Men’s Health Week: The challenges of keeping fit at sea

This article has photo gallery Published on MIDN Aaron Wischusen (author), ABIS Kayla Hayes (photographer)

Petty Officer Physical Trainer Rhoderick Hunter conducts a physical training session on the flight deck of HMAS Choules, Fleet Base East.  (photo: ABIS Kayla Hayes)
Petty Officer Physical Trainer Rhoderick Hunter conducts a physical training session on the flight deck of HMAS Choules, Fleet Base East.

Life at sea in the Navy can be challenging and achieving the simplest tasks can be a difficult undertaking, not the least of all keeping fit and healthy.
 
Motivating a hard working crew and utilising limited space is a test for all Physical Trainers in the fleet. This week is Men’s Health Week, which presents an excellent opportunity to look at how the men and women of the Navy maintain fitness at sea.
 
Although Petty Officer Personal Trainer Rhoderick Hunter admits his current ship HMAS Choules has plenty of space on board, he said it is a luxury that many ships in the Fleet don’t have.
 
“Finding space can be a real struggle onboard a ship, but we always adapt and overcome by being creative,” Petty Officer Hunter said.
 
“The flight deck is the location for most of our group sessions, which can include a range of activities such as boxercise, circuit training and even recovery sessions.
 
“If the wind or sea state becomes too high, which is another challenge at sea, we like to use the vehicle deck below.
 
“If the conditions are too severe according to our standard risk profiling, the physical training session is either modified or at worse cancelled.”
 
Petty Officer Hunter said it was important for ship’s company to participate in the physical training sessions whilst as sea for a whole range of health reasons.

Petty Officer Physical Trainer Rhoderick Hunter conducts the morning physical training session on the flight deck of HMAS Choules, Fleet Base East.

Petty Officer Physical Trainer Rhoderick Hunter conducts the morning physical training session on the flight deck of HMAS Choules, Fleet Base East.


“There are conventional benefits to being active, including increased strength and cardio vascular endurance which not only keeps people fit, but also helps to reduce the likelihood of diseases such as diabetes and obesity,” he said.
 
“Many people also report to me that it gives them a break from their daily work routine at sea and aids in the relieving of stress.
 
“At the end of the day, being active stimulates and assists the crew with their physical and mental capacity to fight and win at sea.”
 
‘PT’ regular, Leading Seaman Phillip Howell said he looks forward to the sessions while at sea, and sometimes attends up to twice a day.
 
“There are two voluntary sessions every day at sea, to give people a chance to attend as many as they can,” Leading Seaman Howell said.
 
“As a watch-keeper, I don’t always get the ability to attend the group sessions, which is why we have self-use gyms on board.

“Keeping fit can be a challenge, particularly finding the motivation when coming off watch, but you need to self-motivate and ensure you make time for exercise.
 
“Group exercise can also be a great morale booster, particularly organised team sports on board and during port visits,” Leading Seaman Howell said.
 
A diverse range of activities are offered by Navy Physical Trainers at sea. To delivery the service, they undergo a five month specific training course before being qualified as a Royal Australian Navy trainer.
 
Like Choules, most ships in the Royal Australian Navy have gyms, or at least gym equipment, onboard for members to maintain their physical fitness in conjunction with physical training sessions.
 
Most major fleet units in the Royal Australian Navy have a physical trainer as apart of their ship’s company to aid the crew with the maintenance of their fitness at sea.
 
Officers and sailors onboard minor fleet units need to be particularly diligent and self-motivated to keep up their fitness, and often get creative to carry out training sessions in very little space.  
 
Men’s Health Week runs from June 9-15 and celebrates the many everyday achievements by men including the promotion of their health and well being.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20141668.