Athlete Aboard

Mar 24, 2022 by Carla Annas
Credit: Photo by 2nd Engineer Steve Samuel

I have decided to do my first Ironman 70.3. It is rather daunting to think of swimming 1.9 km, cycling 90 km and running 21.1 km, one after the other — but training for it while living and working on a busy yacht is yet another daunting challenge, in and of itself.

The first step is the easiest: setting a goal by choosing the race. Mine will be the Ironman 70.3 Durban in South African in early June. The next step is deciding on a training plan. I found a great book, “IronFit Secrets for Half Iron-Distance Triathlon Success,” which has a very clean, easy plan to follow and also explains all aspects of the Ironman 70.3. The swim, bike, and run sessions are mapped out on a daily basis, as well as strength training and transition training. The third — and hardest! — step is to do the actual training, and the biggest hindrance is time.

We all know that when working on a yacht, your time is often not your own, especially when guests are on board. The only way to manage the intense training required is to plan carefully and stick to it. One tip is to do all your training in the mornings before work. A day can get busy and plans can change from one minute to the next; this way, you are assured to get your training in, no matter what the day holds. Another tip is to put your clothes out the night before so that it is an easy morning routine before your workout.

It is best to ensure that your fellow crew and captain are aware of your training so they can help and support you wherever possible. You might go for a run with a fellow crew member, or request to adjust your work hours by 30 minutes to fit in both a run and swim session. Sometimes, just talking to your crewmates about your training regime gives them the opportunity to offer you some motivation. The chef might be especially helpful to you when it comes to specific nutritional needs during training. In my case, it was protein shakes and more meat at mealtimes. 

Not all yachts have the equipment needed for training, so being able to adapt is important. If you have guests on and you cannot swim for a week, perhaps you have access to a rowing machine and can row instead. Get a stationary trainer for your bike and ask where you can store it so you can cycle anytime. I am lucky enough to have mine permanently set up in the engine room. Get a skipping rope if you have no access to a treadmill and can’t go ashore. Devise a strength-training routine that you can do on the floor in your cabin.

Mental strength and will power are key to getting through this intense training. In times of weakness, focus on the goal and why you are doing an Ironman 70.3 — it will help you regain your motivation. Onboard training may require more creativity and adaptability, but that’s what crew are good at!