Planning for Greatness - Matt Gotrel

Planning for Greatness - Matt Gotrel

At Marloe Watch Company, we are constantly inspired in our designs by real-life examples of human perseverance and endeavour. As lockdown restrictions begin to lift, we've spoken to some inspirational individuals to help understand what goes on behind the scenes of a range of incredible achievements. From planning, training, dieting, sleep patterns, and overcoming psychological hurdles - ultimately understanding the inner workings of success that show anything is possible when you have the desire to do it.

After a year spent looking ahead to life after lockdown, we decided to carry out some research in partnership with YouGov, and the results were quite surprising.

Nearly a third of Brits (30%) will be more likely to push themselves to new limits once restrictions ease - a fifth (19%) have already embarked on a new physical activity for the first time, with running, cycling and hiking topping the list, while one in 10 (12%) have ambitions to achieve a remarkable feat of their own. 

Despite a new-found thirst for adventure, nearly half of Brits (44%) say they often don’t know where to start or doubt they have what it takes to replicate the feats they read about or see on TV. 

In a bid to inspire the nation to achieve the seemingly impossible, we've talked to some inspirational individuals to share a detailed collection of their training programmes - offering a look behind the scenes of Great British endeavour - and we kick-off with an athlete who's achieved so much already.

Matt Gotrel's sporting career has gone full circle, from his early days in international youth sailing circuit, to gold medal-winning Olympic rower to grinder for INEOS TEAM UK aboard the phenomenal AC75's in the America’s Cup. Matt has achieved a lot but isn't planning to slow down anytime soon. No stranger to the podium, he holds the Olympic and World Championships, representing Great Britain on the global stage. A dedicated athlete, Matt pushes his body to the limit and then some, all in the pursuit of glory.

Matt Gotrel - front row, 2nd from left

Laying the groundwork

Q. How long do you spend planning before events and how far in advance does this begin?

A. As soon as you have an ultimate goal, a date at which you need to be ready to perform. Once you know this, then your preparations have to start, you need a plan and you need to get started. Time is something you will never get more of.

Q. At which stage do you look at preparations for kit or equipment and what does this involve? 

A. For me, the physical side of preparation takes the longest and should take up the majority of your training, the equipment will help you execute. Take a cyclist for example, if you can be 10% fitter then that will save you worrying about 100g of high performance bicycle equipment.

Getting Physical

Q. How long before events do you start physical training?

A. As soon as possible, there are no limits to what the human body can achieve and we are still pushing the boundaries after hundreds of years, so you’re definitely going to run out of time at some point. Get started and you might achieve something you would never have thought was possible.

Q.  How much time do you physically train per day/week? Is it possible to quantify how much time in total is spent physically training? 

A. During the hardest blocks of training your body will adapt to living in fatigue. In the years leading up to Rio 2016 we would regularly row over 200km a week.

Q. What does this training involve?

A. Ultimately rowing, either on the rowing machine in the gym or on the water.

Q. Does the training and overall preparations gradually build up? 

A. You need to manage your load, there is no use being fatigued on the start line because you have trained too hard. Plan periods of intense volume with no distractions and then allow periods of recovery so your body can adapt, and most importantly, taper your training to ensure you’re ready to perform when it matters.

Q. Is a complete ‘dry run’ possible to try and replicate the experience as closely as possible?

A. Often you cant replicate the exact experience, the moment, the environment or your adversaries but you can get yourself as close as possible. I find that you can push yourself harder in training knowing that there aren’t consequences in failing, that’s where you learn your limits.

Matt Gotrel
Matt Gotrel rowing for Leander Club in Henley-on-Thames, just down river from our old offices.

The lifestyle

Q. What is the biggest sacrifice you have to make during preparations?  (eg diet, alcohol, late nights etc) 

A. Diet has never been a sacrifice I’ve had to make, the best thing about training hard is the calories you burn, you have to eat well but you wont be hungry! The biggest sacrifice is the things you miss - the weddings, birthdays and days away from family members.

Q. What do you do for down-time when you’re not training? 

A. Spend the time you have missed with loved ones, try to recover. Anything that can take your mind away from the day to day grind of training will be a welcome rest.

Q. How is your sleeping pattern affected?

A. You'll need more sleep! Plan for it and be strict with yourself - the body adapts and repairs best during sleep.

Eat. Sleep. Train. Repeat.

Q. Describe your training diet.

A. High protein, large portions, regular meals. Get a blood test and learn what supplements you need to help you manage your diet. Its an easy way to minimise the impact on your diet whilst ensuring your body is getting everything it needs.

Q. How many calories do you need to eat per day and what foods do you avoid or crave?

A. During a big training week, I will probably need about 6,000 calories, a balanced diet is important so I try to maintain protein, carbs, good fats and natural sugars and avoid processed foods and saturated fats.

Q. How much water do you drink per day?

A. I probably drink about 4 litres but it's easy to forget, I would say you can never drink enough when you are training hard.

Matt Gotrel
Matt Gotrel (far left) at the 2015 World Rowing Championships at Lac d'Aiguebelette in France, where he won a gold medal as part of the eight with Louloudis, Reed, Bennett, Moe Sbihi, Alex Gregory, George Nash, Satch and Hill.

The Extra 1%

Q. Are there any special tricks or techniques you undertake to prepare for tough conditions?  (weather, intensity, calorie usage) 

A. Try to get as much exposure to these in your preparations, as when the time comes you have to be confident in what you need to do. Heading into something not knowing how to deal with what’s being thrown at you is a recipe for disaster. Practice, practice, practice (especially the things you really hate the most!).

Q. What was the most difficult thing you had to overcome during training? 

A. Injury and illness. This is every athletes ‘Achilles heal’  - not being able to train can often be the toughest part of any journey. Looking after your body is not only important for training but we only have one life, and your long-term health is more important than pushing it a bit too hard, or looking for that extra mile when you know its not on. Get expert advice and be prepared to listen. You will get niggles and pain as your body adapts. Understand it and follow the process put in place by professionals.

Q. Does training involve your friends or family? Are these relationships impacted during the build-up? 

A. Of course, it is tough on those close to you. They have to be ever supportive and equally understanding. Involve them as much as possible, if you can train with them even better, the more they can understand the process and the end goal the easier it will be for all of you. It is their sacrifice as much as yours.

Q. How do you prepare mentally for what’s ahead of you? 

A. Take every day as it comes, a new challenge. "What is my goal today?” - it might simply be to make sure you stretch a certain muscle or it might be to do 300watts on a bike for an hour. Either way, being able to achieve a goal each day will make the journey a lot easier and help you maintain consistent progress towards your goal.

Game On

Q. What is your routine the night before? Any special preparations?

A. It should be no different to any other night, “Train as you Race, Race as you Train” - I like routine, I like knowing what is happening when. There are no surprises, and you will always be ready to perform. 

Q. What is your routine the day of the event? 

A. Everyone is different but I like to do something, if I lie around and rest too much I get a bit lethargic and probably don’t sleep as well. So, some light exercise or something to focus the mind on the race, often visualisation can help.


A huge thank you to Matt for taking the time to speak with us. If you'd like to download Matt's Planning for Greatness diary please click here.

Previous Article Next Article

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published