THRIVHER INTERVIEW: FRANCES HOUGHTON

Updated: Apr 26, 2020



Frances Houghton became the first British female rower to be selected for 5 Olympic Games and is the longest serving member of the GB Rowing Team.



Quick dive:

  • Can't start the day without: At least 8 hours sleep.

  • Most efficient time of day is: First thing in the morning.

  • Most effective productivity tool is: Planning the day with pen and paper.

  • Best reads are: ‘Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson and ‘The Chimp Paradox’, by Steve Peters.

  • Recommended TED Talk is: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain.

  • Role models: A culmination of all the people around me who I have learned from.

  • Mindfulness habit: Is sitting still and closing my eyes in natural light.

  • Most afraid of: Not making the most out of my life.

  • Go-to for fun: At the moment it's a game of tennis - I'm learning!



Thrivher Moves:


When did you first begin your rowing career? I started rowing when I was 11 at school, and received my first payment from GB Rowing at age 17. While I was studying I kept it very simple and very disciplined in terms of timetabling everything out to make sure I fitted it all in. When I was 15, studying for my G.C.S.E.s, my entire day was absolutely regimented hour by hour. I had to work out daily how I could work for 8 hours, sleep for 8 hours, exercise for 2 hours and have an hour for food.


How did you become disciplined so early?

I was so hooked on the sport - I absolutely loved it. Before I was doing sport, I was doing music. I would go to music practice and then I went to school, so that started the discipline. I was obviously already in that way of living, and that was the kind of world I was creating for myself. Then when I was 15 I wrote down on a piece of paper, 'I vow to do everything I possibly can to get to Sydney Olympics'. So that was just the mantra I lived by. It was that overarching theme that made decisions really clear cut.


when I was 15 I wrote down on a piece of paper, 'I vow to do everything I possibly can to get to Sydney Olympics'

Coming up to your first Olympics in Sydney, was there anything that got particularly tough?

Definitely. I was in school until 1998 and from then I trained full-time with Debbie Flood, who I rowed with. Then my first year at university, the summer of 1999, I joined the squad. I took the next year out of university for the Sydney Olympics. It was a big step up in training, just the intensity of the training group. There were times when I was so tired I could barely function. I remember a time when I couldn't even pick up my fork, I couldn't eat because my hands were so sore. So yeah, it was so hard. But as I say to people, sometimes there's only that 1% in you that thinks you can do it, 99% thinks you can't, but it's that 1% that's pulling you through.


sometimes there's only that 1% in you that thinks you can do it, 99% thinks you can't, but it's that 1% that's pulling you through

How did it feel to compete in your first ever Olympics?

Before I went to Sydney, I said, all I ever wanted was to become an Olympian. That would be the pinnacle. That would be incredible! And I got to Sydney and that was an absolute dream come true. It was like dreaming you can fly… then waking up and realising it’s true!



What made the Sydney Olympics so special for you?

It was the people - the Australians being so into their sport. They were so excited about meeting any of us, for being Olympians, it didn’t matter if we were medallists or we had come last, they were just so appreciative and enthusiastic. I remember people would be hanging out outside the Olympic Village just to say hi and invite you out for a drink... I don’