The frustrating truth of ocean rowing is most of it is out of our control. No matter how great our offering, the decision to sponsor an expedition lies in someone else’s hands. When the expedition starts, no matter how motivated you are to row, if a storm kicks up, you have to go on sea anchor. That is the reality of ocean rowing.
And that is why it is vital that we control the controllables. Of the few things that rest in our hands, we have to master them completely to mitigate all other variable factors.
The lowest hanging fruit is training. Whatever else is going on in the expedition planning, it is completely within our control to set aside time for physical training. At points in the next few months, the idea of training will seem awful. The 5am alarm is rarely welcome, an evening session after a days work is a slog. But getting to the gym is still in our control.
A lot of other expeditions go light on training, content with the excuse “it’s all about mental strength anyway”. And while mental strength is important, at the end of the day rowing is a physical task.
What’s more, physical training is mental training. Learning to push yourself when you want to stop, or even simply going to the gym when you would rather be at home, helps develop mental resilience. After all, grit is about pushing through when you want to give up and is a trait that can be learned and practiced.
This month, the NWP crew has started training in earnest. Crewman Andy Strachan has drawn on his 15 years as a personal training to design a weights programme. You would be forgiven for thinking most of our training is rowing, but strength work is important because the boats are very very heavy. Crucially, weight training makes us more resistant to injury. Being robust and staying injury free is one of the most important aspects of rowing an ocean.
Letting go of the aspects outside our sphere of influence, and controlling the controllables is a habit that starts in the gym.