Training while at Sea
January 17, 2014 7:23 AM   Subscribe

The best training for running... is of course running. So what happens when you want to maintain a level of fitness required to race but can't run for extended periods?

I work at sea. I go away for trips that range anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks. I am rarely on the same vessel. The conditions on board vary dramatically - but as a minimum there will be a gym (read: a room) with a rag-tag collection of non-professional free-weights and (if I'm lucky) an exercise bike, rower or treadmill which isn't broken. The treadmill can be particuarily challanging in high seas as I attempt to resist the forces trying to embed me into a bulkhead!

One way to maintain fitness is to do bodyweight exercises and circuits. (Some ingenuity needed, but not impossible). Do any of you have any suggestions how I might tailor routines like these to be relevant to running? Not an easy ask. I want to make the best of a bad deal: it breaks my heart to get to a certain level of fitness at home only to lose it again during my working life.
posted by dry-jim to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Jump rope? It's not that similar to running but it does help maintain cardiovascular and lower body fitness, and it is a supremely portable way to exercise. (My personal recommendation is a leather jump rope, not a speed rope).

Also, do you know about Fitness Stack Exchange? You will find a lot of both general fitness enthusiasts and professionals there, and it is specifically a Q&A site.
posted by rada at 7:38 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not sure if there are similarities, but I did read about Zach Miller who works on cruise ships and just won an ultra marathon. Actually the first one he ever entered. He finished it in the 3rd fastest time ever. Here is a link to an interview he did on Deadspin. He was able to train in various ports, but there might be some tidbits in there or leads. Here is another interview he did.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:43 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of my friends who ran the Dopey Challenge with me last week swears by Crossfit.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:52 AM on January 17, 2014

Any exercise that strengthens your core or legs (posterior chain) will help you with running. Squats, lunges, burpees, kettle bell swings, pushups, situps, jump rope - all of these would help your running (all of these come from a running cycle we did at my Crossfit). Most of these things can be done as interval training, too, and sprints/tabata of many of them will help, too.
posted by ldthomps at 8:14 AM on January 17, 2014

My dad was a jogger during his time in the (surface) Navy, and he could usually find a patch of ship he could run a short (and I mean short-- 50 yards was luxury) circuit on the deck. He would also jump rope.

I'm not sure if it mattered, but he was of sufficient rank aboard ships that nobody could give him guff about being in the way. Late in his career he had a Nordictrack, their classic cross-country ski-style exercise machine; it folds up quite well, but he couldn't have it on ship before he had the cabin space to use it in, and of course he was on the ship for years at a stretch. He'd orient it to the roll of the ship so he'd just have a weird uphill/downhill but at least he wasn't falling off the skis.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:14 AM on January 17, 2014

Do your vessels tend to have helipads? A friend of mine discovered that this was the best place to run when he was on a long cruise.
posted by pont at 9:26 AM on January 17, 2014

While these are not tailored to running, the United States Navy has developed NOFFS (Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling Series) with four seperate programs for submarines, ships, large deck / carriers, and group pt, as well as nutirtion guides, movement libraries, and structured training plans.
There's even an iPhone app.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:22 AM on January 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

My work also takes me to sea from time to time and I have spent quite a bit of time in those rag tag gym/storage rooms trying to get in a decent workout. One thing that I have found is that working out with free weights is amazingly good in light/moderate seas. The up and down motion of the ship changes the resistance dramatically during a single set....which in my experience challenges muscles in a totally new way = strength gains. So how about leg squats, ideally with some free weights? If you don't have a rack, then maybe some lunges with dumbbells held to your side to really strengthen the legs?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:57 PM on January 17, 2014

If you end up running really short laps, make sure you alternate directions frequently. Turning left once a minute for an hour will really mess you up. Turning left once a minute for half an hour and then turning right once a minute for half an hour isn't great either, but at least you're spreading it out over both legs.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:30 PM on January 17, 2014

Thank you all for answering.
Most exercises that involve lifting feet is tricky. Even in a light sea, lunges can send you're leading feet in all sort of strange angles. I've certainly used a rope before on larger vessels and flatter seas but at the moment - January in the Norwegian Sector of the North Sea - it would resemble a form of drunk dressage!
I think it's a case of cherry-picking certain exercises and Seymour's suggestion that I use wave motion to my advantage, particularily when strengthening the core (whch is a weak point for me anyway) is worth investigating. I tried doing the Plank last night and could feel the difference as the vessel heaved: it felt like a large weight was applied and then released.
I've had a look at the USN cards. Some good ideas in their too as you would expect.
posted by dry-jim at 10:28 PM on January 18, 2014

The young W. G. George devised the 100 Up method when he was only 16 years old. Working as a chemist’s apprentice in England in 1874, George had little time for training. He developed the technique so he could train during his lunch break. Within two years, W. G. George had gone from inexperienced runner to one of the premiere milers of his time.

NYT article here.
posted by klarck at 11:31 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

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