Training on a boat

Hi all, I’ve an interesting training situation I’d be much obliged for some suggestions on.

I’m going to be at sea for roughly nine months out of the next ten and I want to be fit for efforts from one to twenty minutes when I get off. I’ll either get a couple of weeks late spring and couple more start of autumn or a month in summer.

There will be a gym with weights, a running machine and a stationary bike (probably a spin bike). I’ll have a heart rate monitor, but no power meter.

I’ll be working 6 days a week (possibly 5.5 or 6.5). Work will either be 800 - 1700 or two four hour shifts with eight hours between.

Looking for any suggestions or thoughts on what might work.

Things I’m thinking about - should I hit the weights? Is it worth having an endurance ride (2-3 hours) on my (half) day off? Or keep it all short and sharp?

Things I’ve ruled out - losing weight. Dry ship so it mIght happen of its own accord.

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This is the only thing that came to mind…


Ha! Unfortunately it’s more boiler suits

I would probably just bang out as much z2 as you can. No need to beat yourself up with intensity with nothing to build towards.


My buddy was on an ice breaker for the winter a few years ago with a similar situation.

Came home 30 pounds lighter and way stronger on the bike. Said he hit the gym regularly and did spin sessions on the bike for hours a day since he had NOTHING else to do. Just going from 3-5 hours per week to 12-15 hours per week on the bike (for months) was enough to make the magic happen without any structured training. Adding some structure to that might have turned him into a Slovenian.

Luckily for me, he’s since regained the weight and lost the strength letting me regain the upper hand.


Learn to ride to feel and use that along with HR and you’ll be able to manage some good training on the spin bike.

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Would it be an option to bring a pair of power pedals? Just switch them onto the spin bike and do your thing? I know Nate has mentioned to do this on the podcast but I don’t know if he ever tried it.


@SchmidtpAlexander Taking it one step further. Could you bring your bike and the turbo? Sitting on a ship with nothing else to do than working, training and sleeping sounds pretty ideal. :sweat_smile:


I work at sea - 10 weeks on 4 off generally. We have much of the same… Treadmill, spin bike, rower etc.

I have my trainer and bike on board so that covers the cycling… if that’s not an option bring your own pedals as the one on board might not be suitable for your shoes. Worth spending the couple of minutes switching pedals.

Trainerroad’s ability to work offline is a lifesaver so if you can get your kit of board definitely do it. Bear in mind the equipment on ship may be in use by other members of the ship’s company when you want to go on which sometimes might just be a one hour slot depending on your work pattern, where as if you have your own kit and somewhere to put it then you don’t have to plan around others.

Personally I run 50mpw on average a week as well as TR so I spend a lot of time on the treadmill. Other than treadmill and trainer time I do a lot of bodyweight stuff. Lots of ‘bridge phys’… mini circuit every 15 minutes when you’re on watch kinda stuff. Currently we’re somewhere cold so no chance of upper deck stuff but if you’re in warmer climates you can find a loop on the upper deck to run around, do circuits, even take your trainer up there. You don’t need a fan when the ship’s movement does the cooling for you! Also climbing up and down ladder chains for 30-60 minutes can be good for some strength conditioning.

Personally most of the time I’d rather hop on the trainer and watch something I want watch than sit in the mess watching whatever so you’ll often be so bored there’s nothing else to do but train or sleep… if you get in a good routine you’ll find the 3 meals a day or w.e isn’t enough so bring whatever you can to supplement your diet. I guess that depends on exactly how much you work out but it’s worth doing regardless.

Any questions fire away


Sorry I don’t have anything useful to add other than I hope one day we will see a thread for “Training on a starship”. :rocket:


If you have a TrainerRoad account, make a plan using outside workouts and then slowly try to perfect the RPE for each workout. Not as good as power but it’s at least some structure… just my suggestion

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@anon13702412 @SchmidtpAlexander good suggestions. I’m a cadet (ie traininee) and apparently it’d be frowned upon to turn up with my bike and trainer, so planning to ask if I can get them sent out. If I can’t and it’s a bike that’ll take pedals I’ll order a pair of pedals.


Really helpful, thanks! 10 on 4 off sounds pretty tough going. What kind of ships are you on?

I would probably just bang out as much z2 as you can. No need to beat yourself up with intensity with nothing to build towards.

This is the way.

Heart rate means you can steer towards effective workouts based on how hard they’re taxing your body – for Z2 work that’s still a very effective way to train, even when it’s less objective than power.

If it turned out that the ship also had a rowing machine, that would be even better, as then you could also come back a vo2max monster like all the rowers that cross over to cycling :smiley:


I’d second everything @Stoof has said. I’m going to be away for a solid 7months or so this year so have bought a Feedback Sports Omnium which can live in my cabin quite happily when not being used and may be an easier sell when embarking than a traditional trainer, then you just need to work out the bike!

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+1 for the set of pedals, that’s what I do when I have to board a boat that’s not calling port on the main land so I have to fly.

If you don’t fly and can take bulky items, consider taking a saddle and a good ventilator too.

If you can take your bike and trainer though, happy days :smiley::smiley: Couple of rides:

One thing I’ve learned though: I have to go easy on myself if I can’t ride on board. I usually get 5-6 hours of sleep on a good day since I have final respinsibility on the construction work, so fitting in the rides is a lot harder than I always expect…


That’s a shame they frown upon it. I guess it depends who your brass consists of but especially as your ship is dry they should encourage physical activity as an ‘outlet’ as you’re away for such a substantial period. I would definitely try and clear that up though and get a clear yes/no on if you can or can’t, explaining how your training goes hand in hand with your morale and therefore your work output ;).

See @dmalanda for the potential! Epic pics. Personally I work on survey ships. Works out as a lot of time away, but broken up nicely to have 3 4 weeks holidays a year :slight_smile:


I think you win the award for the best pain cave (the roller session) :sunglasses:


My…wow… my life seems so boring now :frowning:


I wouldn’t bother with power meter pedals. I’d go by HR and just fully use the onboard gym. 20 minutes of rowing per day, 20 minutes of treadmill, 30+ minutes of bike, body weight exercises, and weight lifting. Don’t forget your core and stretching. As said above, do lots of Z2 intensity by HR or the talk test. Maybe throw in some tempo intervals to break up the boredom. You’ll come out of this with great fitness if you stay consistent.