I hope the news that rowing caused Andrew Marr’s stroke won't put anyone off exercising

As I'm a similar age I know it's easy to get carried away. The urge to prove something to oneself – which may indeed be a middle-aged male thing – is strong

Share
Related Topics

No middle-aged man who takes a lot of exercise can fail to be perturbed by the reason Andrew Marr has given for suffering a stroke – a burst of intensive activity on a rowing machine.

At 55 - two years older than Marr - I am just such a man myself. This weekend, for example, I did a 60-mile bike ride and pushed myself so hard on one of the climbs that when my companion and I stopped at the top – I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that we’d been racing each other  – I was slumped over the bars for a minute or so and couldn’t speak. The next day I did the same 60-mile bike ride all over again.

Naturally I think this is doing me good. And this morning I do feel pretty good. But I feel a bit less good now that I’ve read about Marr.

I’ve occasionally used a rowing machine myself. For all-round exercise, I’m not sure it can be beaten. It uses more muscle groups than cycling, running, or any other sport apart from perhaps boxing. It explains why you never see an athlete in greater physical distress than a rower. Within a few seconds of crossing the line, an Olympic 1,500 metres champion can be jogging round on a victory lap. Olympic rowers, on the other hand, sometimes have to be helped out of the boat some minutes after the race has finished.

I am reminded at this point of an insight I cherish that was offered by Matthew Pinsent after he and his crew won the men’s four at the Athens Olympics in 2004. He revealed afterwards that the crew had made a pledge with each other. They all agreed that they would max out 10 metres before the finishing line. Not crossing the line - BEFORE the line. That way, Pinsent said, they would always know that, whether they won or lost, they had given their all.

Giving your all in the Pinsent sense is a degree of effort that is beyond most people’s imagining. But in our own way, we lesser mortals do give our all, deluded though we may be, and that, it seems, is what Marr was doing.

It’s not as hard as it might seem. You can easily get carried away in the moment. The urge to prove something to oneself – which may indeed be a middle-aged male thing – is strong. The suffering and the pain contend with an intense desire to top previous performance, to go on improving, to achieve new goals, all of which urges might be gathered under an overall desire to laugh in the face of Time. Which some people might find a bit pathetic.

Then again, I don’t exercise in order to buy a longer life. I don’t believe it confers on me any entitlement that is not available to anyone less physically fit than me. I do it simply because I enjoy it. It’s about the exhilaration, living in the moment, creating a sense of wellbeing, and the satisfactions of putting oneself to the test.

Quite how much of a part the rowing machine effort played in causing Marr’s stroke can’t really be known. Overwork may also have contributed. Either way, the fitness industry possibly isn’t thanking Marr for his comments, still less the manufacturers of rowing machines. He might have put people off exercise, and that’s a shame because it is incontrovertibly a guard against heart disease, and other ailments. The old adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” may suddenly seem less appropriate, but getting fit of necessity involves increasing your heart rate.

Extreme effort, in very rare cases, is risky. A man of 23 died running a marathon in Brighton this weekend. A tragic case but it would be ridiculous to conclude that people should stop running as a result of it. And I fear that Andrew Marr won’t stop me trying to ride my bike up a hill as fast as I can.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently  

Shia LaBeouf to Luis Suárez: Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015