My friend is a sailor and has a bit of a problem with designing a training plan for himself.

While at home, he does various activities, he likes swimming and rock climbing, sometimes he plays squash. He wants a trainign plan to keep him fit when he's at sea for 3-6 months.

There are problems with that. He has to travel light, so he cant take much equipment with him. Think something that would fit in a handbag or a small rucksack. He cant be running around the deck to make any reasonable running sessions, and he cant really do the usual bodyweight exercises. At the ocean the waves are so strong most of the time, that its either very hard or very easy to do a pullup for example, as the ship is going down or up and aiding/hindering the efforts.

What would be a good general-fitness training plan for such an environment? Maybe some resistance bands or springs...? Would that provide enough resistance?

  • 1
    Resistance bands come in various resistance levels and are great for traveling. Suspension bands (like TRX) are also portable, but I'm not sure about how that will work with the waves you describe. This q/a has good ideas for cardio when traveling. Also this q/a has several good suggestions including FitDeck that was developed by a Navy Seal. Sep 7, 2013 at 19:27

2 Answers 2


Fitness at sea is absolutely possible.

Due to limited space and likely limited equipment on board, his most reliable equipment and regimen will be body weight strength. There are a few incredible resources out there that program a sustainable development to current fitness to frankly, pretty elite. I recommend Mark Lauren's You Are Your Own Gym.

Bands are not going to give you the same levels of resistance as pure body weight training. The bonus of exercise at sea is that extra balance is required so for things like one legged deadlifts, or one legged squats, etc., those can remain a challenge through the entire tour.

If you MUST bring equipment: I recommend a TRX, a jump rope, and a yoga mat to protect your hands from nonskid.

  • Great answer. Bodyweight training provides very good workout regimens, and is a good choice even if you have access to all the gym equipment in the world. It's all about getting some starter tips and digging into it.
    – Alec
    May 6, 2015 at 6:03

In my maritime experience the best I could do was eat well underway, and maybe knock out some pullups/planks/body-weight squats (calisthenics, basically) when the seas were calm.

If he's on a warship there are other problems he'll need to deal with: non-skid (skin lacerating style) deck coverings, folks that aren't cool with the idea of even temporarily obstructing a hatch or companionway with gear, and maybe even needing to deal with transients (dropping a weight, or even a box jump and landing on the deck).

At the ocean the waves are so strong most of the time

Depending on the ocean (and season), that's really not true. Most of the time the seas are pretty uniform and relatively benign, but it can get crazy out there. He'll need to do the best he can underway, most of which is related to diet.

I had a set of gymnast rings that I traveled around with. When I got to land I'd find a park (there are always parks somewhere), bust out my bluetooth speaker, and work on bodyweight exercises, ring gymnastics, and plyometrics. It all fits in a backpack. If you're interested, I wrote up my own (as a civilian) fitness experiences sailing around through the Sea of Cortez.

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