Since I arrived back on dry land most of my workouts have had to be in the gym. I know a lot of people detest gyms - I'm not saying I wouldn't rather go for a hike or a row out of doors, but generally my life has been busy, time is tight, and the gym gives me the best bang for my buck in terms of time efficiency.
A friend recently asked for some tips on the kind of routine I use, and I thought others might be interested too. So here we go...
(Do bear in mind that I have developed a high boredom threshold after many days at sea - so boring old cardio routines may be less intimidating for me than for anyone who has not spent 12 hours a day on a rowing seat for 100+ days at a time...)
I aim to do an hour of cardio per day. Sometimes I only have time for less, but an hour is my default. I've been banned from running by my doctor so I tend to use the elliptical trainer or ramp cross-trainer - although yesterday felt inspired to use the rowing machine, and sometimes use the stationary bike. But I find the elliptical or ramp are most effective at getting my heart rate up into the aerobic zone.
99 times out of 100 I do interval training. Long slow distance is just TOO boring - even for me! I also believe that interval training is more effective and time-efficient for the heart and overall fitness - based on some research but also on my personality and intuitive feeling for what works with my body.
I'll usually choose the "manual" programme and set my own intervals. Samples:
5 or 10 mins warmup, then one of the following...
Ladder: 1 min hard, 1 min easy, 2 min hard, 2 min easy, 3 min hard.... up to whatever. Option to repeat ladder several times, so after getting to "top" of ladder, go back down to the bottom and start again.
Or a rowing ladder might use number of strokes rather than minutes.
Or sometimes I'll use heart rate, e.g. go hard until my heart rate reaches 150-160bpm, then go easy until it drops back down to 120bpm.
Pyramid: as ladder, but then come back down again in steps rather than dropping straight back down to the smallest interval.
Or just a alternate x minutes hard, x minutes easy.
And warm down again for 5 minutes at the end.
I very much go with the flow - whatever I feel like on the day. By the time I start the workout I've decided what I'll do and I commit to it. No further negotiation with myself is allowed!
After my cardio I'll usually do some weight training - just for about 10-15 mins. I use free weights, 10-15 reps, 2-3 sets, often alternating a chest exercise with a back exercise, or biceps with triceps, or legs with crunches. Or sometimes a superset on one body part, such as alternating shoulder presses with lateral raises. So I keep moving from one exercise straight into another, which keeps my heart rate up for a few bonus minutes beyond the cardio.
I'll also have a good stretch - usually at the end, sometimes at the beginning if I'm feeling all knotted up when I arrive at the gym. I've got a nice little routine that incorporates bits of yoga, pilates, physiotherapy exercises, and just things that feel good!
I keep meaning to take podcasts on my iPhone to help pass the time, but keep forgetting. I actually quite enjoy just switching off and letting my mind wander. There is so much going on in my life right now that my gym time is part of my precious "me-time". When I tune out from my conscious mind, I often have some of my best brainwaves. Sometimes I get off the cardio machine with a huge list of great ideas that I have to scribble down quickly in my notebook before I forget them. So my gym time is never wasted!
Q: What scares you? What are you afraid of in life? What fears do you have? How much are they part of your day to day decisions? Do they motivate you? Have your fears changed over the years?
I was asked this question by the Growing Bolder radio show, and I thought it was such an interesting subject I've decided to share my answer via my blog. Here it is...
A: Just because I've completed two major solo ocean rows - the Atlantic and California-Hawaii - some people mistake me for a courageous person. But I'm really not! I don't think I'm any braver than anybody else.
But what I do have is a very strong sense of purpose, and this overrides my fears.
When the idea first came to me to row across oceans to raise environmental awareness, my first thought was - that's perfect! My second thought was - I can't possibly do that. It's WAY too scary.
But the idea wouldn't let me go - it was so perfectly in tune with my values - and eventually I realized I just had to give it a try. And the good thing about rowing the Atlantic was that as soon as I set out from the Canaries I was in the trade winds blowing me towards the Caribbean, and there was no way I was physically able to turn back. Blind optimism got me out there, and stubborn pride (as well as the trade winds) kept me going.
So even though it was the hardest, scariest thing I had ever done in my life, once I had started I had to carry on, and just had to learn to deal with the fear, along with the pain, solitude, breakages and constant discomfort. It is really amazing what you can adapt to when you have no choice.
And of course, having now done it, I have no excuses for not doing it again. That is the best and the worst thing about getting outside your comfort zone - once you've done it once, you have destroyed all your own excuses! You are faced with the prospect of your own unlimited potential - and that in itself can be quite terrifying, because you realize the only limits are the ones you impose on yourself.
So now I'm hell-bent on destroying your excuses too.... Act in faith, not fear, and you'll never regret it. I promise you.
The environmental message for Stage One of my row, which took me from San Francisco to Hawaii, skirting the North Pacific Garbage Patch, was about reducing, re-using and recycling plastic, to stop any more plastic pollution getting into the ocean. I urged people to use reusable grocery bags, coffee mugs and water bottles.
Stage Two, which launches in May next year and will take me across the Equator and into the South Pacific, will be all about green energy and going carbon neutral. I will be working with various companies and organizations to make it fun for people to reduce their carbon footprint by using more environmentally friendly forms of transport and switching to greener, cleaner, energy sources.
What does this have to do with the oceans? You may be wondering. Well, I'd still be saying the same things even if it had nothing to do with oceans - all the aspects of our environment are interconnected; air, land and sea - but as it happens there is a strong connection between carbon dioxide emissions and the health of our marine world.
And see this website for more over the coming months about the facts, the science - but most importantly what we as individuals can do to help.
If we pull together, we CAN make a world of difference!
A friend sent me this quote from a book, and I loved it so much, I just had to share it with you.
If I wanted to be free, truly free, I had to choose. There were many points on the compass rose; I had to locate the few that were meant for me. Not any destination picked at random or reached by happenstance would do. I had to head for those that summoned me with a passion, for they were the ones that gave meaning to my life. I had to ignore the warnings of friends, the cautious ones who would tell me why I couldn't do what I wanted to do - and why.,/i>
Richard Bode, First You Have to Row a Little Boat