Competition

British Rower Tom George Breaks 5,000-Meter World Record

May 8, 2022 by
Photo Credit: Tom George
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Tom George, a member of the Great Britain Rowing Team, kicked off his year with a major accomplishment. He broke the world record for a 5,000-meter row with a time of 14:53.9 on his Concept2. 

The details: George, who won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games and a gold medal at the European Rowing Championships, maintained a consistent pace of 1:29.3 while pursuing history. His first 500-meter was 1:29.2, and he kept the rest of the segments in this timeline. His slowest pace for a 500-meter segment was 1:30.6. 

  • George actually broke the record back in February. He kept the accomplishment to himself until late April due to focusing on his season schedule. 
  • George had nearly broken this record multiple times over the course of his training, but he hadn’t quite maintained his required pace late in the session. 
  • He snapped this trend on his record-breaking attempt by keeping a perfect pace in the first half. There was a moment with just under 2,000-meters to go where he started to doubt himself, but his coaches pointed out that he was still in the right spot and that he just needed to keep pushing. 

“I’d been at about 14:59, I think, on the one we’d done earlier this season, and that put me at the top of the charts for the team,” George said. “So it was kind of like, I guess, a weird opportunity where the pressure was off slightly – and you don’t often get those opportunities much – just to be like, ‘Okay, you know what, I could just roll the dice here and have a real go. If I completely blow up and fall apart, I still have that one to fall back on.’ It’s my one for this season that will go into the records for selection stuff.”

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Putting in the work: George put in a ton of work before breaking the world record, but he was not solely focused on trying to hit this specific number. Instead, he did sessions of varying lengths, such as two rounds of 2,000 meters separated by a short rest or one-minute “blasters” to see what pace he could hit. 

  • “The saying has always been – I was brought up in the world around – it’s just ‘miles made champions.’ You’ve got to be prepared to just put in a shift and make sure that there’s gonna be a lot of long, sort of quite low-intensity miles involved.” 
  • George focused on his overall training and putting in time on the rower instead of the specific details involved with breaking a record. He did not want to suffer paralysis by analysis by planning out every single minute. 

Get in the zone: George broke the rowing record in a session where other people were around. The coach and the assistant coach both provided some updates when he was in the middle of the session. However, he had to get into the zone and essentially close himself off from outside distractions. 

  • “When you’re in the middle, to be honest, you’re very much closed off from it. “You’re aware of things that go on around you, but you’re also not really… You’re aware of them, you’re not focused on them. 
  • “Every now and again, my coach would just come up and be like, ‘yeah, good pacing’ or something like that. You would be like, ‘okay, that kind of goes in one ear and out the other to some extent.’” 

Getting in the zone is part of the process, but that doesn’t mean that George completely shuts everything out. He recognizes the importance of music, and he uses a playlist that goes back to when he was training at Princeton. 

  • “I think having music on is really important, especially for the longer the piece, because it can hopefully just slightly take your mind away from the pain and suffering. I said ‘hopefully,’ because I don’t know if that fully does. Sometimes, it’s like, ‘it’s always horrible.’”

Go deeper:

  • WHOOP Podcast 130: Olympic Rower Tom George Talks High Strain, Red Recoveries, Breaking 5:40

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