'I started rowing at 58'

Monica Sutton

Monica Sutton began rowing when she was 58 in an effort to lose weight and control her diabetes.

She’d had no success with diets or the gym, and since she was diagnosed with diabetes in her early 20s, her weight had risen to nearly 127kg (20 stone).

Monica, from Sheffield, says being overweight made her feel uncomfortable, unfit and less confident.

This article was part of a special report on the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.


“My life seemed to revolve around trying to lose weight,” she says. “Diets and the gym were never far from my mind but they didn’t do anything for me. I hated them.”

In May 2003, she injured her foot on the treadmill so decided to try the indoor rowing machine as it was non-weight bearing.

“At that time I was approaching 127kg and wearing size 26 dresses,” she says. “I was in pretty low spirits.”

Losing weight

Monica found rowing suited her perfectly and soon discovered a competitive side to her personality she never knew she had.

With a supportive coach, she perfected her rowing technique and started training to compete in indoor rowing events in the 50 to 59 age group.

In November 2003, Monica won a bronze medal, presented by Sir Steve Redgrave, at the British Indoor Rowing Championships.

“I wore my medal around Sheffield for days. I even wore it to the supermarket,” she says.

She now frequently competes at indoor rowing competitions and has a mantelpiece stacked with medals to prove it.

For Monica, the health benefits of rowing are obvious and she now has no trouble managing her type 1 diabetes. Since taking up the sport, she’s shed the excess weight, dropping from dress size 26 to size 12.

Rowing offers a complete low-impact body workout. It’s a great aerobic alternative to cycling and running, provided you have the correct posture. It's good for the heart and lungs and works the abdomen, back and upper body.

Confidence boost

A popular way to start rowing is in the gym on a rowing machine, which simulates the effect of water. 

On the water, there is a range of boats to choose from, such as racing boats, gigs, flash boats, skiffs and the wider, more stable boats used by beginners.

"Indoor and outdoor rowing are now an important part of my life," Monica says. "Rowing has bought fitness, weight loss and a huge circle of friends. It's a very sociable sport.”

What she has lost in weight, Monica has gained in self-confidence. “My self-esteem has grown so much,” she says. "This impacts on every part of my life.

"Many women in their 50s may feel that taking up sport isn’t for them. I say find the sport that’s right for you, then go for it.

"It may mean you have to put yourself higher up the list of priorities, but family and friends will soon get used to the idea that you’re no longer a doormat."

Find out more about indoor rowing on the British Rowing website.

Page last reviewed: 02/07/2013

Next review due: 02/07/2015


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