Strong like Bull. Smart like Tractor

I went and found the local Crossfit gym here in St. Malo, to get a last workout or two in before the start. I am scaling down the effort to avoid getting injured, but it feels good to shake off the funk of sitting in planes and trains.

As much work as the boat needed for this race, I needed more. I ran in high school a thousand years ago, and rowed crew in college a hundred years ago but since then true organized training has been haphazard. My various hobbies have kept me physically active, but the gym was largely a place to pay a monthly membership fee that would go to waste.

Going into this race, I knew that could not be the case. Performance and results in a single handed race like this, sustained over days and weeks, is as dependent on physical fitness amongst a half dozen other things. You have to be ready and able to make the next sail change, to make the next course correction, to get back on deck and adjust the sails yet again if you want to maximize speed. The less prepared will make the excuses, tell themselves that they are going to wait another 15 minutes “just to see if the wind change is real”. Meanwhile, your competition has already adjusted and is putting miles on you.

I was fat, weak and had wheezed like a chain smoker when challenged. That had to change if I was going to do this race. Not just to perform, but to survive. So I started working out in the beginning of 2017 and started stepping it up in late 2017. Weights twice a week on the weekends, cardio once or twice (ideally twice) during the week when I could fit it in.

The cardio is pretty straight forward. Rowing machine, treadmill, bike. Mix them up, do 15 to 20 minute sets, get about 50 minutes to an hour in total.

The weight routines, on the other hand, have been rotated over the past two years with new routine every quarter to keep in fresh. Lately, they have been very focused on relevant muscle groups since late spring this year, working back, arms, shoulders and core. Leg work has been largely focused on balance and agility rather than strength. Day one routine looks like:

  • Cook bar press

  • Marpo Rope climber

  • Repeat both 4X

  • Banded bench thrusters

  • Wall ball with squats

  • Repeat both 4X

  • Push / Pull one set per side

  • Slide board walk ups

  • Repeat both 4 X

  • Finisher with the Core bag doing a capacity relay. Shoulder lift with the bag 10X each side, then single arm carry down the gym, single arm carry with the other arm the way back and then fence hopper over the bag.

  • Repeat 3X

Day 2 is similar mix of Upper body strength, core and lower body agility, just different

  • Single leg Romanian dead lifts, weights in each hand (leg agility for the moving boat deck)

  • Landmine push press (very similar to pushing sails out of the fore peak

  • Elastic resistence band “stir the pot” (great mimic for winch grinding)

  • Repeat those three for 4X

  • Split squats with a cook band around the inside knee to force stability work

  • TRX hinge rows for core strength along with some upper body work that is really close to swinging in and out of the cabin

  • Lateral Plate Drag. My trainer tells me its for core strength. I think it is because he hates me.

  • Repeat those three for 4X

  • Then a finisher with Sled. Do a complex, with a push press down to one end, a straight pull back, a straight push back and then a row back.

  • Repeat that 3X

Results? I am definitely stronger, able to handle any chore on the boat without maxing out. I definitely have better cardio. And while my weight is only modestly down, my BMI is down by a pretty good margin. I feel better than I have in years.