Training whilst on the move

Already I have been meaning to update this more regularly than I have, and I’ve only done one post so far. The last week has been a very busy one – I’ve been away on fieldwork further down the coast all week. Which brings me nicely to the topic of this next post – Training on the move. Normally I will just pack my running kit, and head out for a run if I go somewhere new, or use the hotel gym if there is one. When you’re training for something specific, or have got yourself a fairly set routine in place exercise-wise, it can be difficult to adapt this when you go away, whether it’s for holiday, travelling or business.

Not the most interesting running view, but hey, at least it's not a treadmill right?

Not the most interesting running view, but hey, at least it’s not a treadmill right?

My work takes me to all sorts of places, but also takes me away from my desk (and often from home) on a fairly regular basis. For me, as a marine environmental consultant, travelling for work almost always means fieldwork now – going out daily on our small RIB, hauling equipment over the side, taking samples, doing surveys or diving. Some days this isn’t hugely tiring, and getting a training session in at the end of the day is still doable. Other days, going to do a workout at the end of the day is the last thing on my mind. This last week we have been out on the boat, on average 8 hours a day, in 36-40 °C heat with no shade, and upwards of 70% humidity. As we’ve been away from the immediate shore, the fact that it’s Ramadan hasn’t been an issue, and we could eat and drink as much as we needed, as there was no-one around that we could offend if they saw us. On most of the days we were diving, either deploying or retrieving gear, or doing coral or algae surveys. Diving, due to the nature of breathing in compressed air, and the balance of gases within the air, makes you tired. More specifically, the nitrogen makes you tired. So, combine heat, humidity (and a hell of a lot of sweating) and diving, and you get some pretty tired people at the end of the day.

The town that we were based in for the last week is a fairly strict Muslim town, so during Ramadan I wouldn’t go out running unless I was fully covered. In the heat and humidity at the moment, that is not an option as far as I am concerned. I’ve learnt that the hard way in the last couple of weeks. So, what to do then?

6km Ramadan run in full length leggings and long sleeves, with no water. In 38°C heat and 75% humidity. Bring on the heatstroke.

6km Ramadan run in full length leggings and long sleeves, with no water. In 38°C heat and 75% humidity. Bring on the heatstroke.

This week I did manage three training sessions; less than I’d hoped to do, but in retrospect quite an achievement. The hotel we were staying at did have a pool, so on the first night there I managed to get a short swim session in. Nothing great, just half an hour plodding up and down and loosening up after a 3 hour drive with the boat trailer. The first day of fieldwork was all boat based rather than diving, so mostly involved lowering and raising stuff over the side of the boat taking samples. We finished early so I investigated the hotel gym (which was closed last time we were there in March) which consisted of 2 treadmills, 1 exercise bike, 1 elliptical trainer, and some free weights. The treadmills were a Chinese make, with the printed English instructions not matching the buttons that were actually on the treadmills! Once I’d got the thing to work, I managed 11km on it before I started flagging from the lack of hydration (no drinking in public before evening Ramadan prayers at 19:03).  A good stretch, shower and then dinner. Better than nothing!

11km on the treadmill. Steady state, very boring, and very thirsty. Gym manager didn't understand that 27°C was too hot to have the AC in the gym.

11km on the treadmill. Steady state, very boring, and very thirsty. Gym manager didn’t understand that 27°C was too hot to have the AC in the gym.

Day two of fieldwork emptied the tanks without even trying – a very, very hot, windless day, with multiple dives deploying equipment. We got back to shore late, and I was very dehydrated, with a headache and feeling a bit sick. Much as I wanted to train, it was not going to happen. My body said no, and my sensible side said no. Shower, rehydration salts, water, headache tablets and dinner (yet another curry).

The third day consisted of more diving, including some longer dives, in some colder water than we were expecting. Surface water was around 34 °C, but below 7m it dropped to 23 °C – when you’re used to diving in warm water, 23 °C seems coooooold! I got my hydration levels a little more under control whilst out on the water, so made the decision to hit the treadmill again. A limited amount of time before everyone had agreed to meet for dinner, and a busy gym meant that 6km was all that I could squeeze in. If I had been able to understand the controls on the treadmill I would have done some intervals instead, but going from the fact that I couldn’t even make it start on my own, I thought I’d just stick to running steady!

A hot day out on the water. I think we need a bigger boat

A hot day out on the water. I think we need a bigger boat

Pushing to get everything finished on day 4 meant another long, hot day on the water. By the time we’d finished and loaded the cars up ready for heading back to Muscat, it was almost dinner time. Then it was a case of getting the boat out of the water and onto the trailer, and getting it back to the hotel. Shower, dinner and bed.

Getting the boat out of the water before dinner. They trust me with reversing the trailer :)

Getting the boat out of the water before dinner. They trust me with reversing the trailer :)

Although it frustrates me when I have fieldwork days that I can’t train on, either due to time pressures, or to physical state, I have to remind myself that sometimes it’s ok to miss a training session for a good reason. I’m not a professional athlete, and unfortunately, exercising doesn’t pay the bills. So for now, I’ll be continuing to hit the hotel gyms, run the roads, or take a dip in the pool when the fieldwork schedule permits and  I think I’ll go easy on myself whilst the mercury is still hitting the 40’s. Oh, and I’ve ordered myself a TRX kit to collect when I go home in a few weeks. One aspect I did like about this particular fieldwork week however is that on this occasion, all 4 of us had taken exercise kit with us. Usually it’s just me (and sometimes Elayne)…. I’m going to claim some credit for motivating the others to get out there and keep up with their own training, whatever it might be :)

Post-fieldwork run in Duqm, May 2014. Elayne - A runner in the making!

Post-fieldwork run in Duqm, May 2014. Elayne – A runner in the making!

How do other people train when you’re on the move?

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