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Staying Fit in the Middle of the Ocean

By Alyssa Fishman, Boston University

When we boarded the MV Explorer in January— many of us arriving with New Year resolutions to get in shape still fresh in our minds— the gym and weight-lifting areas were constantly buzzing all the way from Mexico to Japan. Student-led exercise classes were overflowing on the portside deck, and intramural sports teams could be constantly spotted on the starboard side, playing everything from soccer to dodgeball. The highly ambitious passengers on the Spring 2013 voyage had already mastered a variety of ways to stay fit by that point—from power walking to Pilates—and had figured out how to maximize the available space on the ship to work up a sweat.

However, as is common on most college campuses (even floating ones), our enthusiasm for working out has ebbed and flowed over the course of the semester. Visitors to the gym dropped noticeably by the time we got to China, but ramped back up  as the promise of potential beach visits in Vietnam and Mauritius encouraged renewed enthusiasm in on-board fitness. I, myself, have been a rather fair-weather friend to the gym. So, during the long stretch between India and South Africa, I decided to check out some of the exercise options the ship has to offer, curious to see for myself if it's actually possible to stay fit when you’re living on a ship in the middle of the ocean.

Elliptical Machine and Abs

For the days when I can’t bear the tropical heat outside, I turn to the shelter of the ship’s indoor fitness center to work up a different kind of sweat.  Limited to 30-minute intervals between the hours of 0600 and 2300 hours, the elliptical machine often leaves me feeling less than satisfied.  However, committing to a specific time slot ahead of time usually ensures that I will exercise.

Separated from the ocean by a thin window of plexiglass, I enjoy one of the best workout views in the world as I watch ships cruising in the distance and whales breaching from beyond my machine’s display.  With each slight tip of the boat, I’m engaging in either an uphill or downhill motion, which makes for a solid interval training session.

Once my 30 minutes are up, I head outside for some quality time with my abs.  I must admit – the rocking of the ship is actually working wonders for my core, as I have to work twice as hard to hold my form.

Sunrise Yoga and Meditation

Every other day at sea student, Katie Corey, leads a sunrise yoga session out on the pool deck.  Eagerly, I arrive at 0630 on the dot, only to find one lifelong learner journaling, another older woman speed walking, and two crew members mopping the deck.  At 0640, two other students trickle in, yoga mats in tow, and situate themselves atop the wetted wooden planks facing the pool.

As we begin our first downward facing dog, my feet start to slide across my dampened mat – the first sign that this is not going to be a traditional yoga class.   Stepping my front foot forward into crescent lunge position, I extend my hand toward the sickle-shaped moon still suspended from the sky.  Quickly this becomes my point of reference, my way of maintaining balance as the ship rocks.  Opposite the moon, the sun inches its way through the clouds, sending technicolor rays of light into the atmosphere.

After an hour of bending and stretching our limbs, Katie leads us in ten minutes of meditation, in which we face the ocean, sitting cross-legged with our hands resting on our knees.  Opening my eyes, I can feel an inner peace resonating throughout my bones.  More people saunter in at what I assume is 0730.  But wait … we were supposed to turn our clocks back an hour last night, which means it’s only 0630 now and I accidentally woke up at 0530 to get in my morning exercise.

Gathering my belongings, I thank Katie, who‚Äôs already heading over to her second wave of students, and make my way downstairs for a shower before meeting up with some friends for breakfast.¬† The hallways of the ship are still deserted and I‚Äôve already exercised, meditated, and watched the sunrise… I could get used to this.

Knockout on the Basketball Court

Every night, long after the faculty have retreated to their cabins, the snack bars have closed up, and the intramural sports games have reached an end, another dimension of ship life awakens.

Garry Baker, a fellow SASer, has asked me to meet him in the piano lounge at 2300 sharp.  I arrive a few minutes tardy and spy Garry from across the room— he’s clothed in flannel pajama pants and sandals.

“Did you forget about our knockout date, GarrBear?” I ask, confused by his getup.  Garry lifts himself out of his chair and walks over to the hall phone.

“Absolutely not.  I’ll round up the troops.”  Garry proceeds to make a few phone calls, rousing people from their rooms, and we head up to the basketball court on deck seven.

The court is caged by netting that ensures no balls fall overboard.  Wind whips through the net’s webbing, provoking airborne balls to have a mind of their own.  I stand behind the free-throw line and attempt to factor the breeze into my shot, but can’t seem to get it quite right.  The ball is always either a tad too left or slightly overshot.  Round after round, and I’m still among the first few to get eliminated.

Yet, even with these impediments, this late night pastime is easily one of my favorites.   During one of the last rounds of the evening I manage to pull myself, and the limited basketball skills I have, together, and end the night with a victory under my belt.  I retire from the court in a fit of laughter – tonight I feel a few calories lighter and a few inches taller.

As it turns out, the variety of fitness options aboard the MV Explorer are endless, and switching it up from time to time helps keep things interesting.  You’ll find your niche – whether it’s through the elliptical or treadmill, yoga or Pilates, intramurals or dancing, free weights or power walking, or perhaps all of the above – it’s up to you.

Photo by Raleigh Jackson, Colorado State University

  • Life on Land

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