We’re delighted to welcome GB rower Mat Tarrant as the latest Ergoflex® sports ambassador.
A hugely accomplished performer in his field, Mat won two golds and a silver at the 2017 World Cup series of regattas in the men’s four, later following up that medals haul with a bronze at the World Rowing Championships. Prior to this, Mat took gold at the World Championships in 2014 and 2015, along with a large number of medals at U23 and junior level.
As a dedicated elite athlete competing at the top level of his sport, Mat is a natural fit with the Ergoflex® brand values of living healthily and striving for excellence.
We spoke to Mat about his rowing career, active lifestyle, hopes for Tokyo 2020 and - of course - how sleep fits in with his demanding training and event regime.
Ergoflex: When did you turn pro?
MT: I’ve represented Great Britain for the last 12 years through Juniors and U23’s but I’ve been a member of the Senior Olympic squad for the past 6 years.
Why rowing? Is it something you’ve always had a flair for, or is it something that you’ve had to work particularly hard to get into?
Before Rowing, I tried my hand at many sports. Rugby, Football, Tennis, Swimming to name a few but although I was distinctly average at all of them I was never at a level that I would class as “good”. When I tried Rowing for the first time it felt natural to me. I have always been big and tall and these attributes lend themselves well to Rowing. As a family of Rugby players, Rowing was very new but from early on I was showing signs of future success and that feeling of finally being “good” at something fuelled me to see how “good” I could really be.
What’s the best piece of advice that you received during your early years?
We all commit to a sport for a simple reason, being that, we enjoy it. We enjoy the challenge, the friends we make and memories we collect along the way. The best piece of advice I was given was to keep enjoying it. It’s very easy to let the pressure of success take over and if you let that pressure get you, you can begin to loathe the sport that’s brought you so much happiness. Take a step back, remember why you started the sport and appreciate the challenges that come with it.
Would you say that sports science – nutrition, fitness, rest/recovery - has changed in your time as a professional?
I think my own personal focuses have changed as I’ve matured in the sport. As a junior, I would turn up, race and go home. Now I have a full warm up, warm down ritual that I’ve found works best for me. I know which foods to eat and when to eat them, how much fluid I should be taking on and how much sleep I need before a heavy race. All these areas are increasingly important on the quest for marginal gains.
"If I don’t get enough sleep…
…I can definitely feel it affecting my performance the following day."
How does rowing in particular take a toll on your body?
Rowing works 80% of the body with every stroke you take and in a 2000m race, you take over 230 strokes. That's a lot of repetitions to put yourself through multiple times a day. The main problem areas in rowing tend to be the back and hips but those niggles can cause additional issues elsewhere in the body such as the knees, shoulders, and ribs.
What’s your after-event recovery programme?
Without giving away all the secrets, I’d usually get fuel into the body as soon as possible, get the blood moving through the muscles to clear lactate from the system and when I get back to my accommodation, try to get my head down for a nap before spending the rest of the day laying down watching TV and generally resting before a big feed at dinner time.
Has this changed over the years?
Not really. I’ve always been taught to eat and warm down after every tough race and I’m always so tired that I have to sleep to re-charge my batteries. The main thing that's changed as I’ve got older is knowing the importance of my bed and staying in it as long as possible to properly rest and recover.
How would you rate the importance of sleep?
Sleep is so important. If I can nap before a session I will, if I can nap after a session I will, if I don’t get enough sleep during a tough training block I can definitely feel it affecting my performance the following day.
Have you always been aware of sleep’s role in fitness, or is it something that’s developed with your experience?
I think it has developed. When I was younger I thought I was superhuman but as I’ve got older I’ve had to work harder to keep progressing and stay on top.
How big is nutrition in your regime? Would you recommend any particular food or drink in this regard?
Nutrition is fuel. The amount of training we do requires a lot of good food to make it through the day and squeeze the most out of ourselves during each training session. Something I drink a lot of is milk, it’s my go to drink over protein shakes. A meal I’ve really got into recently is prawn, garlic and chilli burgers. They’re amazing!
Could any of your teammates use some sleep education?
I think some teammates undervalue sleep and don’t get enough hours each night but the vast majority can’t get enough of it. We even have bunk rooms on site at our home training venue so we can nap between sessions if we need to.
Your career has taken you around the world – do you see any cultural differences when it comes to acknowledging sleep’s importance?
I don’t think I’ve noticed a difference in the importance of sleep just differences in how people like to sleep. In 2013 we had our World Championships in Korea and it took our support team months to find accommodation that were willing to put beds in the rooms and not have us sleeping on the floor!
What’s your regular sleep routine and duration?
I try not sleep between training session but if I have a half day I’d get home around 2pm and go straight to bed. Depending on how tired I am I can nap from one to three hours. And yes, I can still sleep during the night. When it does come to getting my head down at night I try to get around 7 to 8 hours.
Does this change when you’re away from home?
On training camps and competition I tend to sleep a lot more. Every day I have a time slot where I try to get at least an hour to nap and every night I make sure I hit around 8 hours.
Do you use any wearable technology to monitor your sleep quality?
I don’t but, if we start under recovering then we are given sleep monitor wristbands that will tell us how much real sleep we are getting and figure out if this is contributing to the fatigue.
What’s your one recommendation for a good night’s sleep?
I think it’s really important to try and put electric devices away. For me, it’s just to give the brain a rest before bed. There is nothing worse than getting ready for bed, looking at your phone and seeing an email or a social media comment that goes round in your mind and stops you from getting to sleep. The brain needs to switch off and get its own recovery.
Like a lot of elite athletes, you sleep on an Ergoflex mattress. In your opinion, what makes Ergoflex a good choice for those with active lifestyles?
Being a big guy, I need the support. The issue I find with sprung mattresses is that you feel everything! I put my body through a lot, my joints get as much abuse as my mind and muscles so when I finally get to bed at night I need a mattress that supports my body so the joints can relax the muscles can recover and my mind can fall into a deep sleep ready to be at my best the following day.
What’s next for Mat?
Short term, I’m currently at the beginning of our racing season so rest is more important than ever. In a few weeks, we move on to a month-long training camp in preparation for the World Championships. Longer term, we’re always preparing for the highest level of our sport, the Olympic games. Tokyo 2020 is my main target and everything I do is building up to bringing home that gold medal.