Helen Glover on paddleboarding with her family and the joy of exercise when there’s no competition


Helen Glover has finally found her balance. And while it’s on the water, it’s not in a boat.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time world rowing champion, who is also now a busy mother of three, finds moments of calm and stillness in gentle paddling whenever she can.

Glover, 36, is yet to retire from the sport that has brought her world fame – she retired from rowing in 2016 before she had children, but has returned five years later to compete in the 2021 Tokyo Games. But she’s not currently training for any type of event, which means she’s had time to try other things.

“What balances my life has changed over the years,” says Glover, who grew up in Cornwall and is now with husband Steve Backshall, the TV naturalist, and their children – Logan, four, and twins Kit and Bo, lives in Berkshire for two and a half.

“Right now I feel like I’m in a really good place where I can choose different activities and paddleboarding was the first thing that came to mind – you literally balance out. I’ve been doing more and more over the past few years, and that gives me space – time to think and reflect,” she adds. “For me, it’s the definition of balance.”

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She says Backshall bought her a paddleboard for her birthday around 2015, although she wasn’t able to use it much at the time because she was still training full-time.

“There just wasn’t enough time for much else,” she recalls. “But I definitely do it more now than I did when I first got one. What’s on my mind now are the kids and it’s great to have something to do with them – sometimes they join me on the paddleboard. You haven’t really fallen in yet!”

Glover – who has teamed up with nutritional supplement brand Bioglan for her In Bioglan Balance series, which shows how she finds balance in her life – explains that they have a really big paddleboard for the kids to sit on with her. “They all have their little life jackets on and we don’t go far from the bank. It usually puts them to sleep, they find it really relaxing,” she adds. “I find it relaxing myself, but luckily I manage to stay awake!”

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Having been involved in competitive sports from a young age – Glover was playing hockey for the England satellite team by 14, played tennis and swam for Cornwall and was picked to run for England – the all-round athlete admits paddleboarding is one of the draws is that it is non-competitive and there is no measure of success. Instead, she can just enjoy it with her family.

“Because there’s no agenda, I feel like it’s really good for me. Everything else I do is physical, there’s an agenda, whether it’s how fast you can run, how far you can row, how much weight you can lift. There is always an outcome and an agenda and a way to analyze whether you have been successful or not.

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“But for me there is no real definition of success in paddling,” she explains. “It can be five minutes, it can be an hour, you can frolic and spot wildlife, or you can do yoga. There are a lot of things you can do with it and each way will be really different.”

Though she doesn’t currently compete in standard rowing competitions and has yet to decide what the future holds, Glover has taken up beach sprint rowing — which involves a short run to a boat, a row sprint, and then a run to the finish. She has just been selected for Britain’s first home team for the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals in Wales in October.

Team GB’s Helen Glover (L) and Heather Stanning after winning gold at the 2012 London Games (Stephen Pond/PA)

“It’s a different kind of rowing on the coast,” she explains. “I do as much as I can – but as much as I can is definitely not as much as it used to be because I’m chasing the kids most of the time.”

However, it helps her “maintain my fitness with rowing” and means she can stay connected to the sport “while I’m trying and deciding what I’m going to do with my rowing career.”

She tries out all kinds of exercises these days and loves variety.

“One of the biggest revelation about not being a full-time rower is not being fixated on one idea of ​​movement,” reveals Glover. “I can go to the gym and do circuits and weights, go jogging, I was surfbiking in Pembrokeshire the other day. It really opens up your ideas of what exercise is. I’m always working out and keeping fit, but I love the fact that it doesn’t have to look like it now.”

However, water-based activities are still a firm favorite – helped by the fact that she lives near the water.

“Our house is very close to the River Thames and I love being by the water,” she says. “Where I am now, at my parents’ house in Penzance, we are perhaps a mile’s walk from the sea. Having a home near the water was something I’ve always been very fortunate to have.”

And she would think it would be great if other people caught water sports fever too.

“Many people don’t necessarily realize how close they are to the nearest canal, lake or river,” says Glover. “There are so many waterways in this country that are accessible and a lot of people don’t realize that the local rowing club or kayak club is just down the road or around the corner and I think it’s a great idea to go there and knock on their doorstep if you wish to practice water sports. And there are plenty of paddleboarding companies popping up that can give you that river access.

“Being on the water is almost like meditating and finding your balance in life is really important to me. It’s like a complete merging of something physical and something outside,” adds Glover. “And something like paddleboarding that’s just peaceful is great for you too.”

Helen Glover has teamed up with nutritional supplement brand Bioglan for the In Bioglan Balance series (bioglan.co.uk/biotic-balance) to show how she finds balance in her busy life. See @bioglansupplements on Instagram.

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