very being - but as you know that is not the case with many Britons. People are getting bigger and unhealthier and obesity in all ages is a massive problem, quite literally. What do you think the health club industry could do to ensure more people visit gyms and fitness clubs?
For me, exercise has to be goal related. I think health clubs could do more to make exercise more interesting and challenging for people. That’s why things like the Sport Relief Mile do so well; they’re fun.
I’m not a great self-starter, so having other people to train with is also an important motivator for me, and I think that’s probably true for a lot of people. That’s why activities like five-a-side football work for me – I enjoy being part of a team and training with other people.
9. Lots has been said about the Olympic legacy and the plans and to use the Games to get people more active. How do you think health clubs and leisure centres can latch onto the Olympics and do their part in trying to get the nation more healthy?
I think people in this country get really inspired when we do well at sport and I really hope the Olympics will encourage more people to take up activity. I think health clubs and leisure centres could play a key role in this by introducing people to sports and activities they’ve never taken part in before. For example, they could use their facilities to get people playing a less well known sport like handball and show then that it’s actually quite a good game. What a great legacy that would be.
10. In general, do you think the fitness sector could play a bigger part in providing preventive healthcare over the next decade?
11. What drives you?
Achieving the things that make me feel good, whether that’s having a great training session in the gym or doing well at the Olympics. Also, the need to be a good role model for my kids. I want them be healthy and active. If they see me living that life, there are more likely to follow.
12. What is your favourite life motto or quote?
“If not now, when? If not you, who?” Sergey Bubka, Russian pole vaulter. It’s what our cox shouted to us in the middle of the race in Barcelona in 1992.
I get a real buzz out of being fit at 40. It means I feel a lot better about myself, I can play with my kids and I can eat more. And I expect that’s true for most people and with Precor’s new range, anyone can achieve those goals.
On kids and exercise:
We are a very sporty family. Both of my kids enjoy sport. I’m on my way now to pick up my eight year old son and take him swimming this afternoon, and he’s got football practice this evening. My 11-year-old daughter is at a swimming gala in Cardiff all weekend with my wife. She gets up at 5.45am twice a week for swimming practice. We tell her she doesn’t have to but she wants to because she enjoys it and she has friends there.
Both of my children could happily sit and watch Disney Channel or play computer games. We let them do those things for an hour, but not from the moment they come home from school until they go to bed. It’s about striking a healthy balance.
There are so many life skills you can learn through sport. I firmly believe that part of the reason my daughter passed her 11+ exam was that she knows how to handle pressure, and she’s learned that through swimming. While others were running around panicking, she stayed reasonably calm.