Fitness loss after the 91-day expedition

Fitness loss after the 91-day expedition

Before going on this ocean crossing expedition, I always knew that I would pay a toll physically, in one way or another: lose weight (estimating between 15 to 25 lbs), lose flexibility and mobility, maybe get injured (tendons and joints), lose muscle mass. What I wanted to avoid at all costs were a debilitating injury that would prevent me from finishing, or an injury that I would keep struggling with for the mid to long term and prevent me from a quality of life and future adventures.

My friend Carlo Facchino Ocean Rowing and I have rowed the mid-pacific in 2016, as part of a 4-man team. We crossed from Monterey, CA to Honolulu, HI in 39 days. This year, we would be both crossing the same stretch of water, but this time in 2 different vessels: I would be in a single kayak, and he would be in a single rowing boat.

Before we left in June 2022, Carlo and I spent a whole day at NIC (Nutrition Innovation Center), visiting our common sponsor Standard Process Inc. in North Carolina. Part of the day would be spent at the Human Performance Lab, run by Dr. Nieman. We wanted to have a baseline of my fitness so we could compare it to how it had evolved after the 90 days.

We did the following tests:

+ Body weight and body fat percentage

+ Anaerobic power: 30-second wind gate cycle ergometer test (full strength on the bike for 30 seconds)

+ Hand grip power, and Leg/back isometric lift

+ VO2 Max test: graded cycle ergometer test (VO2 max, Maximum Watts, Max Ventilation)

The big loss for me was the 38% loss of power on the legs/back. Carlo was rowing and didn’t lose power on his legs.

I have lost also about 20% on the anaerobic power, both on peak power and mean power. My pace on the crossing was for long hours at 85 bpm max, so I have lost a lot of lung efficiency. We can see the influence of the 3-month paddling on the VO2 max test, with the loss of max ventilation.

As I stepped out of the boat in Hilo on September 20th, my weight was 162 lbs (compared to the 182 lbs when I left Monterey on June 21st). I had lost 20 lbs, but as of today, I already gained back 10 lbs. The “no-workout” recovery period of 3 weeks, and good appetite for good food, allows my body to “save” all I am eating. Haha.

According to Dr. Nieman, both Carlo and I should be able to recover our prior fitness by doing higher intensity interval training, as well as strength training (for my back legs and glutes). I have done a one-hour cycling two days ago, and a 1.25 surfski race yesterday. It felt great so I will keep on training about one hour a day, focusing on an active recovery.

In 3-4 months, after a healthy dose of training and the right supplements along the way, we have planned to fly to Standard Process’s NIC again and go through the same tests, see how we did…..

One day at a time. Let’s do this.