Dragging your own bodyweight across a frozen ocean for 10-12 hours per day, battling high winds while climbing over ice ridges requires each team member be at their peak of physical fitness.
Here’s how I’ve been preparing.
I live in South East London, right next to the River Thames and only a 2-mile walk away from the iconic Tower Bridge to the West and the Cutty Sark Clipper to the East. It’s a quiet area and very convenient for getting to work and social engagements.
But, the heart of the city is not so good for training for an Arctic expedition. The landscape is as flat as a pancake, it’s crowded and it’s warm (relative to the Arctic). There’s always something going on that is not good for your fitness training like friends’ birthdays, colleagues’ laving drinks or a rare sunny spell mixed with the smell of a BBQ prompting a trip to the park with burgers and beer.
Besides the distractions of city life hard physical training is just not fun. Particularly as my demeanour is of a couch-surfing, goggle-eyed movie loving sloth…
To set in motion activity more becoming of the explorer I want to be I recall the line from Archilochus:
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”
To avoid future suffering on the ice, I must suffer now, during my training. To harden my body and my mind against the unknown perils of our LastPole expedition. This sounds overly dramatic, but it needs to be for me to get my ass off of the sofa and out onto the crowded streets.
My physical regimen includes swimming, climbing, yoga and tyre dragging.
Swimming and climbing are both low-impact ways of boosting fitness. Swimming helps my cardiovascular health and tones my entire body. The thought of swimming in the same pool that a group of London school kids have just peed in also helps steel my mind against unpleasantness. Climbing is a fun way to build strength, endurance and flexibility.
You may not consider yoga to be valuable tool in the battle to build fitness but it has proved invaluable in building strength, balance and flexibility. Not only that it helps my body and mind recover after tough days at work.
The most important activity in all this is dragging tyres. It represents what we’ll be doing most accurately. It is also the toughest activity and draws most attention from Londoners. From the tutting early morning commuters to questions from the feral kids that roam the streets around Southwark.
My schedule is crowded with lots of social activity and I have to squeeze in fitness training when I can. I practice yoga each morning from 10-30 minutes and I attend a class at least once per week. I climb on Sundays and Tuesdays and swim on Thursdays. Tyre dragging lasts an hour and I only do this once per week at the moment but will increase this as my fitness improves and the expedition draws closer.