Rowing is a great workout! Here’s how one former Olympian stays in shape on and off the water

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Rowing requires the whole body to propel a boat through water. It’s part cardio, part strength training and a lot of effort. In fact, it’s an incredible workout. Luckily, you don’t have to have access to a large body of water to start rowing. Whether you’re a beginner or a former Olympian, you can row at home with the Hydrow Rower.

Aisyah Rafaee became Singapore’s first and only Olympic rower when she qualified for the 2016 Games in Rio. While she’s officially retired from the sport today, she continues to row as a Hydrow Athlete and leads workouts on the Hydrow platform.

Credit: Hydrow

“Being an athlete at Hydrow has allowed me to push my comfort zones to share my love for the sport in a different, exciting way,” she writes on LinkedIn. “I love being able to be on the water, working hard with the members and encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves.”

If you’re not familiar with Hydrow, the brand’s rowing machine comes with a sleek 22-inch touchscreen that streams classes on virtual scenic waterways. You can row on your own or try one of their hundreds of workouts. Additionally, Hydrow offers a library of “On the Mat” workouts, including yoga, pilates and strength training away from the rower to supplement your training.

Hydrow Rower, $2,495

Credit: Hydrow

You can learn to row at home in as little as 10 minutes on the Hydrow Rower. In fact, Aisyah got her start on a rowing machine, too. In The Know caught up with her to learn more about her rowing journey, her training schedule and her advice for anyone who’s just getting into the sport.

In The Know by Yahoo: How did you first get into rowing?

Aisyah Rafaee: I first got into rowing when I was trying out the rowing machine in high school, and a [then] current national rower was doing some talent scouting and told me I should give the sport a try.


ITK: When you can’t be on the water, how do you like to train?

Aisyah: When I am not on the water, I run, cycle or go to the gym to lift. I am preparing for a marathon, so I use the Hydrow to complement my running workouts. I also do the On the Mat (OTM) workouts to make sure my flexibility, mobility and strength are in check! I do OTM workouts daily and Hydrow 2-3 times a week.


ITK: What other types of workouts complement rowing to help you improve while not on the water?

Aisyah: I run and cycle to give my body a variety and a good mix of workouts. Yoga is SO GOOD for rowers because it helps to open the shoulders, chest and hips, which we use for rowing.


ITK: What are some of your favorite post-workout snacks/meals?

Aisyah: A yummy smoothie, especially one with avocado! Or a bowl of overnight oats with lots of nuts and dried fruits.


ITK: Name your top three favorite workout songs.

Aisyah: “Feel This Moment” by Pitbull (featuring Christina Aguilera), “Devil A Pray” by Easy McCoy and “Glory” by The Score.

ITK: You’ve competed so many times. Do you have a favorite regatta/competition moment?

Aisyah: Oh, good question. The Asian Olympic Qualification Regatta in South Korea has to be my favorite because I made history there!

[Editor’s note: Aisyah made history by qualifying for the 2016 Olympics at this regatta, becoming the first and only rower from Singapore to compete in the sport’s history.]


ITK: Do you have any special race day routines or superstitions? 

Aisyah: On the nights before my races, I wrote down what I’m going to do the day of the race and at what time — from the moment I wake up to the moment I cross the finish line of the race. I do this so I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at every minute, so that I can focus on being in the present moment and not let my mind wander to other things, like the race. You don’t want to think about the race because that will only cause unnecessary anxiety and zaps your energy! 


ITK: Do you ever have days where you don’t feel like training, and if so, how do you motivate yourself to keep going?

Aisyah: ABSOLUTELY. I remind myself of why I am doing this. I also used to ask myself, “What would an Olympian do at this moment?” Very often, the answer is to show up with their best self no matter how they are feeling.


ITK: What’s the best advice you could give to first-time rowers? 

Aisyah: Be patient with the process. Rowing is a challenging sport to pick up, and there will be a time when it gets frustrating. But continue to be consistent, and you’ll be amazed at what you are capable of doing!

If you liked this article, check out the three reasons why rowing is better than any other workout.

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