Fishermen Wellness: Strength-Training After Working on the Water
By Christopher Gilman Scott
“Ego is not your amigo.”
Returning to the strength and conditioning world from the sea can be a test on the
On a positive note, as we’ve come to know, the fact that the commercial fisherman is a
“physical laborer” is a good thing. Our bodies are in motion and are muscles are
working, maintaining, and improving our strength. It builds this capacity peripherally
from the movements of powerlifting and ultra-running. However, since it does not have
an effect directly on these movements and the volume is so large, when returning to the
gym and the trails, it is imperative to lower the volume and build back up patiently.
I struggle with this.
Usually, when I return, I want to test myself that first week back to see where I’m at and
what I can handle right away. This often leads to a state of overtraining from the get-go
and prolongs my gains.
Do not do this.
I’m in the process of understanding and developing a more informed mindset about how
our bodies perform under these conditions.
A study has brought to light that even after individuals took 30 weeks off from training
completely, they only lost 13% of their strength: “After 6 weeks of training again
This is a study we should keep in mind when we feel like we’ve weakened due to a lapse
in regular strength and conditioning training.
The wiser ones of us may already have this concept dialed in. For the rest of us, consider
these approaches when returning to your training.
It’s also important to note that the stress of fishing and being at sea can add to fatigue and
exhaustion and your workouts when you return home can seem more difficult because
(Just replace “competition” with “fishing” below.)
Fun fact: In October 2018, Chess Grandmaster Mikhail Antipov had his [heart rate] monitored during a stressful match. They found he had burned nearly SIX THOUSAND CALORIES over the day. Keep in mind; that he barely moved the whole time. Competitions aren't just exhausting because of the volume of work, but because of the mental stress of competing. Hell, I've seen ELITE athletes exhausted for weeks because they did SIX lifts at a weightlifting meet.
One of the reasons this is happening is the elevated stress of competing. Stress can cause
breathing rates to triple, increase blood pressure, and increase resting heart rate. All of
this raises the metabolic demands on the body before you even start competing.
The other typical reason for lingering effects is the poor sleep typically associated with
the nerves of a competition. This can be compounded if you've traveled and are staying
in a hotel which has been proven to decrease sleep quality. Going international? Oh
So… how do you combat this?
The more used to competing you are, the less stressful it will be.
Travel to the competition a few days early to get used to the sleeping situation
Find ways to manage your stress through meditation, breathing exercises, etc
Take some downtime after the comp. We promise you won't lose all your fitness.
It's important to speak to a professional, whether a personal trainer, physical therapist or doctor, before starting any major workout routine. Especially for commercial fishermen who may have excessive swelling, joint effusion, repetitive use injuries, or chronic pain.
How often should you work out? Learn more at WHOOP.
For some basic yoga and stretches, check out the FishAbility website.