1st February 2015 - Instructional

Preparing Mark Beaumont for the Arctic

Preparing to Row the Arctic – by Craig Ali from Total Health

Mark Beaumont is about to embark on his next major expedition, part of a six man team rowing through the Canadian Arctic. The challenge is the Old Putney Row To the Pole, lead by veteran adventurer, Jock Wishart. As Mark leaves his bike behind and once again tests himself in new ways, it has been my role to work with him to achieve his best condition for the huge challenge that lies ahead. I began working with Mark three years ago after his record-breaking world cycle by going back to the pure fundamentals of health, posture & movement – his body had taken a huge strain during the 18,000 mile expedition. We developed breathing, mobility, improved posture, relieved tension and created balance within his body. Next we started our first course of strength work, building the foundations not only for his next event but also for years to come. The nine-month Americas’ expedition was a great test of Mark’s all-round conditioning as he both climbed and cycled for nine months. Once over and Mark had recovered, we were both eager to build on these foundations and progress his overall strength & conditioning.   After a block of light conditioning work to start training again, Mark was ready to pick up where he had left off before the Americas, and build in more strength sessions. Very quickly he began to progress and was stronger than ever.  I put this down to Mark as an individual and his mental toughness, him maturing as an athlete and the foundations we had set previously. Just over 6 months ago Mark got confirmation that his next expedition would be rowing and as part of a team, which meant that as well as having to reach his peak fitness and endurance, Mark also had to improve his rowing skills. His strength & conditioning work now had to become more specific, so we analyzed the areas that would be under most tension and create a flexibility routine for these muscle groups to maintain good posture and structure. After a block of re-building Mark’s strength, we began to build his power. Therefore the volume of strength training was reduced. During this period, Mark’s rowing skills and cardio training had increased, so we focused on quality rather than quantity with strength work. I wanted to build his power, as rowing is such a demanding sport and although technique is the key component, excellent strength & conditioning is essential. Once his power had reached a good level we could make the transition into strength endurance work – the result was that Mark was able apply a greater intensity of strength than ever before. I already knew that Mark had elite levels of endurance so now wanted to give him the ability to work at an even higher intensity.  Mark’s power programme consisted of:

  • Deadlift – 5 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Seated Row (overhand grip) – Wide to midsection & Narrow high pulls- 4 sets of 6 reps & 8 reps
  • Twisting Pullover with plate- 4 sets of 6 reps

To support this Mark was doing posture work & yoga to help him recover and maintain flexibility & structure. The transition into more strength endurance work was assisted with metabolic circuits on power bands, which are used to build muscular and cardio-vascular endurance. His metabolic circuits were focused on performing movements similar to rowing and targeting muscles Mark had experienced fatigue in whilst rowing. With his strength endurance workout we focused on row specific movements also whilst working on big ranges of motion to assist the feedback Mark had received in his skills training.  This workout consisted of: 

  • Turkish Get Up (sit up stage only) – 2 sets of 5 reps each side
  • Reaching Lunges – 2 sets of 12 reps
  • Squat – 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Hanging Deadlift – 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Barbell Rollouts – 4 sets of 8 reps

Over the next couple of months Mark’s motivation, determination, strength, endurance & conditioning had become stronger than ever. His ability to stick religiously to a strict routine along with managing a heavy working schedule and life in general is a real asset. As we have got closer to the expedition the strength work has tapered off gradually with Mark building endurance through low intensity work focusing on high reps at a slower pace. Every so often we have thrown in an intense circuit to test his power and mental strength whilst structuring in more recovery work such as yoga and massage.   It has been very focused and successful half years work in preparation for this expedition and I am very please with Mark’s condition. We have adapted his training, diet and recovery phase-by-phase to help him improve at the right pace so that he will reach peak condition once out on his expedition. It is important that Mark does not peak until out on the row as once there is a peak, it is followed by a small period of plateau then a dip in conditioning. It is inevitable with the length of challenges that Mark takes on that he will start dipping and this is where his experience, toughness and determination will take over. To follow Mark and the team on their adventure please go to:

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