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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz