How to Break a World Record with Hire Fitness

Isaac Kenyon and Jordan Williams rowed for 2 days continuously in tandem on a Concept II Indoor Rower – breaking a world record.

This story has been recounted by Isaac Kenyon following his and Jordan William’s successful world record breaker:

Why break this world record?

Jordan Williams and I (Isaac Kenyon) are two high school friends who both have close family members with autism and this year decided to raise awareness to get people talking about autism and share our personal stories of what life can be like for the 700,000 autistic people in the UK and their families. We decided to choose the National Autistic Society as our charity and World Autism Acceptance Week as the time to break a world record and with a better understanding of autism, it could transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of autistic people. Almost everyone has heard of autism now, but far too few people actually know what it is like to be autistic related to both the unique strengths and how hard life can be if you struggle to communicate or feel intense anxiety in social situations.

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Jordan Williams (left) and Isaac Kenyon (right) representing the National Autistic Society outside Anytime Fitness Welwyn Garden City with their Hire Fitness UK Concept II indoor rower (Credit: Daniel Williams)

Jordan – “I have a family member, a nephew with severe autism from birth, it’s very very difficult for my sister and her family in certain aspects. This row has definitely made me step up. My sister doesn’t get a lot of support from services, so she’s actually taken herself back to university and created a company for family members to get help.

Far too many autistic people and their families don’t get the understanding or support they need and end up feeling isolated. In the early days after my nephew was born, he was like a normal little person, running around smiling, and laughing but as he’s got older, he’s in his teens now and you can tell how severe it is. You can see the strain it puts on not just my sister but on the family as well, it’s very very difficult. Everyone that goes out it’s a 100 per cent effort from everyone to keep an eye on him. We wouldn’t change it for the world, this is how he is, and this makes him how he is. It’s really, really beautiful to see. He’s really, really intelligent and that’s what I’d like any way to learn from this – people with autism, are extremely intelligent people and they shouldn’t be seen as anything but. 

This is why World Autism Acceptance Week is so important. It’s an opportunity to get people talking and finding out more about autism – and making sure autistic people and their families feel part of the community.”

What previous experience did you both have?

In the past I have done a lot of rowing in my time, I have a world record for the longest continual row on a Concept II indoor rower which stands at 3 days and 11 hours. This was without sleep and only allowed for 5-minute breaks each hour to go to the toilet. I have also rowed across the Atlantic Ocean for 40 days in a team of four rowing in shifts of 2 hours with 2 hours break consecutively 24/7 for the entire 40 days. This means ultra-endurance rowing is not new to me. 

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Isaac Kenyon (far right) just after completing his Atlantic Row crossing (Credit: Penny Bird)

 

Jordan is regular gym-goer lifting weights and occasional cardio and had never rowed before attempting this world record. Jordan wanted to learn to row so that is where the idea of doing an ultra-endurance tandem indoor row came about.

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Jordan Williams learning to indoor row on the Hire Fitness UK Concept II indoor rower (Credit: Daniel Williams)

 

What was the world record being broken?

The world record was for the longest continual row in tandem on a Concept II Indoor rowing machine for the lightweight (under 75kg) category, male 20-29 years age group. Previously the record was 36 hours and we increased it to 48 hours. See all records and Isaac’s previous record here.

How did you prepare?

We decided to do this world record on the 5th of January 2022 and completed it on the 3rd of April 2022. I prepped Jordan and taught him the rowing technique and gave him a training schedule to stick to. 

Training on the Concept II Rowers

We partnered up with Hire Fitness UK who kindly leased us two brand new Concept II indoor rowers to train and also use during our world record attempt. This allowed us to understand the right type of pacing (3min/500m) to sustain for long durations and practice our setups with snacks, drinks etc. We also used a very low damper setting (drag factor) of between 1 and 3 so not 10 which is very common you see in gyms and a setting that high can exhaust your muscles before you reach cardiovascular potential and basically burn you out.

We spent a lot of time focusing on maintaining technique, as fatigue creeps in the temptation usually is to start arching the back and catching at a poor position resulting in worse propulsion and poor posture. We spent a lot of time thinking about the main parts of the stroke which are the catch, the drive and the finish and not squeezing the handle too tightly or that is wasted energy.

We also used the new and exciting indoor rowing app called EXR and were gifted a full subscription to test its capability and use it as a way to engage us during our long rowing stints during the world record and training sessions.

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During the night shift, it was nice to have the EXR app run in the background during our world record attempt

Visiting the world record location

We also made sure to do some training sessions at the local gym (Anytime Fitness Welwyn Garden City) so we knew what the gym was like and to understand the local area around where the world record was going to take place. Fortunately, the gym we chose was 24 hours so we would have music played at all times and that was really morale-boosting (and annoying sometimes).

 

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Isaac Kenyon (sitting) and Jordan Williams (standing) in the very studio a few months before their world record will take place (Credit: Daniel Williams)

Perfecting nutrition and hydration

We experimented with our nutrition which was very key for sustaining energy during an ultra-row as well as adequate hydration patterns. We found that having a snack every 30-45mins was the way to go and would have our food laid out next to use for each training session and the world record itself so it was easily reachable from the erg. As we had 2-hour breaks we spent most of those breaks refuelling as well with slow releasing energy foods like bananas, oats, nuts (almonds/walnuts), vegetables (sweet potatoes, red peppers, carrots) and brown rice. We would drink around 1 litre of water (squash and electrolytes) every 4 hours (500ml during a 2-hour row and 500ml in the recovery phase).

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Jordan Williams is rowing. You can see some of the drinks and snacks surrounding the Concept II this was a bit messy in this photo, we were generally tidier than this (Credit: Daniel Williams)

How do you mentally prepare for such a challenge?

Sitting on a rowing machine for 48 hours can seem very very out of reach and also not enjoyable at all, however, it’s all in the mindset and if you break it down mentally into manageable chunks and not get ahead of yourself by “living in each moment” you will find it is possible to do. When I do ultra rowing I think about the hour I am in, what I am going to do in this hour, how to improve my rowing technique, pacing and stroke rate etc. I don’t think about hour 45 as that can feel demoralising if you are on hour 5 of your challenge. Another thing I like to do is think about the next snack break too (every 30-45mins). 

Both Jordan and I invited lots of our friends and family to come and support us throughout the entire row both day and night and mentally that provided us with a big boost as we always had someone to talk to during our world record attempt and that was 1) a good distraction and 2) extremely morale-boosting to have their support.

We also developed a positive mindset as we ticked off the milestones along the way, 30mins done and then 2 hours done and then 4 hours done, then 12 hours (¼ of the record), 24 hours (½ to our total), 37 hours (breaking the world record) 48 hours (setting a new record). On each milestone, we would think about how far we have come and not how far we had to go (a glass half full kind of attitude) which led to being optimistic and more positive. 

How did it feel once you had got over 36 hours and knew you had already broken the record?

Isaac – Relieved! I was super happy we made it this far and it took a lot of pressure off knowing that every oar stroke or time on the indoor rower from this moment forward was going to be extending the record. We had 48 hours in mind and that was the goal to do 2 days so we used the energy from breaking the record to extend the record. At this same point, we also had a celebration as we had surpassed our fundraising target of £1000 for the National Autistic Society.

Jordan – The feeling was great but I was too focused on the ultimate goal of 48 hours.

What did you do in your breaks between rowing stints?

Usually, the first thing we would do in our breaks is run to the toilet as we would always be bursting after 2 hours on the rower. The second activity on the agenda is to do some rehab and this included dynamic stretches and movements to reduce the lactic acid in our muscles and prevent us from being stiff for our next shift and prevent injury. We would then refuel with some nutrition and hydration, before taking an 1-1.5hour nap with a blackout facemask, earbuds on our Sierra Designs camping mattress and sleeping bag.  We would set an alarm to wake us up for around 15mins before our next shift, most of the time a foam roller or water bottle was thrown by the rowing person to wake the off-rowing person up as we were such deep sleepers and tired. In that 15mins we would then run to the toilet again to empty before a two-hour session on the rower and then take a little snack and some fluids, do a few mobility stretches and coordinate the witnesses to sign off that they saw the transition before making make the tandem switch of personnel rowing.

What were the best moments during the world record?

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Hana Sladká used her massage blade to loosen Jordan Williams during his row

Isaac – The sunrise moments when we got through the night, for some reason during the day probably due to the circadian rhythm we would have far more energy than at night and it was really good to be rowing with the window in front of us for the view and seeing the sky. The warm colours of the sunrise always gave us hope. Another great moment was Hana Sladká a sports therapist who came and gave us massages and treatment halfway through the world record!

Jordan – seeing the celebrations from everyone when we passed the 48-hour mark

What were the worst/hardest moments during the world record?

Isaac – the early morning shifts when you had to get up at 2 am and 4 am to row for 2 hours when your body’s circadian rhythm is telling you that you should be asleep in these hours, was really mentally tough especially on the 2nd night when we were even more tired.

Jordan – waking up after sleep and feeling like a zombie for my next 2-hour stint.

How did you feel after the 48 hours were complete?

Isaac – I was a little shocked, to be honest! I had just gotten my life into the swing of 2 hours of rowing and 2 hours off and was settling into that routine and then we finished ha! So I had to re-focus and adjust to normal life again. I was super chuffed that we did what we set out to achieve it was a lot of effort and determination and it paid off by setting a new world record!

Jordan – Like I could have gone for a little bit longer to push the new record

How did you celebrate after completing the challenge?

Isaac – We had lots of friends and family come for the last 30mins of the row to cheer us on and celebrate with us. We had some hugs and high-fives at the end. Straight away I grabbed a shower! Boy did i smell, and everyone let me know about it too ha! After that, I had a beer and a huge dinner at a local restaurant before heading home for a big long 12-hour sleep!

Jordan – Pizza and Netflix while having a radox salts bath.world record

Jordan Williams (left) and Isaac Kenyon (right) high-fiving at the end

Would you do an ultra-endurance row again?

Isaac – Yes totally! It’s a great way to boost the resilience of the mind and also raise awareness within a local community.

Jordan – Sure, if it is for a great cause then I’ll be interested

Have you got any more challenges lined up?

Isaac – I have a few more world records I am looking to break and also set. Looking forward to going into the unknown for a few challenges and doing things I am not comfortable with to grow as an all-around adventurer/athlete. Watch this space! I think Jordan will do another with me (oops spoke too soon!)

Jordan – Longest sleep after a 48-hour row!

 

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