Fitness on the high seas

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Navy News / February 11, 2016

It’s only 5:45 in the morning and members of HMCS Fredericton deployed on Operation REASSURANCE are already grunting and breaking a sweat. These are the sights and sounds during Personnel Support Program (PSP) fitness leader Alyssa Jesson’s morning aerobic workouts. With three classes daily, the sessions vary from twenty minutes to an hour. They include boot-camp style programs, cardio circuits, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Tabata routines (another high-intensity workout), core exercises, and speed and agility classes. Classes are tailored to a variety of fitness levels in order to encourage everyone to attend.

Daily reminders, fitness consultations and organized sports activities with other ships in the NATO task group while in port keep Fredericton’s personnel informed and excited about their fitness regime, and promote comradery among NATO Allies.  

On board ship, space is limited with a ship’s company of 250 sailors. The Flight Deck is used for workouts in good weather  and when no other drills are scheduled. Alternative locations include the After Section base or the hangar. Adaptation and ingenuity are also required when it comes to equipment, with many of the workouts going back to the basics of body weight exercises. Maintaining a safe exercise environment, especially in heavy seas, is always a priority. There are sore muscles and tired bodies by the end of the workout routines, but every day during the deployment more and more people join the group.

“The exercise class is always very well laid out. It’s interesting and new every day,” says Master Seaman Heather Whiteway, Marine Engineering Technician. “While using the flight deck is sometimes difficult due to other training activities on board, when a class is held there you can guarantee there will be many crew members excited to participate.” While in port, the classes are held on the jetty, which allows for more freedom and even larger groups. MS Whiteway and her co-workers look forward to the workouts and do their best to attend a session every day.

For those who prefer to work out on their own, there are some additional creative solutions to the issue of space limitations. There is a free-weight room in the ship with a collection of dumbbells and bench-press racks. For cardiovascular training there is a treadmill, and exercise bikes are tucked away in various unused corners of the ship.  

The result of all this activity is a super-charged crew that is alert and energized for the rest of the day.  Flexibility, body awareness and overall strength are some of the benefits of attending these fitness classes regularly. As fitness leader Ms. Jesson states: “It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.”  

It is clear that regular physical fitness is helping to increase the crew’s health and well-being, heighten their readiness, and in turn, contribute to the overall success of HMCS Fredericton’s mission.