There are as many different approaches to training for an ocean row as there are ocean rowers (so that makes about 225 at the last count).
It’s not like training for a marathon, which is now such a popular activity that there are tried and tested training programmes published in every running magazine. Ocean rowing remains (unsurprisingly) a tiny minority sport, and as most of its participants are what could politely be termed individualists, there is little conformity to any particular kind of training regimen, but rather a broad spectrum of approaches.
At the one extreme you have the serious athletes, to whom speed is all and a rigorous fitness programme essential. At the other end of the spectrum you have people like one of my personal heroes, ocean rowing legend Gerard d’Aboville. Before tackling the Pacific (rowing from Japan to the US) he merely went for a physical checkup to make sure he wasn’t likely to keel over with a heart attack en route, before embarking with a boat lavishly provisioned with eight litres of French wine and several cartons of cigarettes. His account of the crossing gives the distinct impression that he started to row faster towards the end for fear that he would run out of Gauloises before he reached dry land.
My approach is somewhere in the middle, but it was not always so. For the Atlantic I trained really hard, determined to accustomise my body to the repetitious movement of rowing. So I spent many many hours on the rowing machine, culminating in a series of 16-hour rows, one a week for a period of 5 weeks.
.and then got tendonitis in my shoulders within the first week of the row, which continued to plague me for the rest of the crossing. On dry land I rarely resort to painkillers, but on the Atlantic I plundered my first aid kit for every variety I could find.
So after that experience I have now adopted a different, more laid-back approach, which fits more easily into a busy life, and so far seems to be working.
My usual programme consists of at least 60 minutes of cardio per day – typically cycling to the gym (20 mins each way) and then 20-60 minutes on a cross-trainer or training bike. Or a long walk/hike on local trails.
I supplement this with weight training, using mostly free weights and focusing on the upper body (which tends to be my weak area, and bears the brunt of the rowing action on rough water).
This is not something I do just in the run-up to an ocean row, but something I will probably do every day of my life for as long as I am able. I have always struggled with my weight – my appetite being large and my body being small – and although I do not naturally relish exercise, if the alternatives are obesity or starvation, I’ll grit my teeth and do the exercise.
And once I get into the habit, it’s really not so bad.
Weird weather today – frequently alternating between fine drizzle and hot sunshine. I’ve been trying to catch some rainwater, but the drizzle is usually blown horizontal by the wind. As I go to bed tonight I can see dark clouds all around me, so the buckets are out on deck, just in case.
Fittingly, I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Slaughterhouse Five, which is just about as disconnected as the weather.
Thank you so much to the many people who have pledged to do something, no matter how small, to live in a greener (bluer) way. Every little helps, so don’t be afraid if you don’t feel you can do much – it all counts!
If you haven’t already, please go to www.theblueproject.org and click on the Make a BLUE Pledge button.
BE COOL, BE BLUE!
Thanks for all the lovely messages that continue to encourage and inspire me. Today I’d particularly like to say hi to:
Dana in Oahu – hoping to arrive at Waikiki, but it’s not that easy to navigate this boat too precisely. ‘Fraid you’ll just have to keep an eye on the website. And I’ll keep an eye on the skies – looking out for you in your plane!
Hi also to Cheryl, Caro, Jeff, Rick, Jim (thanks for the book recommendation for Collapse – yes, I do have it, and will start listening to it tomorrow), Carol, Steve at INM, and Dave B.
Position Saturday evening: 28 07.440 N, 127 31.923 W.
Click here to see Day 41 of the Atlantic Crossing